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Why Bayern Munich Boss Uli Hoeneß Belongs in Poker

If you don’t know who Uli Hoeneß is, you're probably not a soccer fan.

If you do recognize the name then you likely know the Bayern Munich football club boss is on his way to jail in Germany - willingly - on tax evasion charges.

Hoeneß resigned his position as Chairman of one of the world's richest and most successful football clubs on Friday and is staring down 3.5 years in prison, starting immediately.

Doesn’t sound like a poster boy for global poker, does it? PokerListings Germany's Dirk Oetzmann explains why Hoeneß is actually the perfect candidate to step into poker when his term is up.

By Dirk Oetzmann

Uli Hoeneß used to be famous for three things:

  • 1) Missing a penalty at the 1976 Euro finals
  • 2) Denouncing and submarining the career of his rival Christoph Daum
  • 2) Turning Bayern Munich into the richest and most successful football club in the world

Now, there's a fourth thing.

Not afraid of a big game. (Photo: dpa)

If you've followed the lawsuit Hoeneß has starred in over the last few weeks you can't help but acknowledge that of all the potential players in the poker industry he needs a poker sponsorship the least – but deserves it the most.

Let's break down his actions and consequences:

For years, Hoeneß has been playing a really Big Game. Gambling in the stock market is a lot riskier than gambling at the tables, particularly at high stakes.

And the stakes he's played are very, very high. His account balance went up to 150 million Euro at one point. Had he been a poker player, he would basically be eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame.

Pre-Flop Play

Hoeneß started trading/gambling in 2001, he says. And even though he had no experience he managed to get himself staked.

Robert Louis-Dreyfus, at the time head of the international sportswear corporation Adidas, lent him 20 million Deutsche Mark (c. 10 million Euro) to start with.

By the way in 2002 Adidas purchased 10% of Bayern Munich shares for 77 million Euro. From 2003, Adidas board member Herbert Hainer became deputy chairman of the board at Bayern Munich. Since Hoeneß’ retreat, he is again the new chairman.

Not even Beal's bankroll would scare him. (Photo: dpa)

Also, Adidas has an unusually long term contract with Bayern Munich, lasting until the year 2020.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is any connection between this and the “staking.” You would lend your buddy some money, wouldn’t you?

But clearly Hoeneß is a very gifted player. Within only a few years he turned that 10 million Euro into 150 million. According to press articles he made a profit of 80 million Euro in his most successful year while losing 40 million in his least.

With those figures, not even Andy Beal could scare Uli Hoeneß.

Hoeneß also knows how to deal with nemeses. It took only one interview in the fall of 2000 where he insinuated that his personal rival and enemy Christoph Daum might be involved in cocaine abuse.

Daum lost his job, his chance to become the coach of the German national team and, ultimately, his career. Daum left Germany and worked in Turkey and Austria for the next five years.

Flop Play

Uli Hoeneß never showed his hand until he learned that his name showed up on one a list of tax evaders the German government had bought.

He quickly handed in a voluntary declaration and reported himself to the police.

Too late, though, as even the celebrity friendly Bavarian legislative had to acknowledge it and he was sued for 3.5 million Euro in tax evasion.

At this point Hoeneß tried a great bluff. He admitted to evading 18.5 million Euro instead to demonstrate that he is, in fact, an honest guy.

Unfortunately he got check-raised by the Government and was accused of evading 27 million Euro instead.

Turn Play

ulihoenesscrying dpa
Knew he was beat so checked it down. (Photo: dpa)

Hoeneß now knew he was beat so he decided to check it down. He remained silent in court and let the lawyers battle it out.

He must have been aware that anything he said could make things worse and prolong the lawsuit, and he really didn’t want that.

Apparently, nobody did. Judicial inquiries often take years in Germany but the whole Uli Hoeneß lawsuit was resolved in only a matter of days. Maybe, some things weren’t meant to be discovered.

River Play

Considering the immense amount of money involved Hoeneß’s sentence of 3.5 years is about the lowest you can possibly get, as several experts on tax legislation have stated.

His lawyers announced an appeal immediately, and this is where Hoeneß plays his last and maybe best move: He overrules his lawyers and accepts the judge’s decision. At the same time he steps down from all his offices.

Some say he might have accepted the sentence as an appeal would have led to a longer one, but maybe that’s just malicious gossip.


horst seehofer
Even Horst Seehofer is sympathetic. Horst Seehofer!

Uli Hoeneß, guilty of tax evasion on an unprecedented level, is now being praised by large parts of German society for being a man of integrity.

Even chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her “deep respect” of Hoeneß. Horst Seehofer, Bavarian secretary of the state, calls him “a man of stature, who handles his situation very responsibly."

Even Christoph Daum showed sympathy!

Seehofer, by the way, is the head of the very conservative Christian Social Union party, the third largest party in Germany. It promotes traditional family values and faithfulness, but has no problem with its leader having an extramarital child. Bavaria is special.

People even held demonstrations in front of the court to show their “solidarity” and to demand “freedom for Uli." Bayern Munich has already signaled that Hoeneß might still have a future at the club.

And his sentence? Three-and-a-half years still sounds serious. But here’s what’s really going to happen.

He’ll be on day release within a few months, so he will only have to stay the nights in prison. He’ll get early release at the earliest possible time. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he was home for Christmas.

Perfect Guy to Clear the Slate

Uli Hoeness laughing
Poker face needs work. (Photo: dpa)

So, if Hoeneß is able to get away so easily with such a serious offence and, at the same time, earn respect from people all across society, imagine what he could do if he was representing a game like poker.

He's the perfect guy to clear the game of all the negative images and its shady reputation.

Or at least he would demonstrate that this reputation isn’t necessarily harmful.

Bring Hoeneß to the poker table and we will have the next EPT winner announced during the 8 o’clock news!

If there's anything he has to work on, it’s only his poker face.

2014-03-20 10:52:23

Taxes are a crime. Outright government robbery in most cases. I hope he’s out by Christmas too. He’d be welcome at my poker table.

2014-03-18 18:09:39

First interesting and analytical article i have seen so far about the whole thing, and ive seen quite a lot.
And that on pokerlistings xD, who would have thought.


2014-03-18 11:44:12

Actually, they called it “sulidarity”, cause he’s called Uli. And he’s just an ordinary criminal!

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