But now, six years after leaving the popular BBC1 show, Michael Greco is set for a different challenge – taking on the world’s best poker stars as a sponsored Littlewoods Poker player.
The actor has signed a sponsorship deal with Littlewoodspoker.com and will represent the UK’s trusted name in gaming online and in live tournaments, including this season’s European Poker Tour.
Players at LittlewoodsPoker.com will get the chance to regularly test Michael’s online poker skills through the website’s monthly bounty tournaments, where they can claim the £250 bounty on his head for knocking him out of the tournament.
The deal is the latest highlight of Michael’s five year poker career, which began shortly after he left EastEnders in 2002. It also follows his biggest-ever tournament win last year, when he walked away with more than £100,000 during an event in Cardiff.
Michael said: “When I first started getting interested in the game, I was just playing with friends and learning the basics. However, I’ve now been playing poker for around five years and I’m delighted that Littlewoods Poker has chosen to sponsor me for the new season”.
“There aren’t many great celebrity poker players around and I think some professionals are a bit sceptical of them, so it’s great that I’ve been given the chance to show what I can do”.
“Over the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to stay away from the limelight and the celebrity lifestyle that I had when I was in EastEnders. And although I’m still working as an actor I’ve also been concentrating very hard on my poker”.
“I’ve got a good reputation at tournaments and have a few wins under my belt over the past few years, so I hope to continue that when I play in the LittlewoodsPoker.com colours”.
“Because I am a former soap actor and a face that people have seen on TV, there are a few players who underestimate me. They see me as easy money and don’t expect me to be any good, just because I’ve appeared on a popular TV show”.
“But they don’t realise that, as an actor, I have a great advantage as I can bluff very well and I can either hide my tells or create false ones to confuse them. Poker pros are also terrible actors, so you can usually tell what they’re trying to hide and use that to your advantage”.
“I’m looking forward to using those skills at the upcoming tournaments and performing as well as I can for Littlewoods Poker at both live events and online.”
As a representative for LittlewoodsPoker.com, Michael will be joined on tour by his old friend Tony Cascarino, the former Republic of Ireland football legend who is the gaming giant’s other sponsored player.
He added: “I’ve known Tony for a few years now, so it’s going to be good fun going to poker events with him. He’s been a great ambassador for Littlewoods Poker over the years and, if I can manage even half of what he’s achieved, then I will be doing very well”.
The European Poker Tour begins in September and Michael will take part in his first tournament as a sponsored Littlewoods Poker player at the opening event in Barcelona.
Bruce Martin, Head of Operations with LittlewoodsPoker.com, said: “We’re delighted to be sponsoring Michael for the new EPT tour. Not only is he a household name thanks to his time on EastEnders, but he is also a very good, and well-respected, player on the poker tour”.
“Michael and Tony Cascarino have also been good friends for many years, so it’s great that they will now get to compete alongside each other as they represent LittlewoodsPoker.com”.
“I’m sure Michael will be a valuable player for us and I look forward to hearing about his successes this year.”