Poker-Playing Soccer Boss Bloom Stakes Winnings on Charity Run

Tony Bloom, a professional gambler, poker player and soccer club owner, is placing a major wager -- on himself.

Bloom bet 13,000 pounds ($19,400) that he can complete the April 12 Brighton Marathon in under three hours, 45 minutes. Three friends have given him odds ranging from 5-1 to 10-1, meaning he could make at least 65,000 pounds toward his goal of raising 100,000 pounds for the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis charity. If he doesn’t make it, his friends keep the money.

“It’s going to be really difficult,” Bloom, 45, said in an interview. “I did 3:57 in my last marathon in 2010, and I’ve had a few injury problems, calf and hamstring. They’re small injuries which my physio assures me will be fine for the start of the race but obviously it’s been tough with the training. But I’m still trying to be positive.”

The OMS charity, which focuses on diet and lifestyle to manage MS and improve people’s quality of life, was founded by Bloom’s Australian-born wife Linda, who was diagnosed with the disease 15 years ago.

Nicknamed the Lizard for his purported cold blood, Bloom has won more than $3.3 million at the poker table, according to the Hendon Mob poker database. He’s been majority shareholder and chairman of soccer club Brighton Hove & Albion on England’s south coast since 2009 and also runs sports betting consultancy Star Lizard, which specializes in soccer gambling.

Bloom, who has been betting on sports for 25 years and studied mathematics at the University of Manchester, said it’s become harder to make money from gambling as others have adopted some of his techniques.

“There’s a lot more people who are professional sports bettors in European sports than there used to be,” he said.

Brighton Woes

It’s been a tough season for Brighton Hove & Albion, too.

After reaching the playoffs twice in a row, the club is 19th in the 24-team Championship, which is one rung below the Premier League. The bottom three teams get relegated to League One. After securing only one win in 18 games, manager Sami Hyypia resigned at the end of last year, and was replaced by former Newcastle and Norwich manager Chris Hughton.

“This season has been disappointing in terms of league position,” Bloom said. “But the current manager has done extremely well. We still need a few more points to make sure we don’t finish in the bottom three.”

Bloom said he’s looking to add at least half a dozen players during the summer to bolster the team.

Finding the time to train for the marathon while running his businesses hasn’t been easy.

“You just need to be very disciplined,” said Bloom, adding he’s been running either early in the morning or late at night and averaged five hours a week until his injuries struck.

“I do most of my running outdoors,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s tough to start off but once you get going, it’s actually very refreshing. It clears the mind and you get a chance to think about different things, and sometimes business decisions.”