Three new SCOOP winners, proof of poker's "Brazilian Storm"
There's talk these days in the surfing world of a "Brazil Storm". Don't take my word for it, you can look it up. Everywhere, from the New York Times to surfing blogs, is looking in the direction of Brazil and asking why their surfers are suddenly beating the sports best to become the best in the world.
For instance, late last year a Brazilian surfer won the biggest surfing title in the world, the first from South America to do so, and at a recent event in Australia four of the eight finalists were from Brazil. Not bad for a sport previously dominated by Australian, South Africans and Americans. Now they're forced to look at the Storm clouds brewing over 4,000 miles of Brazilian coastline.
Well, there might be something similar happening in Brazilian poker.
Brazil is a poker mad country. Arguably the likes of Andre Akkari and Felipe Ramos, and even as far back as Alex Gomes, the first Brazilian to win a WSOP bracelet, have something to do with that. But if a sceptic was prepared to claim they were outliers, exceptions, they might struggle to account for that has followed in their wake.
For what has followed has been the proof of that storm, a new generation of players, taking their lead from Brazil's poker icons, with their own plans to take the game, well, by storm. Three of whom made themselves known by winning SCOOP titles this past week.
Renato "renatomaiag" Maia, 24, grew up playing video games in his home town of Fortaleza. That would never provide an income though, at least not until he discovered poker. Soon he was playing it for fun, ten a little while later as a professional.
"I love poker the feeling that it gives me - adrenaline, playing against great players, and winning. It's somewhat surprising. To me [it's about] excitement and joy."
Maia's win came in SCOOP 9-L, a final you can read about here. There's a common theme with players when it comes to COOP titles, that whether you're an amateur or a pro, it remains one of the game's most coveted prizes.
"There is no comparison to feeling of winning an event tournament as SCOOP," said Maia, who credits his wife's encouragement for all of his success. "No doubt at all, this was my best result, [and] the joy is much greater, you can be sure of that."
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Two years older than Maia, Wellington "Wellbr20" Montanholi has lived in Ourinhos since he was eight, a place that he describes as a small, peaceful city. As for himself, he goes by the description of an ordinary nice guy, outgoing and humble.
"On the other hand, sometimes I'm a little stressed and lose my temper with the game! Ha, but I'm working on that!"
After several years in the game Montanholi can count his win in SCOOP 1L (worth $24,000) as his best achievement - better than his previous best third place in the Sunday Storm. But now this Brazilian Storm, one which could now start breaking his way.
"I worked very hard to get this title and I hope this is just the beginning."
Then there's Patrick "Nelepo10" Ulysséa, also 24, from Curitiba. "Home to a lot of good poker players."
It's a place that Ulysséa loves and an ideal environment to learn the game, as he went on to explain, describing his SCOOP win as "the reward of much study and dedication."
What does he mean by that?
Well last year he moved back home, quit his job waiting tables, and dedicated all of his time to playing on PokerStars. It was a risk, but Ulysséa was determined, and also found a great source of help and advice.
All my knowledge came from study with one of the best players in Brazil, Yuri "theNERDguy" Dzivielevski," said Ulysséa. "Poker changed my life."
All of which came before he won SCOOP 4-M this week, and a massive first prize of $209,000.
"Obvious the money will help very much, but changing the way I live my life is the biggest thing that could happen. I've learned so much, and this title will make me study more and more to be the best that I can."
Ulysséa credits his friends and family for the support they gave him. On that rests all of his success - those that supported him in life, and in poker. Funnily enough they just happened to be on hand to celebrate.
Congratulations to all three new champions - the making of a Brazilian Storm. We should expect more before this SCOOP season ends.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.