Renato Akio Kaneoya on life, poker, and that first TCOOP title

For Renato Akio Kaneoya life is about being the best you can be, and then some. It means self-improvement, whether that's in the way you live, or the way you act, and taking a risk when circumstances demand it.

It's a way of living that Brazilian pro Kaneoya, 26, believes has helped him to achieve a lot in the eventful years since he learned to play poker at University. It's elevated his life in many ways, not least at the poker table.

That was brought home to him a few days ago when he won the opening event of TCOOP, picking up a first prize of $75,711, the biggest win of his career. It was also a reasonable excuse to start thinking big. But then, that's not exactly Kaneoya's style.

It's not that he expected to win, or made any assumptions as to what he was owed from the game. To him it was the net effect of putting in the effort that satisfied him most. As he described it at the time, it was about turning hard work into results: "I wasn't expecting to have this result, but I expected to have good results in a period of time." The only surprise was that it came so early in the year.

renato_akio_kaneoya_jan2017_v2.jpgRenato Akio Kaneoya

Every player hopes they'll one day be screaming "Come on! That's it! It's ours!" at their computer screen moments after winning the last hand of a COOP (not necessarily in the Portuguese Kaneoya used), but the reality is it doesn't come to everyone. So when it does you're forgiven for slapping your chest in celebration - again, as Kaneoya did--or screaming for joy. But the best assessment of a player is what happens next.

Kaneoya certainly had a lot to celebrate. His journey to becoming a professional could hardly be described as an easy one, with obstacles in the way both practical and cultural.

Kaneoya is Brazilian, but he has Japanese heritage. His family moved to Brazil more than fifty years ago with very little money, and endured the hardships that come with having to earn a living the hard way, while settling into a new culture. It's the kind of experience that forges straight forward priorities.

"They believe that we have to guarantee our financial security before consider choose a career that you love," said Kaneoya. "Knowing that, you understand that I'm the only one in the family that plays poker."

It was some time before he admitted to his parents that he was playing poker for a living, let along doing well at it. He'd started out playing for fun at University, and then started playing on PokerStars. That though was the easy bit.

The hardest part came when he travelled to Australia. He planned to live for a year, even though he had no job, no money, just an eagerness to pay his way from poker, all while hiding this from his parents.

The year turned out to be a good one, and he finally plucked up the courage to explain his passion for the game to his parents. You might think the entire plan was a gamble, which on this occasion paid off. But talking to Kaneoya you sense he saw it differently--had it not all worked out as he hoped you suspect he would have gone home and either tried again, or tried something else.

He credits his attitude to life for that, marking each landmark- whether that's moving to Australia, turning pro, or winning a TCOOP title - as a personal improvement. As well as parkour--the courageous practice of jumping between objects without plunging to your death--Kaneoya adheres to a practice of the DeRose Method, something fellow pro Diego Ventura has credited with his success, and which Kaneoya does also.

"It's a life performance, life style, human relations, good feeding Method which I have affinity to," said Kaneoya. "It helps me on self-development, as well as at poker performance."

Others players have written of its benefits, crediting it for helping them with everything from vitality and efficiency, to concentration, stress, and even breathing, all of which have a part to play when crushing the game online. From this also comes a strand of pragmatism.
"I wouldn't say that I've learned," he said, when I asked if he'd picked up anything new from this latest experience. "I'd say that [I've been] trying to develop for a while, and after this TCOOP win, the world put me to the test.

"What did change from Wednesday morning to Wednesday night? Am I really a changed person after all this? I had the chance to put myself into this spot, and truly feel that nothing really changed from my perspective."

Keeping your head, preferably on a pair of firm shoulders, is usually a pre-requisite for a professional player, the successful ones at least. It's a quality not easy to develop amid riches and success, but one Kaneoya clearly has, turning is back on the temptation to assume good times will always be. Instead he appreciates the good and the bad, and those who stick with him through both.

"One thing that is always in my mind is that I never want to stop learning," he said. "I believe that whenever you decide that you don't need to learn more your life loses reason.

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"This is part of my lifestyle. Every experience that we face, we can learn [from] and develop, if we see it from the right perspective. Without bad situations, we can't develop."

Which should work in favour of Kaneoya in his career as a professional poker player, all while keeping that vital sense of perspective towards poker, life, and the people who share that experience.

"Understand that it doesn't matter how many trophies you got if there's no one to take that picture with you."

Read all about Kaneoya's win in Event #1 of TCOOP on the PokerStars Blog.

Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog. Follow him on Twitter: @StephenBartley. Don't forget to follow the Blog on twitter: @PokerStarsBlog.

Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in TCOOP