BSOP Millions: Jeff Gross on Brazil, soccer, and hanging with Ronaldo
When entering the enormous Golden Hall at the São Paulo Sheraton WTC on Friday evening, I couldn't help but notice the guy sat behind two monitors over on the far side of the room. Everyone else was playing live poker, and here was a dude getting in some online hours on a very professional set-up right next to them. As I got closer I realised who it was, and what he was doing:
It was highly-respected US pro Jeff Gross, and he was broadcasting live on Twitch to his thousands of followers. You see, while Team PokerStars' own Jaime Staples is one of Twitch poker's leading stars, he's not the only show in town. In fact, just a week or so ago both Gross and Staples were sharing a house!
Gross, a high roller regular with more than $2.7 million in live earnings, is no stranger to poker in São Paulo, having final tabled the High Roller and cashed the Main Event at last year's BSOP Millions. He's back again this year, so I caught up with him to find out how his trip has been so far, why he loves Brazil, and how this football/soccer-loving guy ended up hanging out at Ronaldo's house at the 2016 Olympics.
"I took Day 1A off and did some Twitch for Bill Perkins on his channel, which was cool," Gross tells me, referring to the Friday evening session I witnessed. "The guys here let me do that, so that was really nice of them. Then on Day 1B I had a lot of chips and I got it all-in in a really good spot. I had the A♠Q♠ on a 7-4-Q board with two spades, and the turn came a queen so I had trip queens, with the ace kicker and nut flush draw. This guy just shoves all-in with queen-ten off, and the river came a ten, so that hurt. I would have had like 190K at dinner [from the 30K starting stack], but whatever. So I ended up busting a little after that.
"I came back yesterday for Day 1C and never really got above 60K. I ended the day with 30K and it's been good start here so far on day 2. I played the High Roller as well, but busted."
Gross' Twitch channel has 18,201 followers at the time of writing, and has been viewed by more than three quarters of a million people over time. His channel is only going to get bigger, so I wondered how the BSOP live session went for him.
"The Twitch stream went fine," he says. "The internet was good, which can be a big problem down in Brazil. Thats been the hardest part of being down here. My fiancé is Brazilian so I spend a lot of time here; it's just really unfortunate that the internet isn't always great. I played some $50/$100 six max, and won a little bit - just over a thousand or something. I played for a couple of hours and it was fun."
So if live streaming online on Twitch from Brazil was fun, what's it like for Gross playing live?
"Playing poker in Brazil, there's just more passion," he tells me. "When people get lucky, or when people get a bad beat, you see people stand up, shouting "Vamo! Vamo!' - which can sometimes be a little over the top - but it's just a cultural thing and it means well. People are just very genuinely happy when playing poker here and everyone seems to be good sports. I'm really impressed with the whole Brazilian poker culture in general, and it seems to be really fast growing too so that's cool."
The crowds here really are amazing. Team Pro Andre Akkari has said in the past: "There's so much suffering and poverty in Brazil, that when a Brazilian is doing good in something, he/she has the whole country behind them cheering them on." So in a room full of Brazilians, like here at the BSOP, there's bound to a hell of a lot of cheering when we get down to the big final tables.
"In 2015 I made a $2,500 WSOP final table and Akkari made it too," Gross remembers. "The Brazilians there were just so passionate. They were on the rail wearing costumes and going crazy, so it was awesome. If I ever make a final table anywhere I hope theres a Brazilian there."
One recent final table I had heard about that Gross not only made but won, was a PokerStars organised charity event that took place in Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympic games. Sergio Prado, the official blogger for PokerStars Brazil, ended up finishing in second. Oh, and did I mention it was held at Ronaldo's house?
"His house is beautiful, looking over the ocean right on the main drag there in Rio," Gross tells me. "It was a really nice catered affair and PokerStars put on a great charity event. It was really fun.
"I played soccer - football if you will - my whole life through college, so growing up I was very familiar with Ronaldo's game. He's definitely a legend so it was cool to be at his house, to get to meet him and talk to him."
It wasn't Gross' first encounter with a Brazilian football legend, though. Check out this video taken at the 2016 WSOP, in which Gross practices his keepie-uppies with none other than Neymar.
With such great memories in Brazil already, and his wife-to-be calling the country her homeland, it was no surprise to learn that Gross plans to spend more and more time here.
"I spend most of my time in Brazil in Belo Horizonte, as that's where my fiancé is from, but I've been to São Paulo twice now and Rio a bunch. I just love the cities, man. The energy here is very vibrant and I'm glad my fiancé is Brazilian. Every year I plan to spend a couple of months here at least, ideally during tournament festivals like this one."
Gross then re-took his seat in Day 2 of the BSOP Millions, safe in the knowledge that if this one doesn't work out, he can always just hop online and Twitch. You can check out his channel at
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Jack Stanton is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.