PCA 2014: Talking World Cup soccer, weight loss and dog hotels (yes, dog hotels) with Andre Akkari

It started as a regular Team Pro interview, a chat with Andre Akkari from Sao Paolo. But as can sometimes happen when you talk to someone with as many fingers in as many pies as the brilliant Brazilian, things can quickly get sidetracked.

So it was that PokerStars Blog started off chatting with Akkari about his poker career, his hopes for the PCA and his plans for next year's World Cup, and we ended up talking about hotels for pampered pooches and the vagaries of matching dogs with bitches like they were poker hands.

We present, therefore, the wit and wisdom of Andre Akkari (with apologies to Esquire's "What I've Learned" column.)


Andre Akkari at the 2014 PCA

I'm trying to get in shape. In the last year, since the last PCA, I lost 27kg already. The most difficult thing is not about the exercise routine, it's about the food. I like to eat all the s*** stuff. I had to change that. I eat everything in the morning, and at lunch. I eat meat, red meat, which I like. And then I eat again at 6pm. And then I try, at 10 or 11pm to just eat some salad, or take a tea or something. But it's hard.

My wife and my daughters stayed in Brazil this time. They have come three times already. If they come here it's a coin flip. If they come here and the weather is good, it's a really nice place. If the weather is bad, it's not a good place for kids. This year they preferred to skip it and stay on the beach in Brazil. Because it's always warm.

For me it's the best tournament in the world. It's the only place that you play that if you bust, you're not so sad about it because you have so many things to do. You have jet-ski, tubes. It's really nice to hang out with all your friends because for Brazilians, it's not so far from Brazil, so everybody is here. I really love it here. I love to be here. I keep waiting every year for January.

Poker in Brazil is growing like a fever. I think we have been doing a great job there and PokerStars have been helping a lot. They hired Ronaldo and everything that Ronaldo's involved in in Brazil will get big, and explode, like poker is now.

The Brazil Series of Poker tournament was almost out of control. Every day that the event was on, there was 7,000 people walking around and playing in the side events. It's unbelievable. It took two hours to go from the main entrance to the tournament area. People just kept taking pictures. It was amazing, and I'm just really happy to be a part of it.


The tournament room on one (of three!) starting days in Sao Paolo at the BSOP

In the next ten years I think poker is going to be the second sport in Brazil. Soccer is unreachable in Brazil. Soccer is huge. But I am 39 and I have never seen something like this, some sport comes from what poker came and becomes what poker is now. It's more than a fashion. It's going to be there for a long time. There are a lot of people involved in the poker business, poker schools. Everybody is talking about strategy and the real nature of poker. People are not just playing for fun. People are studying poker, people are interested in poker strategies related to business. It's a really good thing.

I am trying to be a mentor to young players, trying to help them. I think that if somebody makes it, we have a good chance to keep this sport in a good way for the next 20 years. I am one of few people who travels around the world to play international tournaments, and they have no idea what happens here. I have a training centre in Brazil, like a farm, where they put 15 players every month. We keep training them and we make them professional players.

When my friend Pedro Padilla showed up here, he almost cried. He looked around and thought, 'Wow, that's amazing. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.' It's really important for me. I'm really proud to help these guys and see I'm doing something for the sport as well. I am making money as well, I have businesses related to that, so I'm happy.

I have to enjoy all that god has given me. Life has given me a lot. It's changed my life financially and changed my family's life. But on the other side, I have to keep my mind on what really matters. And what matters for me is my samba group in Brazil. Every week we make samba and we play soccer, with my friends and my family.

It is really easy to go the wrong way, just focus on money. But I try to avoid everything like that. I'm really surprised about everything that's happened in Brazil and how my life has changed. I like to think really critically, but I'm really thankful and I'm really proud.

I have all the offers, the temptations of everybody else. When I go to the casino, it's really nice to play blackjack, to play roulette, to play a $100,000 tournament, but nothing compares with how nice it is to have my daughters in a safe spot and with their futures guaranteed. I have to be focused, that's my point. And that's what I did in the last ten years.


Ronaldo and Andre Akkari: soccer star and poker star

I don't care if these guys are playing a $100,000 tournament and I'm a Team Pro too and they say I should be playing. I have my targets and I have a plan. It's working really good in the last six years. I don't have any more problems with money in Brazil. I've had tough times, but I'm now in really good shape and I don't want to do anything that could risk it.

You have to suffer a little bit in your life to understand what really matters. Ten years ago I had no money, my credit card was busted and I had to worry about how I would eat something the next day, to make dinner for my wife and my one daughter at the time. Since I was there, I I know how hard it is, and I know what money means. Sometimes you play poker and you forget that you are playing for money. You forget when you are playing online that that number is money. You're just, Oh it's chips. Register. No, no, no. Take care of money.

If I had my experience now when I was 20 years old, I would be a billionaire now. I really try to pass on all these things to my people in Brazil, who are at my training centre. I think I am doing a good job, because the good players who you are going to see here and playing around the world, at the World Series, the EPTs, from Brazil, most of them are from my training centre. You're going to see people that I'm backing and people that are playing for themselves, but they came from the Akkari training centre. That's one of the things that I am most proud about.

I tried to play soccer when I was young, but it's a really tough sport in Brazil. It is so competitive. If I was from any other country, I'd have been a really good player.

I don't need three million dollars. Of course, I like money. I like to be in a comfortable room. I like to have a good car, but not that good. I don't need a Porsche. I don't need a Ferrari. Actually I'm ashamed about it. I'm ashamed about people who have Ferraris. I think, 'Come on, there's so many people you can help with this money.' If you have an SUV, a good SUV, you don't need more. If you start to get addicted to money, your mind is going to fake a situation for you where you always need more.

The World Cup is on at the same time as the World Series and it's a tough situation for me. It's one opportunity. I'm 39 years old. They're never going to have another World Cup in my country in my lifetime. But on the other hand, poker is my job. It's for my family. I know what happened in Brazil after I won the bracelet. I can't miss the opportunity to do it again. I really don't know what I'm going to do.

Thumbnail image for andre_akkari_first_bracelet.jpg

Akkari secures the treasured bling at the World Series, ignites Brazilian poker boom

Ronaldo is a close friend of mine, and he's going to have all the tickets that I need. But I'm afraid to ask him. But if I ask him, he might say, "I have all the tickets! You can go to the final." And then I can't go to the World Series. It's a difficult problem but it's a good problem.

The Brazil soccer team is really good. You see the Confederations Cup against Spain? They won 3-0. It looked like they were playing against children, and they are the best team in the world. There is no chance Brazil is not going to win. Not just because I'm Brazilian, but because what I know about soccer. I don't see any chance. This time the pressure is going to be really hard for the other teams.

We built a dog hotel. The dog hotel business in Brazil is almost like poker. It's like a fever. A lot of dog hotels are opening and people use it to leave your dog when you go travelling. It's a really good business. We charge $100 daily and we have place for 100 dogs. We open in February, and until February 27 we are sold out already. We have 30 rooms, and we have five dogs in a room. There are some single rooms, but you have to pay more. We have a fitness centre for the dogs. We have a spa. It's at least four star.

I have 13 dogs, 13 golden retrievers and dog breeding is really related with poker. When you're going to put together a dog and a bitch, you have to do a lot of math. They have numbers for the entire body, zero to 100. One hundred is the perfect leg. I have one bitch with a leg of 89. And the dog has leg 92, but the head on the bitch is 45 but on the dog it's 92, so you have to mix the numbers and say, OK, this dog is perfect for this bitch. And if you did good, the dog is going to be perfect. I am studying here. I have all the books in my room. It's complicated because I don't know a lot about it, but I'm getting a lot of coaches to help me. They are always interested in poker, and they ask me, "Can you teach me poker?" And I say, "OK. Can you teach me this f****** legs stuff."

Sarah Grant, intrigued by Akkari's plans to be the Conrad Hilton of dog hotels, caught up with the Team PokerStars Pro to learn more:

Our coverage of the 2014 PCA is comprehensive on PokerStars Blog, and it is simple to follow. The PCA 2014 Main Event page has a box at the top in which you'll find hand-by-hand coverage and chip counts after the action commences at noon. Below that are feature pieces, interviews and analysis updated throughout the day. You can also follow the action on PCA Live.