PCA 2015: Can Ronaldo really make it to another final? Maybe, just maybe...
When you're a three-time Fifa World Footballer of the Year award winner -- the only person in the world who can make that claim, by the way -- there are a few demands on your time. For instance, Ronaldo was due today to be in Zurich, Switzerland, for the annual Fifa Ballon d'Or Gala. That's the glitzy ceremony at which the best of the best are celebrated and the latest Player of the Year is handed the Golden Ball. Ronaldo is invited every year; he is still an absolute legend in the game.
As you'll know by now, however, Ronaldo had other commitments. He was returning to a stack of more than half a million chips on Day 4 of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
This is the biggest poker event outside of Las Vegas, and Ronaldo has secured his first in-the-money finish of his poker career. Although he has previous form in abandoning a stack deep in poker tournaments (he bailed on the Brazil Series of Poker last year because of a meeting in Paris), he thumbed his nose today at Sepp Blatter, Lionel Messi and his namesake, Cristiano Ronaldo, to stay in the Bahamas and play poker.
"He's nervous," Andre Akkari, Ronaldo's friend, coach and countryman, said. "He's really nervous. But excited too."
It seems bizarre to think that a man who has stepped out for two World Cup finals -- an event watched by a global audience of close to 1 billion people -- could be nervous about playing a poker game. But Ronaldo is taking this poker business seriously, and has never got anywhere near to this level before.
"I was telling him to use the time bank," Akkari said, having walked over to the television stage during a break in the $25,000 High Roller tournament, which is talking most of the Team PokerStars Pro's time. "There's not enough time to tell him any advanced techniques, but he's doing good. I told him to keep thinking, to take his time, keep thinking. Nobody's going to ask you to rush. Use the time, think of all the possibilities. Think what hand he has if he is making this move."
For some fairly obvious reasons, Ronaldo is sitting on the EPT Live television set today. Although the tournament field still includes such poker luminaries as Jason Mercier, Ole Schemion, Maurice Hawkins, Noah Schwartz, Shannon Shorr and Jonathan Duhamel, the eyes of the world are on the former footballer. When the level finished in Akkari's tournament, he was quick to scoot over and offer support for his countryman from the spectators' area.
"It's huge for poker in Brazil, and for PokerStars," Akkari said.
Ronaldo told PokerStars Blog a few days ago of his tendency to be impatient at a poker table, of his thirst for action at all times. In football, it pays to be instinctive, and Ronaldo was one of the game's natural predators, pouncing on the smallest whiff of opportunity. But poker requires a more measured approach, and Akkari has been drumming its importance into Ronaldo at the end of every day.
"I said to him, 'At least if you think and you get in your room, you're going to feel good. You know you thought about it, and didn't just react, acted too impulsively,'" Akkari said. "We don't talk about a specific hand, but we talk generally. He can be impatient. He was on day one and day two, but now he's OK. He's excited to play now.
"Day 1s for guys like him, he's not used to playing ten hours. And he has some appointment in Switzerland. He doesn't have enough time to play. But after he got to day three and day four, now he's excited. Patience is not a problem."
The question on everybody's lips here at the PCA is how far can Ronaldo go? Akkari is unequivocal.
"I think he can get to the final table for sure," Akkari said. "He's playing tight. That's one of the things I told him. I said, 'Don't call. Never call. If you decide to play a hand, raise.' These guys, these regs, the pros, their first thought is not going to be, 'He's bluffing.' The first thought is, 'He has something.' If you're going to play, put them in an uncomfortable situation."
A small part of every football fan surely hopes that Ronaldo also managed to put Mr Blatter and his cohorts at Fifa in an uncomfortable situation by pulling out of the Ballon D'Or ceremony. They deserve to squirm a bit, and it's great that Ronaldo found something better to do this afternoon.
The new World Player of the Year is the Portuguese Ronaldo, by the way, the man who still needs a Christian name. We like to call him the other Ronaldo over here.
Follow all the action from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure on PokerStars Blog. Everything from the Main Event is on the Main Event page; everything from the $25,000 High Roller is on the High Roller page, and there are moving pictures on EPT Live.