PCA 2015: What's in Brazil's water?
Someone needs to launch an investigation into what Brazilians are putting in their water, because something is amiss.
Consider what's happened here at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
"We are having a great PCA for Brazil," said Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari. "We won the Americas Cup. I got in the money and we have two guys in the last 23 left (in the Main Event). And Ronaldo crushed."
For those who might not have been keeping up, Team Brazil won the Americas Cup of Poker last night. Akkari cashed in the Main Event before jumping into the $25,000 High Roller and finishing Day 1 as one of the top people on the leader board. Brazilian poker star Felipe Ramos made Day 5 of the Main Event, and Brazilian rental car magnate Eugenio Mattar finished Day 4 of the Main as the chip leader.
"He's a really great guy. He's so happy about it. It's not about the money, it's about being here and the adrenaline," Akkari said.
And then there is Ronaldo, a legend of Brazilian soccer, the man who actually missed a major event for his former sport to go on a deep run here. He finished in 26th place out of the 816 people who started. There is simply no overstating the impact that has on his home country of 200 million people.
"He's almost on the same level as Pele," said PokerStars' Brazilian blogger Sergio Prado.
Prado has been covering poker for nearly a decade. He works for Brazilian ESPN and is a big cog in the PokerStars Brazilian poker machine. He's seen a lot, but he's never seen anything as big as Ronaldo playing poker and succeeding as he did this week.
"It's crazy. Everybody pays attention to every step he takes," Prado said. "If he's playing poker, everybody talks about it. If he's doing good at poker, it's amazing for us. The major websites, the TV, they are talking about him. Things have changed a lot in last eight or nine years."
Prado has to do no more than point to the recent success of the Brazilian Series of Poker (BSOP). What could've been a small series in small Brazilian card clubs has exploded to something you might see in Las Vegas.
"The BSOP is growing to levels that I never imagined," Prado said. "Like 3,000 players in a room playing poker. It's unbelievable."
The question, then, is why things have changed so much.
Prado points first to people like Akkari and Ramos, two exceptionally personable men with exceptional poker talent. They are considered two of the best poker ambassadors for their country, two that could rival almost any other around the world.
"Those guys help to spread poker in Brazil," Prado said.
But it goes beyond that. Akkari, Ramos, Prado, and all their contemporaries have done all they can to educate the people of Brazil that poker is more than just a parlor game.
"We did a good job in Brazil of helping people think of poker as a mind sport. Now we are ready to go to the next level to show people poker is a sport and a fun sport to play," Prado said. "Poker doesn't have to be all professionals playing. You can play poker and have fun with that. Play poker and have fun like you play soccer on the weekends, you know?"
The message is getting through. Something is clearly happening in Brazil. We can see it here at the PCA. Hell, we can hear it here, for every time a Brazilian succeeds, the world's fifth biggest country screams "Vamooooo!" loud enough to hear it 6,000 kilometers away.
"We opened a lot of doors and new opportunities. We are reaching new people like Ronaldo," Akkari said. "They want to play. They want to be here. They want to go to Monte Carlo. We are a country of 200 million people. It's about numbers. We're going to get more results, more media, more attention. I'm happy about it."
Follow all the action from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure on PokerStars Blog. Everything from the Main Event is on the Main Event page, High Roller live updates are here, and the live stream is on this PCA Live webcast.
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging