WSOP 2011: Andre Akkari wins first gold bracelet, $675,117
I have missed few things that I really wanted to see during my career in poker. I've been fortunate enough to be around for most of the great moments, and those that I've missed have been unavoidable. Tonight, I'm suffering with a giant smile. I couldn't be in Las Vegas tonight to witness something I've wanted to see for the past four years. Just minutes ago, Brazilian Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari won his first World Series of Poker bracelet.
Four years ago next week, PokerStars signed the Brazilian to its roster of elite poker players. The man from Sao Paulo was a representative like few others. He was a family man who had built his roll on free tournaments and dedication. He had no long list of poker wins to justify his signing. His best performance had been back-to-back Bellagio Cup event final tables. That combined with a smile that went on for miles got him his place on Team PokerStars Pro. He went on to take second in a giant World Championship of Online Poker HORSE event for $200,000. Until tonight, that was his biggest win.
This year is one that Akkari will never forget. A few months ago, his father passed away. It had been nearly half a year since Akkari had last cashed in a live tournament. Things didn't get much better in the months following the funeral. Before this week, Akkari had earned less than $10,000 in live 2011 tournament cashes.
That's when the onetime software developer and businessman decided to buy into one of yet another $1,500 WSOP events. It's the type of thing he'd done over and over. The field was 2,800-strong. The prize pool was near four million bucks. He had hundreds of people standing between him and a destiny he'd decided on years ago.
Akkari survived them all.
Last night, Akkari literally wept in the WSOP men's room when he made the final table. The Brazilian poker community rose up in Las Vegas, in the forums, and on Twitter. It was a love that only Brazilians can show. Akkari, a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, broke down. This was his moment. This was his time to prove that everyone who had shown faith in him had been right all along.
The only thing that could stop him was a new WSOP rule that forced play to end at a designated time each night. Akkari was heads up for the bracelet and had to try to sleep before trying to win it. He was down nearly 3-1 in chips and had to dream about it in the restless sun-up hours of a Las Vegas morning. As he went to bed, he told his friends and followers that he was going to have to win it the "the hard way."
And he did.
It took just about four hours in all tonight, but Akkari came back from a big deficit and put away Nachman Berlin to collect the $675,117 and gold WSOP bracelet.
He did it in an environment befitting a Brazilian. Dozens of friends and fans packed the rail and chanted each time Akkari won a pot. The rail grew and grew and exploded when Akkari finally won.
"It was like a soccer match, except the Brazilians didn't have anyone to sing back at them."
That was how a fellow poker blogger (you might have heard of a guy they call Al Can't Hang) put it to me minutes after it happened.
This is how it looked as Akkari waited to see the dealer put out the river (courtesy WSOP's Twitter feed).
Tonight, I can't offer Akkari a handshake, a hug, or a lime tossing re-match (I'm still dining on that night in Punta del Este, Andre). I can only offer him the most sincere of congratulations.
You knew it would happen one day, Mr. Akkari. Today is that day.
Photo courtesy WSOP.com