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We speak to Sunday Million Anniversary 17 winner Ricardo ‘RFN1986’ Nagamoto about his incredible $1M victory


There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that says: all good things come in pairs.

We’re not sure how familiar Brazil’s Ricardo ‘RFN1986’ Nagamoto is with that adage, but boy, does it apply to him.

You see, three months ago, Nagatomo’s wife gave birth to twins. The 36-year-old poker pro says his world outside of the game was flipped upside down in the best possible way when he became a father. “They are the most beautiful things in my life,” he tells us.

But before becoming a dad, Nagatomo’s dream was to take down the Sunday Million. “It’s the tournament that every player wants to win,” he says.

So on Sunday, March 28, he settled in to try and do just that.

NO ORDINARY SUNDAY

But this was no ordinary Sunday Million. It was the 17th-anniversary edition which came with a $7.5 million guarantee and at least a million dollars for the winner. He entered the tournament behind his PokerStars screenname “RFN1986” and chased the dream once again.

Two days later he found himself on the final table of the 39,500-entry tournament. He was down to three-handed play, and while a player known as “roflcopter88” held a huge chip lead, he had twice as many chips as his other opponent, “PAX176”.

Then he was dealt a pair of aces. 

ricardo nagamoto

Ricardo “RFN1986” Nagamoto

Roflcopter88 folded on the button, and Nagamoto decided to limp from the small blind. “I knew they would still have a lot of folds even though they were short-stacked, so I need to be able to get them post-flop somehow,” he says. 

As luck would have it, PAX176 also had a strong hand – AJ – and moved all in. Nagamoto naturally called and his aces held. “The feeling was wonderful because I knew that chance to play heads-up [for a million] was huge,” he says.

He faced a more-than-4:1 chip deficit, but the cards kept falling in his direction. Whenever he had a smaller pair than his opponent, he made two pair. When his opponent flopped top pair, he turned a set. 

Nagamoto battled to a 2:1 chip lead when he picked up his next big pocket pair, pocket queens. Roflcopter88 opened with A9 and Nagamoto three-bet to seven big blinds, praying for a four-bet shove.

“I knew the chance of him going all-in was very big as I’d already three-bet him several times,” he says. “Then when he shoved my eyes filled with tears because I knew that victory was very close.”

The pair of queens held and not only did Nagamoto tick off his Sunday Million dream, he did so in the biggest edition of the year and became a millionaire himself.

“It was an indescribable feeling,” he says. “I confess that it took a while for the penny to drop and for me to understand the size of the feat I had accomplished.

“A movie ran through my head. I saw all the bad moments, the people who don’t understand my profession, and all the hard work I put in to achieve this.”

Nagamoto won a side event at the BSOP in 2022 for $2,521

“WINNING THE ANNIVERSARY IS INDESCRIBABLE”

Ricardo ‘RFN1986’ Nagamoto, who lives in São Paulo, only discovered poker five years ago, when he was 31. He began playing casual games with his brother and when he found out there was a lot of strategy involved, he immediately fell in love with the game.

“I started studying a lot,” he says. “And after a lot of preparation, I left my job at an events company and entered the poker world.”

He joined a poker team in Brazil, a group of players who play individually but study together to help each other improve. Nagamoto says the intense work ethic helped his game exponentially.

“My evolution was very fast,” he says. “I started playing very low buy-in tournaments and soon I was climbing the stakes. Today I play with an average buy-in of $60.”

ricardonagamoto

Nagamoto moved up in stakes thanks to a rigorous study regime

But occasionally he would take shots in the $109 and $215 editions of the Sunday Million. 

“It’s a very symbolic event with affordable value for many and you can find big poker stars in the field,” he says. “Winning a regular Sunday Million would be an incredible feat. But winning the anniversary Sunday Million is indescribable.”

THE BASIS OF EVERYTHING

Nagamoto still seems a bit shocked that he’s managed to turn his poker hobby into his profession, let alone that he won $1 million in a single tournament.

“This win will change my life as it gives me more stability and financial security,” he says. “But for the time being, I want to continue doing what I love, which is playing poker.”

He won’t be going crazy. Don’t expect to see “RFN1986” suddenly showing up in the high roller lobbies. “I want to take it easy, little by little, and who knows? Maybe one day I’ll reach the high stakes.”

Nagamoto on his wedding day

Despite his good fortune with pairs on the Sunday Million final table, it’s his pair of young kids who he credits with his success.

“My family is the basis of everything,” he says. “My children, my wife, my father, my mother, my brothers, and my friends… they are what motivate me every day to continue in the battle.”

Sunday Million Anniversary 17

Dates: 28-30 March, 2023
Buy-in: $215
Entries: 39,500 (including 13,778 re-entries)
Prize pool: $7.9 million

  1. RFN1986 (Brazil) $1,000,000
  2. roflcopter88 (Denmark) $723,474.66
  3. PAX176 (Poland) $519,001.44
  4. songoks (Lithuania) $372,317.79
  5. dariepoker Romania) $267,090.72
  6. atredezini (Brazil) $191,603.34
  7. paulinhoo00 (Brazil) $137,450.76
  8. Sufferring102 (Brazil) $98,603.07
  9. young_diam18 (Austria) $70,734.66
  10. DefBeat976 (Hungary) $50,742.60

MORE ABOUT THE SUNDAY MILLION ANNIVERSARY 17

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