On the last hand before the first break of Day 1B of the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final in São Paulo, Brian Rast sat leaning forward, nearing the end of a lengthy massage. Reaching showdown he tabled his cards — two black aces, fitting neatly with the red one that had come on the flop.
His first visit to Brazil back in early 2010 went fairly well also. That’s was when he met his wife-to-be, and ever since the couple, though based in Las Vegas, have been back and forth to South America’s largest country on a regular basis.
“I’m usually here, I’d say, twice a year now,” Rast explains. While there has been a lot of business to take care of involving visas, getting residency, and the wedding here in Brazil, mostly the trips have been made with the primary purpose of enjoying some rest and relaxation far away from the nonstop hustle of Vegas.
“I come here every year after the Series, usually for five weeks or so, really just to hang out and see my wife’s family,” says Rast. “I love the food, I like the weather, and I really like the people. Things move a little bit slower here than in the U.S., and since I’m coming down to relax, the relaxed pace is great.”
“Plus, Rio de Janeiro is a little bit of a paradise. Wonderful beaches, great weather. If you’re a single man, the women are beautiful, and if you’re a single woman, there are a lot of good-looking men down here, too. I also find the people to be genuine and authentic — a little more like they have their heart on their sleeve. I feel like I get along with everyone and I really like it.
Brazil being such a large country, there’s still a lot of it left that Rast wants to visit.
“I’d really like to see more. We’ve spent most of our time in Rio, and in the northeast around Paraíba where my wife is from. This is my first time in São Paulo, in fact.”
“I’ve played very little poker down here. Really this is the most poker I’ve played already, other just a couple of times playing small games in Rio.”
Rast, of course, also enjoys the not-so-small games, and can often be found among the lists of those participating in the high rollers and super high rollers whenever they come around. Most notably, this summer he played in this year’s super duper high roller — the $500,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl held at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. From a 43-entry field Rast managed to the the last one with chips, earning an eye-popping $7,525,000 first prize.
There aren’t too many people in the world to whom we can ask the question, so we couldn’t resist — how does it feel to bink a tournament for $7.5 milly?
“I mean, it felt wonderful,” Rast grinned. “It was really nice. I had an amazing Day 2 in that tournament, where I came in pretty much with the starting stack and ended the day with a commanding lead going into the final table. I had just an amazing run, and I held onto it at the final table.”
Did winning that event exceed the thrill of earning his WSOP bracelet in the $50K Poker Players’ Championship in 2011 (his second that summer), memorably outlasting Phil Hellmuth heads-up to win?
“Right now I’d say [winning the Super High Roller Bowl is] the pinnacle of my poker career,” he estimates. “I was more excited when I won the $50K, but in retrospect I think that was a bigger deal.”
He went on to express enthusiasm about the return of the Super High Roller Bowl next year and PokerCentral’s involvement, as well as how poker can use more sponsored, rake-free events, especially when those events are televised.
“Even the WSOP, they’re making money on both sides,” Rast points out. “They’re charging players rake, then they’re making money from ESPN showing it on TV…. They’re making a TV show out of it, but they’re not paying the talent or anything.”
Soon enough Rast was settling back in his seat behind his above-average stack, resuming his first ever LAPT event. And continuing his ongoing, life-changing adventures in Brazil.
Indeed, much as he did during that Day 2 of the Super High Roller Bowl, the country is a place where for several years he’s been enjoying an amazing run.
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Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.