Alex Brito, from Osasco, Brazil, was made unemployed towards the end of 2019. To make matters worse, his wife recently lost her job too. Then the Sunday Million 14th Anniversary edition came along. Now things will never be the same for Brito, his wife, or his two young children.
“I’ve always been fascinated by this sport,” Alex Brito says of poker, which he first discovered around 15 years ago. “I’ve always loved card games, but due to the rush of everyday life, I could never play as often as I wanted to.”
For years, the 38-year-old’s everyday life consisted of his work as a Commercial Manager and life at home in Osasco, Brazil with his wife, taking care of their two young children. In his spare time, he would play poker recreationally, dabbling in live cash games and the occasional tournament or Spin & Go on PokerStars (“I started playing as “AAAArthur” when my son, Arthur, was born nine years ago.”)
That all changed six months ago when Brito lost his job. His wife–a pilates teacher–was also forced into unemployment.
After reading some poker content, Brito saw that the Sunday Million 14th Anniversary was coming up, and with $12.5 million guaranteed in prizes, he was sure it would be an unbelievable tournament.
“Every year, I read about the Sunday Million Anniversary but didn’t try to play it. This year was different. I don’t know why, but I wanted to play it so much.”
With his finances now under an all-time strain, however, playing the SM14 was by far a certainty.
“It would have been crazy for me to participate [by buying in directly] as the buy-in is quite expensive for my current economic situation,” he says. “So when I saw the satellites I saw an opportunity.”
You could say that Brito didn’t just seize the opportunity, he grabbed it with both hands and ran untouched to score an epic 90-yard touchdown.
He started with a $0.25 Spin & Go, which he won. He then used his winnings to enter a $4 satellite, which he won. From there, he gained entry into an $11 satellite with 100 seats guaranteed. He won one of those too.
When Sunday, March 22 rolled around, he sat down to play the biggest tournament of his life.
Problem was, so did tens of thousands of others.
“Things didn’t start well,” Brito says. He managed to double up when his ace-nine hit a nine to beat ace-queen, though, and after plenty of ups and downs, he ended Day 1 with around 120,000 (60 big blinds).
A total of 93,016 entries were recorded by the time registration came to a close. Brito’s stack took some hits as the field fell from the ~23,000 who returned for Day 2 down to the ~13,000 who would make the money. At one point he was down to just six big blinds, but when he woke up with pocket aces in the big blind and faced an all-in from ace-jack offsuit, he doubled up.
And up. And up.
“After the bubble burst on Day 2, my stack started to grow,” he says. “I kept picking up good hands and with an hour to go on the day I was chip leader with 50M in chips.”
His position at the top didn’t last long, however. Brito admits he made some mistakes with the big stack and began to tilt as he tried to recoup his losses. He ended up losing half of his stack.
“We went on a break, I took a breath, and realised I was about to make Day 3 and win at least $10K,” he says. “From then on, I just waited for the day to end.”
He finished the night 33rd in chips with 91 remaining and returned the next day with a stack of 22M. His goal was simple: secure as many pay jumps as possible. But as the tournament progressed, Brito began to trust his game more and more, and when the time came to sit around the final table, he was feeling confident.
“When we reached the final table, I realised I had a magical opportunity,” he says.
Brito entered the final table third in chips with 40 big blinds and was already guaranteed $71,869, a colossal score in any regular tournament. But with $1.5M up top, this was no regular tournament.
His final table started well, winning a flip to eliminate Paulius “D3cor” Vaitiekunas in ninth place. Three more players busted shortly after without Brito’s involvement, and he suddenly found himself with $225,108 locked up.
Four-handed, the remaining players paused play to look at deal numbers. At this point, with two times the chips of his nearest competitor, Brito was perfectly positioned to lock up a jaw-dropping payday, and when the ICM numbers offered him $1,142,802 with $50,000 still to play for, he happily agreed.
Brito was now a millionaire.
But the tournament continued. His stack grew larger when he won a flip to bust “salonteskis” in fourth. “Caroline2963” then fell in third, leaving Brito heads-up against “CrAzY_sTeFaN”.
The chip lead flipped after a few minutes, but ultimately the duel didn’t last long. “CrAzY_sTeFaN” was all-in with pocket fives, and Brito called holding pocket deuces. The flop? J♣J♦2♣, giving Brito a full house. “CrAzY_sTeFaN” couldn’t find a five, and it was all over.
“Every hand was so important,” he says. “Looking back, I’m very proud of my game. I think I managed my aggression well, and I put on a lot of pressure with some hands.”
As for his new bank balance, that’s going to take some getting used to.
“To be honest, the penny hasn’t dropped yet,” he says. “I don’t think I’ll believe what has happened for quite a while.”
Brito plans to celebrate with his family the only way they can right now: by being together, at home. But when the time comes to get out and celebrate the way he would under normal circumstances, he has plenty of plans in the pipeline.
“One of them is to visit Las Vegas and play poker there,” he says.
But Brito will always remember where he was–and the uncertain future he faced–when he took down the SM14.
“The game of poker doesn’t care about your social condition,” he says.
“Believe me, you must never give up. I’m an example. I’m just an aspiring poker player, a recreational player who has now managed to change life for his family thanks to poker.
“When we face our problems and the mistakes we’ve made, we learn and become better people. Even when life is rough, you have to stand up and be happy.
“One day the storm will pass, and everything will fit.”
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