When the competition is high, it’s harder to stand out. This goes for pretty much anything, and poker is no different. Take the Brazilian Poker scene with tournaments happening almost every day, in every big city, with different fields and prizes.
How can an event even stand out? Well, 888Live Brazil has (or is) the answer!
The event that has passed through dozens of cities around the world made its debut in Brazil in amazing form. It set records and showed that, even in the face of tremendous competition, it is indeed possible to stand out.
The first 888Live Brazil took place between December 10th and 15th. The Main Event had a R$ 490 buy-in and a R$ 500,000 guaranteed prize pool, plus there were several side tournaments and other attractions.
Incidentally, the venue chosen for this premiere was one of the factors that made this such a fascinating event: the mythical Mineirão Stadium, in Belo Horizonte.
With tables arranged in the VIP Lounge of the newly renovated stadium, players could play poker overlooking one of the most important football pitches in the world. And the hall, even when empty, already demanded your attention. Dressed flawlessly, it created a warm and comfortable environment for six days of unparalleled poker.
For Brazilians, the stadium's most recent memory wasn’t good at all - the fall of Seleção to Germany by a massive 7-1 margin in the 2014 World Cup. But, at least for poker fans, everything was about to change.
"The Mineirão does not bring me a good memory right now, but maybe we can change that from today," said the Team888 member Bruno Kawauti, just before the official opening of the event.
Little did he know that his premonition was very close to being realised...
Starting Off on the Right Foot
On the very first day of the event, the standard was set for what lay ahead: a historical event.
The opening of 888Live Brazil could not have been better. It kicked off with Day 1A of the Main Event, a Super Turbo tournament - the first event of side tournaments schedule - and the 888Live For Good, a charity invitational tournament.
The charity event brought out the Brazilian sports superstars: long jump Olympic medallist, Maureen Maggi; two times volleyball Olympic medallist Rodrigão; former football players and World Champions in 2002 with Seleção, Denilson and Edmílson.
Edmílson even had the honour of his charity, the Edmílson Foundation, being the beneficiary. 100% of the donations went to the Edmílson Foundation, which cares for needy children in São Paulo. It has been doing this for ten years and has served more than 3,000 people.
Completing the all-star team were three members of Team888, Bruno Kawauti, Bruno Foster and Nicolau Villa-Lobos. Also adding to the glitz and glam were the "Queen of Freestyle Football" Rachel Benetti, members of Team Foster 888, Kaka del Castilho, Stevam Wu, Guilherme Chenaud and Bruno Aguiar. Professional poker player Rafael Caiaffa also paid his respects as did members of Cruzeiro and Atletico-MG boards – these are the football teams most likely to use Mineirão Stadium.
The mood in the tournament was very relaxed The victory went to 2014 November Niner Bruno Foster, who beat Ronaldo Fernandes from the TZK agency heads-up. Bruno's pocket fives held against his opponent's QJ on a board: 74TA3.
At the end of the tournament, Vice President of 888poker, Hili Shakked, handed a check for R$ 10,000, made payable to the Edmílson Foundation, to its founder.
In an interview, Edmílson was happy with his performance and talked about his relationship with poker:
"I've been playing poker for some time now. I have many friends who play [poker] Having the opportunity to play here is very nice. I am also experiencing a real poker tournament for the first time. I had never visited the new Mineirão since the World Cup. Now I get the feeling that the investment in the stadium was just made to host events like this."
Football ace Denilson also spoke about the event and his thoughts about the stadium:
"I've had some memorable moments here in the Mineirão. I’ve been here as a TV commentator during the World Cup and, as a player,r I also had unforgettable moments. It's amazing to see it like this, after the renovations, hosting a poker event - a sport I'm more interested in everyday ."
Denilson talked about the joy he felt in helping the foundation formed by his friend and former colleague at São Paulo FC and Seleção:
"I know Edmílson since our days at São Paulo FC. We’ve played in a World Cup together; he is like my brother. And the Edmilson Foundation I know well, it does a great job! It’s great to see 888poker help the institution. Poker is growing a lot in Brazil, and it's very good to use this growth to help others."
Double Olympic Volleyball medallist, Rodrigão also spoke about his experience in the 888Live For Good event:
"It's great being able to help those who really need it. This social part of poker is very cool indeed. Other sports should do this more often. Because of this event, I'm sure Christmas will be much better for many people."
With the end of the celebrity event, attention turned to the Main Event. On the first day, it was already showing an indication of what was to come in The first of the three starting days of the tournament had an unprecedented 483 entries.
13 blind levels were played until time was called. 133 players would move on to Day 2, and the night ended with Lucas Lara as the chip leader with 540,000 in chips. He was followed by Carlos Pereira Jr. (303,000), Fabio Linhares (255,000), Cleber Novy (251,000) and Marcio Felipe Dornas (243,000).
The first day of 888Live Brazil also had its first side tournament, the Super Turbo, with a R$ 100 buy-in. The event had 130 runners and ended with Petronio Lucin winning the crown, taking down Renilson Batista, heads up.
In addition, the opening of 888Live Brazil had free poker seminars. Firstly, 888poker ambassador, Bruno Foster, talked about the growth of poker in Brazil. Later, Nicolau Villa-Lobos and Bruno Kawauti talked about the path to becoming a professional poker player. The advice was free and brought out the crowds in Mineirão stands.
Day 2 Begins
The second day of 888Live Brazil in Mineirão started with talks by members of Team Foster 888. Bruno Aguiar spoke about the relationship between poker and the business world. After that, the other players were joined by Bruno Foster himself, who spoke about poker teams.
Soon after, Day 1B of the Main Event started. The second day of the tournament had 404 registrations – a marker indicating that the guaranteed prize pool of R$ 500,000 would be easily met.
On Day 1B, exactly 124 players managed to ensure their place on Day 2, which would be played the upcoming Sunday, December 13th. Among those making it through were 888poker ambassador Bruno Foster, with 95,000 chips. Kaka del Castilho, member of Team Foster with 128,100 chips and Peter Patrício, a famous local player, bagged 122,400 chips.
The chip leader of the day was André de Oliveira, with 305,000 chips, followed by Felipe Lopes, with 283,400, and Emerson Baroni, with 283,300. However, they were all still way off Lucas Lara, Day 1A leader with 540,000 chips.
The second day of the event also had the second side event, the Turbo Deep Stack, with a R$150 buy-in. 283 were enrolled and in the decisive heads-up, two fans of Atlético-MG faced off – much to the chagrin of their Cruzeiro rivals.
"This is the hall of the “Galos” parties (meaning “rooster” in Portuguese, as Atlético is known in Brazil). We come here just to celebrate and seek the trophy," joked the runner-up Geraldinho, dressed in an Atlético Mineiro’s jersey. The champion Antonio Carlos Santos also joined in the jubilation, "This is the stage of the Galo celebrations and I, as an Atlético Mineiro fan, I was fortunate to be able to celebrate again on my stage."
The Big Push over the Top
The third day of 888Live Brazil Day 1C of the Main Event was the day that everything came to fruition. Because it was played on a Saturday, it got a much larger field than days 1A and 1B.
There were 517 entries, bringing the Main Event 888Live Brazil total to 1,404 entries. The number not only surpassed the guaranteed prize pool, but it turned the event into the largest poker tournament ever held in the state of Minas Gerais. It also placed 888Live Brazil among the biggest tournaments ever held in Brazil.
With the players set, the prize pool of the event was announced: R$ 550,370, of which R$ 108,700 would go to the champion. A total of 141 players would get paid.
Day 1C attracted many professionals and regulars. In the mix were Fabio "F1oba" Pereira, Caio Pimenta, Felipe "LiMa171" Lima, the ambassadors 888poker Nicolau Villa-Lobos and Bruno Kawauti, as well as members of Team Foster Bruno Aguiar, Stevam "JirayAA" Wu and Guilherme Chenaud.
Aguiar finished the day in the lead with 313,700 chips, and said he was very pleased with his performance on the day:
"It was sensational. It was the day I did the least wrong. My game today was my A-game. I was winning the hands that went to showdown; it all worked out."
Bruno Kawauti also qualified with 101,900 chips, but Nicolau Villa-Lobos didn’t make it.
"Being busted is not cool, but it happens, and my feelings about the event are the best possible. It's amazing to see poker starring on this stage like this. The feedback from players was excellent. Everyone loved the idea. 888Poker's creativity brought poker to a football stadium. The guys liked it, and now hopefully other events like this will happen", Nico said.
"It's sensational to play poker on the side of this football field. The crowds are enjoying it, praising it a lot. Not only the beauty of the place, but also the tournament structure and organization. I'm happy to be part of it and to see 888poker involved", added Bruno Kawauti.
On the heels of Bruno Aguiar, chip leader of the day with more than 313,000 chips, were Fernando Lopes (271,400) and Nagibe Santana (240,200).
The following day, Sunday, the surviving players would return to Mineirão to play Day 2 along with the qualifiers from Days 1A and 1B.
But there was more action to get through on Saturday - Event # 4, the third 888Live Brazil side event. It was a R$200 Pot-Limit Omaha treat. With 126 registered players, Emerson Baroni, a pro from Sao Paulo, took the top spot.
The Most Feared Day
The fourth day of 888Live Brazil contained the moment that players fear the most: the bubble. It would be on Day 2 of the Main Event that the last player to leave the tournament with no prize would be revealed.
Day 2 began with 406 players - 133 from Day 1, 124 from Day 1B and 149 from Day 1C. After a few hours of play, there were 142 players left with chips and the tournament went into hand-for-hand mode.
After a few hands, two tables were facing "all in / call" scenarios. At the first table, the player with fewer chips won the pot and lived to fight again.
Gustavo Malachias wasn’t so lucky: he shoved his K7 on the board T2427, but it was not enough to beat his opponent’s AA. As a result, he ended up as the bubble-boy, sadly a thankless position in the Main Event.
So as not to let him leave the event empty-handed, coming so close to a slice of the prize, he received an 888poker kit that included an exclusive phone, official shirt, cap and special event card protector.
"It's not cool to be the bubble, but the tournament was great. It was really nice to play here in Mineirão, even more to me, ‘cause I'm an Atletico Mineiro fan. The bubble is not nice, but it happens. At least, it'll make the memory a little better with the 888poker kit", he said.
With the bubble burst, the game sped up and, at the end of the day, only 59 players still had chips. They would return to fight for the title in the first ever 888Live Brazil and a R$ 108,700 payday
The chip leader was Cleuber Diego and his 1,691,000 stack; followed by André Martins, with 1.414 million chips, and Jorge Augusto Bié, with 1.404 million - Bruno Foster and Bruno Kawauti were both eliminated before the bubble burst.
Time Is Running Out
Monday was a busy day in the VIP Lounge of the Mineirão. Firstly, Nicolau Villa-Lobos gathered a big crowd for his second lecture - a review of hands played at 888poker.
Then the second day of the High Roller tournament, which started on Sunday, kicked off. With a R$ 1,000 buy-in, it brought 100 players together, including Nico, Bruno Kawauti, who registered after being eliminated from the Main Event, and Caio Pimenta, one of the most famous Brazilian pros.
The title, however, went to Allan Sacramento, who took home almost R$ 20,000 for the win after making a deal when the game was three-handed. Matheus Thomas, as runner-up, banked R$ 14,113, as did Fabiano Teixeira, in third place.
In the Main Event, the 59 survivors played down to the final table. Lucas Gomes busted after he shoved with KJ and ran into a QQ. With no Kings or runner-runner Jacks in sight, we were nine-handed.
Marcelo Dornas, chip leader with 7.96 million chips, was followed by Rubens Bomtempo (6.855 million) and Thiago Quites (6.155 million). The other final table players were Jorge Bié, Guilherme Antunes, Marcelo Curi, Silvio Garcia, Nagib da Silva and Marcelo Souza.
Following on from the Main Event final table was the Second Chance tournament. With a R$ 150 buy-in and 128 entries, Fabio Issa came out as the victor.
TO END WITH A FLOURISH
The last day of 888Live Brazil was exciting. The final table was making history with its broadcast on PokerShow TV with hole cards being shown. It was broadcast simultaneously on four Brazilian poker websites – an unprecedented occurrence in Brazil.
The event got off to a slow start, and the action crawled for a few hours. The first to say goodbye to the dream of the title was William Antunes. He called his opponent's all-in on the river with top pair, only to find out that he was up against a straight. In eighth, it was Marcelo Souza turn to say bye-bye. They each took home R$ 11,500 and R$ 14,000, respectively.
The third player forced to give up the dream of a title was Silvio Garcia, who won R$ 18,000 for his sixth place finish. He was followed by Marcio Dornas - who started the day as chip leader. Marcelo Curi and Nagib da Silva faced similar fates, finishing 4th and 5th.
When play was three-handed, Thiago Quites lost some big pots, lost the lead and was eventually eliminated by Jorge Augusto Bié, in third place. It set the stage for a heads-up battle with Jorge with a massive advantage in chips.
After a few hands, he and Rubens Bomtempo were all-in on the turn with the board showing 68A6, with two hearts. Rubens had Q6 for a set and Jorge, Kh7h for a flush draw. The ten of hearts on the river decided the winner.
888Live Brazil was truly epic, bringing together 1,404 enrollees in the Main Event and more than 2,500 in all seven events. There were also great lectures, 888poker contest prizes and an amazing and unique atmosphere in the Mineirão stadium.
With the undeniable success of this inaugural event, 888Live will certainly be back to Brazil. The tournament turnout only confirms Brazil's commitment to hosting major poker events.