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Alex Gomes: "I Hope We'll See Neymar Playing an EPT Event Soon"
With $3.5 million in career live tournament earnings, Alex Gomes is by far and away Brazil's most successful poker player ever.
In fact Gomes still has three times the earnings of the man in second place - Bruno Politano - who made this year's WSOP Main Event November Nine.
Today the former PokerStars pro travels the world mostly for business but he still drops in on must-attend poker festivals like last week's blockbuster in Prague.
PokerListings caught up with the Brazilian poker ironman about the booming poker market in his home country, his quest for poker's Triple Crown and, of course, traumatized Brazilian football.
PokerListings: Alex, the most important representative of poker in Brazil seems to be "Il Fenomeno“ Ronaldo at the moment. Has he had any effect on the Brazilian poker scene?
Alex Gomes: Of course. Brazil is a football nation. And he was one of the main ambassadors of the World Cup.
He was - like every other sports star representing poker - very impressed by such tournaments like the EPT.
Their credibility is what makes them important for the general public. And that has a huge effect on the popularity of poker.
PL: More than the news that Neymar played poker during the World Cup semifinal when Brazil got hammered?
AG: (laughs). I hope we will see Neymar playing an EPT event soon.
Ronaldo is not playing football anymore but Neymar is in the lamplight of the Brazilian media every day.
Neymar at an EPT would by far top the influence of Ronaldo's appearance in poker commercials for the Brazilian mainstream.
PL: Between 2008 and 2011 you represented poker in Brazil. You're still leading the Brazilian all-time money list by a mile. Why are you not a PokerStars Pro anymore?
AG: It was a decision from both sides back then. Three years ago I became a father for the first time and I intended to take more care of my family.
I also started a construction company and my intentions weren’t really compatible with the goals of PokerStars with me as an active representative.
I had to travel to all the LAPT events and to most of the EPT events. That wasn’t possible anymore. I really enjoyed my time with PokerStars. But times are changing.
PL: Brazil is a huge and fast growing poker market. You think PokerStars has a good marketing strategy?
AG: They still have a good working strategy for Brazil. The very popular Brazilian Series of Poker (BSOP) for example is now running its ninth season and still breaks records.
The BSOP Millions is kind of a grand final held in Sao Paulo every year. It attracted over 2,700 entrants three weeks ago.
The winner got more than one million Real (€315.000/$380.000) from a buy-in that was less than €1,000 converted.
PL: You are from Curitiba, a city in the far South of Brazil. Is poker also popular in the much poorer North of the country or is it a wealthy man’s game?
AG: Poker is popular everywhere. The BSOP for example also stops in a Northern city like Natal.
Brazilians like to play poker. That applies to the whole country.
PL: And all the larger cities have casinos?
AG: No, there is not a single casino in Brazil. Casinos are illegal. But you can acquire a special license to hold live tournaments.
PL: Chris Moneymaker also played in the BSOP millions. He told us that players in Brazil have a totally different style than the players in Europe or the US.
AG: Yes, I was talking to him here in Prague and he still was upset about his bust-out. His aces got cracked by King-Queen and he finished 21st.
Still a big success with more than 2,700 runners. And he is right. I hear that very often, that the fields in Latin America in general are softer than in Europe or the US.
And that they play a different style. 8x or 9x raises pre-flop are not unusual. We have a lot of occasional players in the tournaments. And they like to have fun.
Chris Moneymaker has just experienced that first hand (laughs).
PL: How important is poker in your daily life? Have you become an occasional player?
AG: I play way less than I used to. But I play the Sunday majors, of course, and sometimes the Super Tuesday.
On a daily basis I play some Limit cash games and PLO. But that is pretty much it.
PL: You already have a WPT and a WSOP title. How much do you want an EPT title to earn yourself a Triple Crown?
AG: I would love to have a Triple Crown. I see that as one of the biggest achievements a poker player can get.
PL: And when are you going to wear the Brazilian jersey again? It doesn’t seem to be very popular at the moment?
AG: (laughs). You’re right. You don’t see many of them even in Brazil.
But for me, a Triple Crown could maybe heal this World Cup wound.