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Humberto Brenes: "The Biggest Secret is That Poker is My Hobby"
For a poker "hobbyist," Humberto Brenes has piled up some pretty impressive results over his decade-long career.
The Costa Rican poker "Chark" became a household name during the poker boom years with his entertaining appearances on the WSOP broadcast and he's barely slowed down since.
In 2014, in fact, he cashed 10 times at the World Series of Poker and looked as primed to capture his third career gold bracelet as ever.
Since moving on from Team PokerStars pro last year Brenes has slipped into a much more casual role as a hobby player but make no mistake: he's still as sharp as ever when the game's afoot.
He's also not lost much of his worldwide popularity as he was a clear winner in the online voting for the Living Legend Award this year, defeating such esteemed nominees as Erik Seidel, Barry Greenstein and James Woods.
He's here on the island to accept his award and play the Battle of Malta Main Event and PokerListings Spain's Esther Amores had a quick chat with him before things got underway:
PokerListings: The final vote tally for the PokerListings Living Legend Award gave you a landslide win that shows just how strongly the poker community admires you. How do you feel to be the winner of this award?
Humberto Brenes: I feel very happy and flattered to receive this recognition that has been decided with the participation of the people. I would like to thank everybody who thought of me to receive this award.
PL: You already have one of the most important poker titles with two WSOP bracelets but we know you're looking for the third. What are your poker goals now?
HB: My goal is to keep playing more years as I have the opportunity of being a poker player as a hobby, a kind of hobby where age does not matter so much and I can keep enjoying it.
PL: You're playing the Main Event of the Battle of Malta 2015. Although this is your first time at this tournament we'd like to know what attracted you to play and what do you expect to find?
HB: One of the things that attracts me is the fact that I am going to discover such as nice place as Malta and also lot of new faces in the poker community.
PL: As you know the Battle of Malta is a low buy-in tournament that appeals to recreational players with an atmosphere of more fun than other tournaments. In Europe we know there are not too many tournaments like this but we're not sure about Latin America. Are there any similar tournaments or shall we start thinking of exporting our Battle?
HB: I have played in several similar tournaments with low buy-ins but they try to spread the gamer of poker and also to promote tourism among the players. This kind of tournaments are more enjoyable because the main focus is not the money; it's just the game.
PL: You're one of the players that prefers to play tournaments over cash games. Why? And how do you think the game has changed?
HB: Yes, the tournament tables are more competitive. At the tournaments everybody starts with the same stack so players make the difference among the others with their skills and not with their economic power.
PL: At the tables you're very well known for being The Shark but also because of your personality and your singing. We've heard you singing at the tables while you're listening to your iPod and sometimes not everybody likes that. Do you have a memorable story that happened at the table with your music?
HB: Yes. At one of the WSOP tournaments after playing for nine hours with a young player next to me, he went All-In with a pair of Aces and lost the hand.
When he stands up from the table, he says 'goodbye' and with very bad Spanish says 'well Humberto, see you later. The only good thing about leaving is that I won't have to listen to you singing.'
Then he shakes hands with me smiling and leaves the room.
PL: Remembering again that you have won the Living Legend Award can you tell us the recipe for your success?
HB: The biggest secret is that poker is my hobby, so I have never played any tournament or cash table where I didn't feel comfortable with the people or with the buy-in.
PL: Finally, what are the 3 tips you can give to new players?
HB: If you want to be a winner I recommend:
Never play a buy-in where you don't feel comfortable
Never play when you don't feel good or your mind is not clear
Spend some time at the beginning to know the players at your table. What you know about your opponents will make the difference.