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Ramos & Akkari: "10 Years Ago Nobody Even Knew the Rules"
Some say the future of poker lies in Asia but the current truth says Brazil has become the new hotspot.
With a deep run in the WSOP by Bruno Politano and a bracelet win by Thiago Nishijima fueling the fire, the population of over 200 million people is getting poker fever and has plenty of potential to shake up the poker world.
PokerStars pro André Akkari and newly appointed “friend of PokerStars” Felipe “Mojave” Ramos have witnessed the boom in Brazil from the start.
Or, more accurately, they pretty much started it themselves.
The Brazilian Series of Poker, they say, started as a home game that Akkari and Ramos hosted. As poker was virtually unknown they were looking for players on a local social network that existed long before Facebook.
At the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure today Akkari and Ramos sat down in front of the media to put the beginning and boom of poker in Brazil into context.
"Now they (the BSOP) have over 20,000 players," Akkari says, "and it’s become the second biggest event in the world.
"People used to come to Brazil for holidays but now it has become a poker destination just like Las Vegas or Monaco.
"I’m proud of what we’ve done in Brazil. Ten years ago, nobody even knew the rules.
Adds Ramos: “André and I are both huge football fans, but today, I know more poker players than football players.”
Not a Single Legalized Casino
While the present and future of poker in Brazil are promising there are still some teething problems.
There's not a single legalized casino anywhere in the vast country. However, there are about 35 of them with inconclusive legal status.
A bill to legalize poker is going through parliament at the moment but the outcome is completely open.
Although poker has a 200-year history in North America and Europe it's still a new discipline in Brazil. Surprisingly, that actually helps its development.
“As poker is still new," Akkari says, "it doesn’t have that image of being a backroom card game connected to drinking, cigars and criminals.
“The legal age to start is 18 but poker has even become a subject in college.”
“Even 10 year olds can take classes in poker," says Ramos. "Of course there is no money involved, but it's also popular with women and seniors.
"Women see their men play and start to do it, too, and seniors have found something they can get action at without being physically fit."
Poker Books in Portuguese the Breakthrough
Akkari and Ramos see different but complementary reasons that triggered the boom in Brazil.
“When I started out playing," Ramos says, "I went to Amazon.com and ordered all the poker books I could find. But of course, everything was in English.
“I learned to play because I had the chance to learn English. Not everyone in Brazil has that chance.
“The breakthrough for poker was that poker literature was translated into Portuguese and thus was made available to everybody.”
“The only big thing was football," counters Akkari. "Poker offered a chance.
"It was something everybody could play and everybody could be good at. So, it just exploded.”
Both Akkari and Ramos look forward to seeing more Brazilians play poker on TV just to show what Brazilian personalities are made of.
“It doesn’t matter if a Brazilian player suffers from a bad beat or delivers one," Akkari says.
"There will be just the same level of shouting and screaming, both at the table and at the rails.”
“One thing is sure. A final table here at the PCA with a Brazilian player is going to look, feel, and sound very different from a final table without a Brazilian.”