When Vivian Saliba was 17 years old her dad first took her to a card club in Sao Paulo.
Seven years later, she's snagged her first WSOP Main Event cash.
At 24 years old Saliba was the youngest female to enter this year's Main Event. She finished 421st out of 7,221 players at poker's world championship event in Las Vegas, earning $27,743.
She's been playing poker professionally for the last two years but this was her first time competing in the WSOP Main Event.
"Playing the Main Event is a dream," Saliba told PokerListings.com.
She's come a long way from the 17-year-old who first tried poker with her dad in a card club in Brazil. Saliba said her dad used to play every weekend and one day, when she was upset over breaking up with a boyfriend, he took her along.
“I fell in love with the social aspects of poker and I actually cashed in my first tournament,” she said. “I didn't know what I was doing at all but I made so many friends and started going every weekend with my dad.”
From Social Poker to Going Pro
Five years later, after playing a lot of poker and working in the industry, Saliba turned pro and began focusing on PLO cash games. She says because she's so used to Pot-Limit Omaha, adapting to No-Limit Hold'em in the Main Event was a challenge.
"I made so many mistakes on Day 1 but I was able to make up for it on the other days,” said Saliba.
“I was really pissed after I bagged Day 1. Even though I was happy to make it through the day, I was so frustrated with my performance.
"I've been playing so much PLO and it's really different compared to No-Limit.
“Basically I wasn't expecting such a weak field. I thought the players would be better. So the things I was doing really didn't work well on these kinds of players. I was just burning chips.”
Saliba came back from Day 1 and turned things around, making it all the way to Day 4 before being eliminated. She says the deep Main Event structure had a lot to do with it.
"I'm pretty proud of how I played starting Day 2,” she said. “I didn't make the same mistakes I made on Day 1.
"I've been playing pretty solid and most of the decisions I've made have been right. I'm just happy I've been playing well and running well.
“The structure's so good that even when you make mistakes and lose chips, you have the chance to come back.”
Poker in Brazil Exploding
Saliba says poker's popularity in Brazil is going through the roof, despite some challenges with playing live.
“In Brazil we don't have casinos but we do have poker clubs,” she said.
“But it's a big problem because the clubs charge rake as if poker was a casino game. It's five per cent no cap for PLO, Hold'em. The rake is basically unbeatable.
“I was able to win a little bit but I felt like I was being robbed by the rake so I decided not to play those games anymore.
Saliba says playing cash games here in Las Vegas is far more profitable, simply because of the much lower rake.
Despite live cash games being tough in Brazil, poker is growing in a big way online and in live tournaments.
“Online poker is even bigger than the live games in Brazil,” said Saliba. “And we also have some really good tournaments like the BSOP. The structure is good and the fields are big so that's kind of the live scene in Brazil.”