I have some really exciting news to share. I've been signed as a client by 9ine, one of the top sports and entertainment agencies in Brazil. The owner and president of the company is a man many of you might be familiar with, especially if you follow soccer--Ronaldo Nazario, one of the most famous Brazilian footballers of all time. 9ine handles the careers of many of the biggest sports stars in Brazil, including UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and Neymar, currently the most famous soccer player in the country. And now, they'll be taking care of my career as well. I'm the first poker player 9ine has represented and I'm thrilled to be working with Ronaldo and his team.
About three days after I signed with 9ine, they held a press conference to announce me as their newest client. Ronaldo himself got up on stage and introduced me to the media and later tweeted about it to his four million followers. It was huge news in Brazil, all of the major TV networks reporting not only that Ronaldo had signed a poker player to his agency, but how much the game was gaining popularity.
From that day on, things started to grow for poker in a way they never had before in Brazil. Because Ronaldo has such a wide reach in terms of audience, people who had never considered poker before are paying attention to it now. Brazil is a country of 200 million and prior to Ronaldo getting involved poker reached a community of about 3 million people. Now that Ronaldo has jumped in, that number could potentially grow to 15-20 million over the next couple of years.
Ronaldo's presence in poker has already seen some immediate results. The last Brazilian Series of Poker (BSOP) event before I signed with 9ine got around 400 players. However, the most recent BSOP event in December drew over 1,500 players! It was such a massive jump and I have no doubt it had a lot to do with the Ronaldo news. Another BSOP event is coming up in January and they're expecting more than 1,000 players. It's just incredible how fast poker has grown in such a short time.
When I first signed the contract I was playing a lot of poker, but I also spent a lot of time running a variety of different businesses in the poker industry. My new representatives sat me down and explained that all I needed to do from now on was play poker. I'd have to step back from my companies and find someone else to run them day-to-day. My only tasks are to play well and continue getting good results. Well, and one other thing--they also told me I had to get in shape and hired me a personal trainer! I've been working out every day and my trainer even came with me to the PCA.
In 2013 I'm planning to focus 100% on my career. I want to get better results, play more online, win more titles and really show people how poker can be a profession. When 9ine signed me, they knew I had won a WSOP bracelet and that I'd earned more than $3 million online, but they didn't truly understand how poker worked. Now they understand what results mean and they'll certainly be watching mine!
Andre Akkari is a member of Team PokerStars Pro