It means “beautiful game” in Portuguese and in Brazil, it’s synonymous with soccer. Jogo bonito is soccer with Brazilian flare, style and passion. When Brazilians get passionate about something, they can’t help but imprint a part of their style and culture on it.
Pele and a number of Brazilian soccer stars only need one name to be known in a sport of billions. Ayrton Senna redefined the Formula One scene with his brilliant but short career. Guga made Brazil a powerhouse in tennis.
“There’s so much suffering and poverty in Brazil,” Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari once told me. “That when a Brazilian is doing good in something, he has the whole country behind him cheering him on.
“Knowing that makes you push harder, work harder and even if we don’t have the technology or coaches that other countries have, we have that passion and drive to win.”
It’s safe to say that Brazilian passion has made its way to the felt.
Back in 2008, when the LAPT was still in the infancy of its first season, the Rio de Janeiro stop had a very standard North American poker vibe to it. There were sparks of passion when the Brazilians doubled up, but the largely international field of a few hundred players and international staff dominated the tournament.
A young Dutchman, Julien Nujiten, took the tournament down, but the seed had been planted in Brazilian soil. Poker started growing and now, eight years later, poker bonito is what’s being played today.
Brazil is no longer a yearly stop in a series, it has it’s own series with eight stops around the country. And there’s not just one tournament for the season finale, there’s a festival. Players have been pouring into the Sheraton in São Paulo for nearly a week now and by the time this is done, there will be around 30 new poker champions.
The first LAPT on Brazilian soil drew 314 players. More than 1,100 played at the last LAPT in São Paulo and this week has already drawn thousands of players.
The tournament is fully run by a Brazilian crew and it’s being held in a massive arena that looks more like a soccer stadium than your typical tournament room. There’s a BSOP gift shop outside the tournament area and if you need an ATM, just look for the large green circles bobbing around the tournament area. Instead of ATMs, the tournament floor has a few ATPs, Automated Teller People.
A handful of people with portable credit cards readers and a sign that says “Mobile ATM” strapped to them are patrolling the tournament area so players don’t have to get up from their seats to rebuy. The food around the tournament area also offers a delivery service based if you text them your order and table number on WhatsApp.
While the Moneymaker effect was a rapid explosion of poker, the Brazilian boom has been more of a steady crescendo. Each major tournament adds its own flavor to the Brazilian scene. Each time a major soccer star like Ronaldo or Neymar publicly joins the game, the decibel level of the poker beat reverberates all around Brazil and brings troves of new players.
Many of them are here today and by the end of this, one will be the BSOP season 11 champion. Then we’ll see how big season 12 will be.
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Alexander Villegas is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.