Back in the 1960s, rock music pioneer Don “Captain Beefheart” Van Vliet was selling vacuum cleaners door to door in California. One day he was out on his rounds when he stumbled across the home of famous author Aldous Huxley, who opened his door. Van Vliet took one look at Huxley, one look at his vacuum cleaner, and said:
“Well I assure you sir, this thing sucks.”
Now, nobody can be 100 per cent sure that story is true, but Beefheart fans will tell you the tale has become the stuff of legend.
Brazil’s Pedro “PaDiLhA SP” Padilha knows a thing or two about apocryphal tales.
When PokerStars Blog’s Howard Swains caught up with PokerStars Ambassador Andre Akkari at the 2019 World Series of Poker, Akkari shared the now legendary tale of Padilha.
“Six, seven years ago this guy [Padilha] shows up at my door trying to sell Nextel cellphones,” Akkari told Swains. “He was in terrible shape financially, but we invited him in, at our team HQ. He said, ‘Man, what are you guys doing?’ We said: ‘We’re playing online poker.’ ‘Oh man, please teach me. I need it.’”
We’ll let Padilha set the record straight in a moment, but first, let’s cover the poker.
Fast forward to 2019 and Padilha is undoubtedly one of the best Brazilian poker players out there, with $5.5 million in online winnings plus almost a million bucks cashed on the live felt too, almost a third of which came from Padilha’s deep run at the inaugural PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) back in January (10th for $328K).
With two SCOOP titles and a long list of big online scores under his belt, Padilha added a World Championship of Online Poker title to his CV earlier this week when he took down the massive #17-H: $1,050 PKO for $192K.
“This title crowns a moment of maturity in my career,” Padilha told PokerStars Blog on a rare break from his WCOOP grind. “This is certainly the most important result of my career and I am blessed for each year I can live and win a title more important than another. I am very happy with everything.”
The tournament started well for Padilha, as he doubled up in only the second level of play. However, a three-outer would later cost him a chip-leader pot, and he found himself short-stacked. “ From then on everything went very well and I was among the leaders until the final table bubble where I lost a big pot and ended up short at the final table, but right from the start I doubled up and then everything went well,” Padilha says.
Now, back to the phone salesman story.
“This story is very funny but it was not quite how it happened,” Padilha says, laughing. “It became a legend and now no one is sure about what happened.
“At that time in 2011 I worked selling phones but I was dreaming of being a poker pro, studying in my spare time and playing very low buy-ins on Sundays. I signed up to join the Akkari Team and was called for an interview. The problem was that it was in the middle of my work day, so I arrived dressed in a suit, very different from the other ten guys who were also interviewing. Everyone asked what I did for a living and I ended up trying to sell some phones right there. Why not?
“When I was called in to do the interview they were all joking about it, telling Akkari that I knocked on the door to sell a phone and wanted to join the team and it became a legend. It was a very important moment in my life. Akkari was my idol and I got to know him and soon after being part of the team totally changed my life.”
From there Padilha started off playing $11 buy-ins, sharing an office with his idol and other friends at the Akkari poker house.
“It was a great joy and I dived into this opportunity,” Padilha says. “I had a very fast rise. Within three months I was playing higher stakes and not long after that I won my first SCOOP [Padilha won a $27 event for $70K back in 2012]. Six months in I was playing $500 tournaments.”
Padilha believes it was the ability to soak up knowledge from those around him which helped him progress so quickly. After all, he was “studying, playing and living poker all the time.” Now it’s Padilha himself who creates the training content for new recruits to the poker house.
With 12 titles and counting so far this WCOOP, Brazil might just be the premier location for online poker talent. Padilha is right in the heart of it, and started preparing for a series like WCOOP weeks in advance.
“I believe that preparation happens all the time, every day,” he tells us. “I usually intensify in the COOP periods. A month earlier I start a more thorough and intense study routine, putting on a strong grind rhythm for three weeks then relaxing for a week without playing and studying. I also start a diet a month earlier and try to have a better routine than most of the time. This all works very well for me.”
One of the best live poker experiences this writer has experienced was reporting on the BSOP Millions in Sao Paolo. If you’ve never seen a Brazilian rail on a final table in person, imagine you’re at a football match and there’s a goal in the 93rd minute. That’s kind of what it’s like when a home-town hero wins a big pot.
“Everything is very intense in Brazil, be it in poker, music, football, anything,” Padilha says. “It is a characteristic of our people. The BSOP is a giant event. Many people around the world do not realize the magnitude and organization of the event. And our dealers are for sure the best in the world as well as the players.”
Padilha had a big rail himself when he ran deep in the $25K PSPC in the Bahamas. Having won a Platinum Pass, he’d ultimately bust out in 10th for $328K, just missing out on the final table.
“The PSPC was an amazing event and I lived it intensely,” he reminisces. “It could have been better for me but it was a great experience. I’m very happy with the PSPC announcement in Barcelona as it’s a city I’m crazy to go to but I never travel to EPTs because of my WCOOP preparation. I hope to win another Platinum Pass, but I’ll be playing anyway.”
From selling phones to winning World Championships, Padilha seems to have it all figured out.
“To have a successful poker career, you have to be fascinated by solving problems and finding solutions,” he says. “Poker is just one hand at a time, evolving day after day, looking for its best version. I love it.”