Brazil has become a booming market for online poker and the game in general over the last few years. That ranges from seeing major tournament winners to the rapid growth of the online game in the country.
Companies such as PokerStars are investing heavily in the market with events like the Brazilian Series of Poker and other events. Stars ambassador Rafael Moraes has seen that growth in the land of samba and sun first hand. He believes Brazil’s passion for sports and a deep sense of community go hand in hand with poker’s surge in popularity.
“It’s crazy,” he told PokerScout recently while playing in the PokerStars No Limit Hold’em Players Championship. “I think the Brazilian community is so strong. We have a culture for football (soccer) and we love competition. We all love to be together, we love to root for friends.”
And while many in the country may not have the funds to play at higher levels, seeing countrymen do well is a major part of players’ interest in the game.
“We are a country with a lot of difficulty, a country without so much money for basic things,” Moraes says. “And when we see some Brazilians doing nice things in the world, it’s amazing. They are representing us, so I think in the last five years that has come to poker. That kind of social game and competition does really well in Brazil.”
Moraes has his own Brazilian poker success story to add to that dynamic.
Father gives poker life the thumbs up
Like some other poker pros, Maroes gravitated to poker from another game – chess. But as a teenager, he realized some of those same skills could apply to a game that offered a better chance at a payday.
“I was an amateur chess player,” he says. “A lot of chess players in Brazil started to migrate to playing poker because there are better odds to make money. Poker is a mind game like chess. So I started playing at PokerStars when I was 18, and started to make some money playing tournaments while in university at that time.”
Those winnings continued to grow and Moraes soon faced a crossroads – whether to launch into poker full time or not. Making that jump isn’t always a popular choice among players’ family members, at least initially. However, Moraes experienced quite the opposite when he decided to see where the game could take him.
Como adaptar seu jogo do poker online para o ao vivo: dicas importantes!💡
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— Rafael Moraes (@RafaelMoraesGM) February 7, 2023
“I asked my father if I could try to play poker for a living,” he says. “And my father said, ‘but son, what’s poker?’”
Poker is more of a family game in Brazil, Moraes says. Many don’t realize there is serious money to be made for skilled players. He asked his father to read a book on poker, which he did in one day. After understanding how the game works, Moraes’s father gave his blessing.
“He’s an engineer, so he knows a lot about mathematics and odds,” Moraes says. “It’s amazing how he understood that game. He said it was good that I was making money.”
Moraes’s father said his son was still young and could see how things went. If the poker career didn’t pan out, he could return to his university studies.
Streaming, playing, and finding poker success
Now age 30, that choice has worked out well. He now has more than $1.9 million in live tournament winnings. The biggest of that came in 2016 when the player originally from Sao Paulo scored third in the €25,750 High Roller at the European Poker Tour Monte Carlo. That brought a payday of $655,779.
In 2022, Moraes won a Brazilian Series of Poker event for $60,762. When not playing live, he can also be found streaming on Twitch. He loves that aspect of his poker life because Maroes sees Twitch as a way to spread his love of the game in Brazil.
“The people in Brazil can see me playing, teaching, making final tables, and running deep,” he says. “Every week I run a freeroll on my home game on PokerStars. They can start to play without a bankroll. Because in Brazil a $10 buy-in is too much for a lot of people. With my freerolls, community, and teaching classes, people can start playing without putting up much money.”
Looking back, Moraes knows his father’s blessing helped launch him to success on the felt. He’s happy to be living his dream.
“Now I’m a high stakes poker player,” he says. “And I’m traveling abroad, playing the biggest PokerStars events on the road, and I live stream my play on Twitch.”
For Moraes, that’s the perfect poker life.
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