Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Travel Report: 2015 PCA, Day 7 -- Ronaldo's Run

There was a lot happening at the PCA yesterday, but in truth the day was mostly about Ronaldo Nazário -- a.k.a. “the phenomenon” or, simply, Ronaldo.

A legend of Brazilian soccer and regarded by most as one of the greatest strikers ever to play the game, Ronaldo’s celebrity well transcends that generated by poker or the PCA. He’s been working with PokerStars recently, having become one of their “Sport Stars,” and thus has turned up at some special events such as a match against tennis star Rafa Nadal (also a PS Sport Star) late last year.

He’s played some tournaments, too, but I think primarily in Brazil. He entered the LAPT Bahamas Main Event but ended up actually abandoning his stack once he became short on the first day. I don’t think he did so voluntarily, though I’m not sure what came up. In any case, that appearance was a little anticlimactic.

Meanwhile his run in the Main Event lasted almost all of the way down to the end of yesterday’s Day 4 at which point he finally busted in 26th place, notching his first career tournament cash. The longer he lasted, the higher the electricity in the place seemed to increase, and while there are a ton of top-level players left in the tournament to make for an exciting finish over today and tomorrow, his presence obviously added an extra layer of interest all around.

I haven’t really gotten a chance to meet or talk to Ronaldo, although my buddy Sergio who covers Brazilian poker for the PS blog (pictured above with the football star after his bust) has gotten to know him and like everyone who has reports he’s a very amiable guy. He also obviously loves the competition and has learned a thing or two working with Andre Akkari and others.

We obviously wrote a few items about Ronaldo over the past few days on the PokerStars blog. A few days back Howard Swains wrote a profile of him titled “The second life of Ronaldo: ‘I am completely in love with poker.’” Near the end of Day 3 I had to note how even then we were all still amazed to see him still hanging on well after the money bubble had burst in a post titled “Ronaldo... fenomeno.”

Then early yesterday another Brazilian player nicknamed Baggio -- in fact, who got that name from the Italian player who memorably battled against Brazil in the World Cup -- emerged as one of the final 50 players, and so I wrote something about him before he busted on the feature table with Ronaldo sitting across from him. That post is called “As Ronaldo advances, another Baggio appears.”

Howard wrote another piece on him, “Can Ronaldo really make it to another final? Maybe, just maybe,” which provides a lot of insight including comments from Akkari regarding Ronaldo’s cultural status and his run in the tourney. Stephen Bartley’s end-of-day recap yesterday also includes more about Ronaldo including details of his late bustout at the hand of fellow countryman (and very rich owner of a major car rental company) Eugenio Mattar.

Read those posts and relive Ronaldo’s run, then stick around all day as we report on the Main Event playing down from 24 players to eight (or so the plan will go), as well as on the High Roller on the PokerStars blog. You can look in on the live reporting at PokerNews as well for counts, hand updates, and more from both events.

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