Andre Akkari is a threat in any tournament he plays. The longtime Team PokerStars Pro has upwards of $6 million in lifetime tournament earnings, both online and live.
Minutes before the cards went into the air for the 2019 PokerStars European Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event, I had the chance to sit down with Akkari. The Brazilian tournament crusher chatted with me about his transition into playing more live events, his poker education and backing endeavors in his home country, and his preparation for EPT Barcelona.
First of all, Andre, how’s it going for you here at EPT Barcelona so far?
Amazing, this place is incredible. In terms of poker I didn’t play too much; I’m going to play the Main Event today. But in terms of, like a trip, it’s incredible. Near the beach, incredible venue, so it’s great. I love it here.
That goes into one of my next questions; when you’re here for EPT Barcelona, what are some of your favorite activities, non-pokerwise?
I love to play football. In Brazil, we play a lot of football. I’m bad at it but I like to play. We have an agreement with some Brazilian guys here, that they give some classes, and we go every morning at like 10 a.m. We go to the beach, and we take some football classes. The beach is great, the atmosphere is amazing, and we do some classes there, me and my Brazilian friends. Then we can come here and play poker in the best way possible. And the restaurant is very nice as well. It’s a great place.
I read that you got into poker; you were in the software industry, had a project for a poker website that got you hooked on poker. Can you tell me a little bit more about what drew you to poker?
I was working in web development, and I was not engaged in poker in any way. I didn’t have any connection with poker. I always played soccer, I always liked soccer. Because in Brazil, everything is around soccer. Brazil is a one-sport country, everyone is rooting for soccer.
Then I got this proposal from another company to do the poker website. I had to install the software and see how it worked. And then I got excited about it. At the same time ESPN was showing some poker tournaments. And that was exactly the same week I saw poker on ESPN, I got the proposal to work on the poker website. And that was great for me, it was the first opportunity that I had to get some notions about poker. And then I got engaged with it.
I started reading my first book, and my English was even more terrible than it is now.
Your English is great! No issues with your English at all.
My English at that time was terrible. So I had to keep translating the things I read in the book; translating on the computer. That’s the first time I think in my life I worked hard because I had passion about it.
I was very involved in other activities; I always tried to do a lot of things. But it was the first time something connected with me in a great way. I knew that this was the game I wanted to be playing for the rest of my life. I didn’t know that it would happen like it’s happened. But I knew that something great was coming.
There’s obviously a lot that goes along with being a Team PokerStars Pro. What are some of your duties in that role?
It’s an incredible job for me to work with PokerStars. It’s been a 13-year relationship with PokerStars. But I’ve never been able to see it as a job. It’s always about fun, I’m promoting something that I love. Meeting all of these people that think the same way that I think. Being an ambassador for a game that changed my life as well, in terms of financially, and marketing, relationships and things like this.
Being a poker ambassador for me was always a huge pleasure. It’s brought me so many great things. The people at PokerStars always have the kind of energy that I’m looking for. Being an ambassador, I have to create great relationships to promote poker in the best way possible.
When I teach poker, I learn a lot about poker as well. It’s always a pleasure to do that, and when I’m doing that I’m promoting PokerStars as well.
You have a poker school in Brazil, tell me a little bit about that.
It’s two different teams, one is QG Akkari Team, it’s like a poker team. We teach them and we back them to play online and live. We started it 12 years ago. It’s not a hugely profitable operation, but it brings a lot of pleasure, because we can see people’s lives change. It’s incredible to see how it can affect people’s lives.
The other project is Inagame. Inagame is an online poker school. We’ve had 11, 12 thousand students in the last 11 years. The first eight years it was live, and now the last three years has been online. We don’t get any bad news from that. It’s always great, it’s always thankful. It’s always saying that we are helping them and sometimes changing their lives. So it’s incredible. I’m addicted to it. I’m addicted to teaching people and talking about poker.
Brazil is a country where you can see people are happy, and have great energy. But it’s a country where people suffer as well. Because the economy is terrible, and we have a lot of poor people. A lot of people that don’t have any kind of opportunity. And we can bring something happy, or something that, they can better.
You’ve a great success both as a live, and an online player, with millions in earnings in both. What are some of the differences in how you approach live poker, versus how you approach online poker?
I spent 12 years playing online, every day. Six days a week, 14 hours a day. 60 tournaments a day, two monitors, 20 tables at the same time. It was a hard way, but something that I had passion to do. But then, you start to get older. I’m 44. So it’s hard to keep up the same thing as you had before, like playing 20 tables. The mouse doesn’t go the same way as it did before.
So you start to get tired. Then I changed some plans, playing more live than online. I’m not avoiding all of the online tournaments; I’m going to play the WCOOP, I’m going to play the SCOOP.
Playing online, you have more focus on numbers, you have more focus on having information. It’s more about the pure game, so you have to play perfect. The short term action doesn’t matter, you have to think in the long term. It’s exciting because there’s a lot of money involved, there are a lot of final tables involved.
Playing live; I’m going to play the Main Event right now. If I bust, I’m out, and there is no other tournament to play today. It’s a different perspective, a different expectation.
But live poker brings something great that online poker doesn’t do. Like live tells, social things. It’s incredible, so for me now, I’m going to play both. When I want to play live, there are great tournaments like this one. That’s the reason that poker is the best game in the world. You can play some huge live events, and some huge online events.
Dia cheio de reuniões com toda a equipe da @furiagg CsGO em Barcelona. Foi talvez um dos dias mais produtivos da história da org. Estou feliz demais em poder ajudar. Amanhã é Main Event EPT!
— andre akkari (@aakkari) August 26, 2019
How did you prepare for this year’s EPT Barcelona Main Event?
I keep studying poker a lot, because people are crazy right now. The young players are studying poker a lot, and they’re so good. So you have to do something. So at least there’s not a lot of space between you and these guys. You have to keep track with some studying, and keep seeing what’s the new thing they are thinking of. I probably study every day right now.
For a main event like this, probably my biggest preparation is avoiding problems. Avoid any kind of negativity. If I have something that I have to fix, or meetings I have to do, I’ll try to do them two weeks before. Because once I get here, the only thing that can take my mind off the table are problems. Sometimes it happens even if you prepare yourself before. But if you can avoid that, and you’re studying, and you have the poker skills, you’re going to do good.