There are not many poker players with more country pride than Andre Akkari. He represents Brazil in poker in a way that not only shows his passion and love but is representative of his entire country’s enthusiasm for poker.
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Akkari treats poker like many in his country (and the world) treat football (soccer). His fans bring the same excitement, complete with chanting and a festive atmosphere, and Akkari himself is known to carry the Brazilian flag for victory photos. He consistently promotes the game in any way possible, whether at home or abroad. He epitomizes what is “good for poker.”
So when the Global Poker League was ready to pick managers for its 12 franchise teams, Akkari was a natural choice. He is the third best player in all of Brazil and a skilled online poker competitor as well.
Akkari represents the Sao Paolo Metropolitans, or the Sao Paolo Mets for short, and he showed up to the inaugural GPL Draft Day to choose his first four players. His eagerness to be a part of the action was apparent, and he chose four players to represent the team: Darren Elias, Byron Kaverman, Thiago Nishijima, and Joao Pires Simao.
PokerUpdate: What was your plan going into GPL Draft Day?
Akkari: My plan was to make a mix of the biggest poker names in Brazil with some great international poker players. We had a draft list for matching this strategy, and we got it done perfectly. Getting Darren and Byron accomplished that 100%, as they are great poker players with huge results, Player of the Year in Byron’s case. From the Brazilian side, we got Thiago (Decano), who is a bracelet winner, and Joao Simao, a beast of online poker.
PokerUpdate: Did your selection process go smoothly or did you hit a stumbling block along the way?
Akkari: We had a list of priorities, including Phil Galfond, Olivier Busquet, and Jason Mercier, but we knew it would be hard to get them. But Byron and Darren were at the top of the list as well, so I believe it went smoothly.
PokerUpdate: What are your team’s greatest strengths?
Akkari: We have a mix of skills. We have huge poker skill capacity, as all four of the guys are very good players with so many results. We have the leader of the 2015 GPI, who brings a solid background. And we definitely have the power of the biggest supporters, the Brazilian people.
PokerUpdate: Have you already chosen your wild cards? Or are you still considering options? (Any hints about your choices are welcome. Ha.)
Akkari: It has been difficult, with very hard discussions about the wild cards happening in Brazil. We have three options: get a wild card focused on poker skills only, which brings us more technical power; get a celebrity that can bring us marketing power to promote the SP Mets and GPL; or get some mix of it with famous Brazilian poker players. It will be a tough spot. Nicolau Villa Lobos, Joao Bauer, Felipe Mojave, Christian Kruel, and Igor Federal are all names to fill the last option. Patrick Leonard, Thiago Krema, William Arruda, and Rafael Morales could be our choice just on poker skills. Bruno Soares (tennis player), Ronaldo (football), Rodrigao (volleyball), and Maurren Maggi (gold medal athlete) could be our celebrity poker friends. It is a good problem to have, and we will figure out how to get there.
O WCard do @saopaulomets pode ser técnico, celebridade ou recompensa historica. Por qual linha vc iria?— andre akkari (@aakkari) March 15, 2016
PokerUpdate: How do you feel about being a team manager?
Akkari: It has been an honor. I feel rewarded for everything that I have been doing in the last ten years of my career in Brazil. I am very excited to be on the field and in the action.
PokerUpdate: What are your goals as the team’s manager?
Akkari: I want to create the best environment possible for our players, try to build a real team. Putting people close to each other is a huge challenge since we have different nationalities and different skills. Besides that, I want to promote SP Mets in the best way possible as I am already doing. Our fan page has the greatest number of likes and our Twitter has more followers, so my mission will be to show the that Brazilian power to the world.
PokerUpdate: Do you feel prepared for the GPL to begin? What are you looking forward to the most?
Akkari: No, I am not ready yet. I am still thinking about the wild cards and how we can select the best people for the job. A few days after that, we will start to put the team together.
PokerUpdate: What are your hopes for the GPL?
Akkari: The first days of GPL show that it can be an amazing project. It can be an awesome opportunity to show poker in a special way, getting more players and more excitement to the game. We’ve got traction and everybody is talking about it, so I truly believe it can be the NBA of poker.