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Off The Felt with Brian Rast: Learning Portuguese, Scooter Accidents, and More

Brian Rast

Off the Felt is interviewing your favorite poker players to find out a little bit about their lives — you got it, off the felt. Two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Brian Rast recently sat down with PokerNews to tell us a little bit about his scooter prop bet gone bad, his influential advice to the world, and more.

What is your favorite tournament spot?

I would say Las Vegas. I have barely traveled for tournaments, so my biggest tournament experience is mostly here in Vegas, and sometimes Commerce. I’ve played once in Montreal, once in Macau, but during the Series in Vegas is the best. There are multiple tournaments a day for like a month, and I enjoy that.

Where is your favorite vacation destination?

Brazil is my favorite. I met my wife there, and I really just enjoy Rio de Janeiro; the food is good, the weather is amazing, and the people are just really nice. I also speak Portuguese now, so I can now converse with people when I visit.

How long did it take you to learn Portuguese?

You never really learn a new language because it’s always a work in progress, but I’d say a year to a year and a half is where I became reasonably fluent. I started learning about three years ago, and in the last year I’ve made very little progress because I haven’t really spent much time in Brazil, so I’ve mostly maintained.

Did you learn through Rosetta Stone?

I did buy Rosetta Stone, but used it for maybe an hour or two; I learned mostly from my wife. My wife and I would Skype, literally she would type in Portuguese and I would copy and paste into Google translate, and at first I had no idea what she was saying, but over time it got easier. At that point, I was traveling to Brazil six times a year, so I was always immersed in the culture and was needing Google translate less and less.

What are some of your hobbies away from the table?

I like music, reading, watching Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. I like racquetball and love playing basketball and would play more if I knew more people that played. I’m starting to get old, but I wish I played more. There’s nothing better than a group of guys that are decently competitive with reasonable skill levels; it’s a great workout and tons of fun.

Can you tell me the most ridiculous prop bet you have ever initiated or been involved in?

I’m pretty sure it’s the one where a group of friends basically gave me a freeroll to drive a scooter that didn't drive more than 30 mph from Vegas to L.A. In short, I basically got injured, but still won. So, I started on the highway leaving Vegas, and it was pretty scary because there were these big trucks that would pass me, and I just thought, “Wow, I could die at any second.” So I decided to drive through the desert and off the road, no matter how long it took me to finish. I was going over some gravel making a turn and didn't realize that I should have been driving more slowly so the scooter like slid under me, and I got pretty cut up and bruised. Funny thing is I kept going for like another 80 miles before I stopped at an Urgent Care where they advised me to stop, but I wanted to keep going. Most of the guys who were in on the bet said they would pay me anyway because they felt I had accomplished enough. I was going to finish, but since they were going to pay anyway, I quit. Nonetheless, it was a memorable experience to say the least.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I don’t feel like I have any... this sucks.

What is something you want people to know about you?

I enjoy life, and even though I am generally a quiet and reserved person at the poker table, I am a pretty thoughtful, caring and compassionate guy. I do enjoy having interesting conversations with people even though I don’t also start them myself.

If you could pick anyone to play you in a movie, who would it be?

Adam Sandler because he looks a lot like me, and he could do a good job of portraying me as that tall, goofy and sarcastic white-guy-type character. When I don’t have the beard, a lot of people say I look like him.

What’s your greatest poker achievement?

Winning the $50K event (2011 WSOP Poker Player's Championship) was amazing. There have been a couple of cash game sessions where I have won more than that prize, and while I’ll say the amount of money that you win is the awarding part, winning that event was so much more monumental to my career than any cash game score. It was a televised ESPN table and I ended up beating Phil Hellmuth heads up. The One Drop was pretty awesome, too, but I came in sixth. If I had ended up second or third it might have been more special, but either way it was for a good cause.

What would you be doing if you weren’t playing poker?

The answer that comes to the top of my head is if I didn’t find poker, then I probably would have finished a math degree at Stanford and would have ended up working on Wall Street. A lot of what traders do and how they think is similar to poker players, so I think it would be something I’d be good at.

What is next on your poker calendar?

There is a pretty good chance I’ll be going to China in January.

Do you have any skis or a snowboard?

Skiing, but not because it’s cooler — it’s the one I actually know how to do. I go skiing once a year, and I would love to learn to snowboard, but I don’t want to spend my trip on my ass from always falling. From what I can tell, being a good snowboarder is more fun than being a good skier, but it’s just something you have to put a lot of time into, and I’m always having to make these efficiency decisions in my life, so I don’t think I’ll be learning anytime soon.

Do you have any winter trips planned?

I’ll be in Brazil for the holidays, and it’ll be very interesting because my family will meet my wife’s family for the first time. There will be a lot of translating going on, it’s going to be like a romantic comedy film, I feel.

What’s on your Christmas list?

For our families to get along and have a good time. I don’t want anyone to go crazy. Honestly though, just to have a good holiday. My wife’s parents and my parents will also be flying to Argentina, and it will be the first time her parents have ever left Brazil, so hopefully our families get close. There are a lot of special things happening this holiday, so I’m excited.

Notre Dame or Alabama?

I have made an efficiency decision to stop following all sports and only follow professional basketball, but I will go with Notre Dame.

How often do you play Macau cash games?

I went four times this last year, and I try to go when I can. When I have a chance to make a trip, I work it around the events here in Vegas, but with a family and all, it is not too often.

Who is more competitive: You, Antonio Esfandiari or Phil Laak?

Probably Antonio. Antonio does try to create the most bets for sure; it’s not necessarily a sign of being most competitive, but he’s the person where if you are playing racquetball and he’s losing, then he’s the most audibly frustrated. We’re all pretty competitive and I was probably more competitive earlier in life than I am now, but now I am maybe more controlled in how competitive I become.

What is your favorite cocktail?

It is vodka mixed with soda water and lime juice. I think it is healthiest because it doesn’t have too much sugar and you are getting some water to stay hydrated and it just tastes good. I don’t drink as much anymore but it is my go-to drink. When it comes to beer, I like Blue Moon with a little orange in it.

What advice would you give to anyone about anything?

I’m going to give advice that I feel I have learned in my life because the idea is that in time, you learn through experience, so here it is. You’ve got to follow your heart. You have to do what makes you happy. If you find something you love doing, then you’ll find a way to make a living at it and you’ll probably end up making more money doing something you love than doing something you hate in the long run. You will be much happier as a person, which is the most important thing anyway. Try to be happy, be free, and follow your heart.

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