The next stop on my 2012 journey was down to São Paulo, Brazil, for the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final. I've been to Brazil two other times, once to São Paulo and another time to Florianópolis. Both times were for LAPT events and let me tell you, I absolutely love Brazil.
Everyone in Brazil is amazingly friendly. I don't think I've ever met another group of people in the world more accommodating than Brazilians. It's an extreme treat to visit the beautiful country so many times, and I can't wait to go back again. This time around I had my hopes up, way up. Why? Well, the LAPT scheduled its event during Carnival. I've been preaching this for a couple of years now, and finally it's happening; a poker tournament during the greatest party of the year.
My self-proclaimed work wife Kristy Arnett and I were massively ecstatic about what was to come for this week and we were both well prepared about the lack of sleep that was going to ensue. When you're working these events along the circuit, 10 to 14-hour days are very common. A lot of tournament series have been getting better with keeping the days shorter, which is good, but there's always another several hours without sleep that come from all the partying and fun. Carnival is the biggest party of the year, every year and both Kristy and I weren't about to miss out.
The night we planned to hit Carnival was a bit of a roller coaster. Not only did Kristy and I make the following mistake, but plenty of our other colleagues and friends who traveled to the event did the same. Carnival to us is a big party, much like Mardi Gras is or New Year's Eve in Las Vegas. We had no idea you had to actually plan for this thing and purchase tickets ahead of time. No one told us about this, nor did we even think to research such a thing. We assumed we could just show up and join the party. Now, if we had known, we would've bought the tickets well ahead of time. By we weren't in the know and when people told us, it was damn near impossible to get tickets to the event on such short notice, our expectations were shot straight out of the sky and began plummeting back the Earth.
Knowing such amazing people along the circuit and having such great friends, plenty of the local Brazilian pros were on our side and doing what they could to get us tickets. Although those efforts came to no avail, we can't thank them enough for trying. From there, we moved onto our backup plan.
We headed down to Vila Madalena with some friends and colleagues to kick off the drinking and see where the night brought us. When we arrived at the spot, the four bars on each corner of the intersection were packed and lively. Our frowns turned upside down and the expectations of having a good night began to flourish within our minds once again. Little did we know we'd be having an awesome night.
We took our seats upstairs at one of the bars and began ordering. The drinks flowed and laughs began. Then, through the trees and down the street, a giant mass of people was spotted making its way toward where we were. We were a little unaware of what was about to happen and the next thing we knew, the entire intersection was jam packed with hundreds of people yelling, dancing and partying, while music blasted through speakers on a make-shift parade float. It was a mini version of Carnival and it was happening right in front of us. In order to give you a better feel of exactly what we experienced in its most amazingly epic sense, here's a video taken by my colleague Brad Willis.
The electric parade of people really amped up our vibe and from there, it was on. I felt this was the best time to order a round of shots for the table and out came the tequila, all ten shots of it. One amazing thing about this bar was that they gave everyone a card, similar to a temporary credit card. When you ordered drinks or food, they took your card, swiped it and whatever you ordered went on your specific tab. At the end of it all, you were to give them your card and they bring you your specific bill. This is a great idea for all bars to incorporate. But anyway, back to the night.
Just before the shots arrived our number one host Felipe Ramos showed up after his nap to take part in some of the festivities with us. It was about 2:00 a.m. at this point and Felipe was napping because he was planning on hitting Carnival for the rest of the night. After we wrapped things up at the bar around 3:30 or 4:00 a.m., Felipe offered to take Kristy and I with him to Carnival. Again, there was no guarantee that we would get in, but we had to try. Heck, even being right down by the action would suffice for me at this point. So with that, Kristy and I went with Felipe while the others went back to the hotel to grab some sleep.
Felipe had his driver pick us up and we headed over to the Sambódromo. The instant we stepped outside of the car you could feel the electricity flowing through your veins. The music was pumping and there were people everywhere in costumes of every color dancing and having a great time. Carnival is the essence of life, and both Kristy and I couldn't be happier than to get a glimpse of it all.
We wandered around for a bit, but none of Felipe's connections were able to come through and grab us tickets. Still, we went about making the best of it. First, we grabbed some beers from a street vendor and kept up with the alcohol consumption. At one point, we were sitting down and taking everything in when Kristy decided to climb up a tree and over the wall that surrounded the Sambódromo. This was clearly not allowed and within minutes she was escorted back over the wall to where Felipe and I were. Good try, though, Kristy.
Not only did Kristy try and hop a wall to get into the Carnival, but she tried on nearly every costume piece found while we were walking around the area. At one point, she tried to talk Felipe and I into letting her take a big head piece home, but we talked her out of it. I mean, how are you going to get a giant blue and orange head piece five feet in diameter into your suitcase or on the plane? It's just not going to happen, so she saved herself the trouble.
After another couple of drinks from street vendors, dancing around to the music and taking in all the spectacular Brazilian vibes, it was time to go home. It's not so much that we wanted to leave, but when the sun starts coming up and you have to work in a few hours, it's probably time to go. But first, we needed food.
We wandered over to the Holiday Inn neighboring the Sambódromo and purchased the breakfast buffet. By now it was 8:00 a.m. and most of the patrons enjoying the buffet were just waking up. Us, well, were we pretty drunk and probably causing a scene. At one point, I think Kristy was passed out in front of her plate of food while Felipe and I tossed little pieces of cheese at her trying to get them stuck in her hair. Some landed, some missed, but we thought it was the funniest thing at the time. We're sorry, Kristy. Boys will be boys, I guess.
By the time Felipe's driver arrived to pick us up and take us back to the hotel, it was 8:30 a.m. and I didn't get back into my bed until 9:00 a.m. I don't remember the ride home because I passed out alongside my friends in the back seat, but I do remember walking Kristy through the hotel lobby, into the elevator and up to her room with both my hands on her shoulders to keep her balanced and upright. I'm sure this was also to my benefit because I needed plenty of support of my own if I was going to walk straight, but together we did it. I dropped her off at her room, made it back to mine and headed to bed, if not more for a nap than anything else.
When the alarm went off at 11:00 a.m., just two hours later, I wanted to shoot someone. Some yelling of obscenities ensued and I stumbled my drunken self into the shower after ordering room service. It was one of the hardest showers I've ever tried to take, but I made it out just in time to tip the room service guy and still have time to eat before I went down to work.
Needless to say, when I arrived at work I was feeling quite horrible. Looking down media row, many of my colleagues surely felt the same way, but we all shot each other a smile, took some deep breaths and snapped into work mode once the cards hit the air for that day's proceedings. It was another long day filled with plenty of water and coffee, but when it's time to work, it's time to work. Man up during the two-hour spans of time while play is going on and then grab some recovery during the breaks. By now, we all know how our bodies handle these fun nights of partying and it's second nature to recover.
Although we didn't get to go to the actual Carnival, this experience was another amazing one to add to the amazing life I'm blessed with. Without the awesome hospitality of our Brazilian friends, none of our experiences there would've been possible. I extend immense gratitude to them for everything and absolutely cannot wait to go back again. Next time around, Kristy and I will 100 percent be grabbing Carnival tickets to be right in the thick of it all!