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Maria Mayrinck Talks Life Before And After Poker

by Rebecca McAdam |  Published: Nov 01, 2012


Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Maria “Maridu” Mayrinck is a chameleon; an intense, focused, extremely driven, fun and fiery chameleon, who will try her hand at anything, and most likely be successful. When it comes to the Brazilian, the more layers you peel back the more you will find, as she is what appears to be a bottomless treasure chest brimming with fascinating stories and truths.

“I like discipline, I like schedules, I do not like change or chaos, I hate loud music, I don’t like many people, I have my same best friends since I was born. I hate trends, I am traditional.” Mayrinck is a good talker; she’s animated, lively, open, and her energy is thoroughly infectious. She’s the kind of person you walk away from saying, “Ah, so that’s how life should be lived” while making a note to follow up all those goals you put on the long finger. One conversation with her and, aside from feeling exhausted for her, it gets you thinking how once the fear of failure is removed, experiences are just waiting to be had. There is no better demonstration of this than merely listing all that the Rio-born, former PokerStars pro has achieved and experienced so far in her lifetime: She was a junior tennis pro, has three degrees, played backgammon and chess competitively, won awards for television and film writing and directing, and became the highest-earning female Brazilian poker player of all-time. She runs and rows every morning, writes, plays poker, coaches her rather large stable of horses (players), goes skiing, and passionately plays her part in helping the environment while continuing to act as a pioneer for poker in Brazil. “I was always kind of an inspired person. I was always an overachiever, I say that with no diva-ness to it, I was. That’s a fact. I’ve had it pretty easy, you know? Things come naturally to me. And I am half-German, which gives me tons of discipline along with my Brazilian hot blood,” she says quickly and excitedly.

Rolling With The Punches

For most of her childhood, Mayrinck was raised in Rio and studied at the American school of Rio de Janeiro. When she was 12, her family moved to New York City where she attended the Dalton school and became a junior tennis professional. At the age of 16 Mayrinck’s father passed away, the family moved back to Brazil and “life kind of changed”, she explains.

Despite coming from a traditional background, some facts about her past stand out like a sore thumb. Maria’s father was a high-stakes player who was established in important circles. “I grew up on games, it was a normal thing. I vacationed all my life in casinos, had dinner with Frank Sinatra, and used to fly in Trump’s private jet in New York,” she laughs.

Being sandwiched between two brothers and seeing life from various perspectives has made Mayrinck into one competitive and ambitious cookie. She took on tennis, backgammon, chess, and then turned her sights on poker in 2003. “A really good friend of mine from backgammon said ‘you’ve got to check out this online poker thing.’ I was in bed recovering from knee surgery. It was love at first site! At this time I was working for the biggest TV network in Brazil, it’s called Rede Globo. I was doing very well, winning writing/directing awards et cetera but fell in love with poker. So you know those people who have Cinderella stories? I deposited $5 and made a billion? I am the exact opposite! I deposited literally thousands of dollars and lost every time. Obviously I had no clue about stakes, money management et cetera. Then after six months of losing a lot (and still working at the network) I thought of something that hadn’t even occurred to me before, ‘If I’m losing, that means someone is winning!’ That’s how much of a fish I was. Winning had not crossed my mind! I just wanted to play. People probably would search for me.

“So I immediately stopped playing, went on Amazon, bought all the books, DVDs etc. that I could, and then I went after the only two professional poker players in Brazil at the time. I called them up (having never met them), introduced myself and said ‘Hey I think this poker thing is going to become big, think I can start shooting a documentary with you guys?’ They said yes, I started shooting them, and have over 60 hours of footage, but as I was shooting them I was also learning more and more and studying. Then, all of a sudden, my biggest ‘win’ was when I started to break even, because I thought ‘Oh wow, maybe I can do this!’”

Convincing The Family

Juggling work and poker proved too much for someone who likes to focus all their energy on one task at a time. So Mayrinck decided to see if she could be profitable in a year of playing sit ‘n’ gos and learning the basics. It wasn’t long before she was winning. “I decided to shelf the TV network and writing/directing for a bit and give poker a go,” she says. It all snowballed from there then with the young Brazilian dashing off to Vegas for the 2006 World Series of Poker. “I won and went deep in everything you can think of. Then PokerStars came to Brazil and I was the first person they contacted because I had a poker blog that was the most read blog in Brazil and was shooting the documentary and now had results as well. PokerStars hired me but I had to start off as media because my family freaked out. They said, ‘No way is our only girl becoming a poker player!’ It was insane!

“So finally I made a PowerPoint presentation to my family (my brothers are investment bankers), and showed them my graphs, my stats, etc. and said ‘It’s basically what you do, it’s educated decisions based on incomplete information, except mine is for way less money then yours!’ So finally they got on board and allowed me to become a team pro.”

Lost And Found

It was a good journey that saw “Maridu” take in the sights and sounds of the poker world all over the globe while wearing the well-respected patch, but it was one which obviously caused her a lot of frustration for many reasons. She repeats again and again how good PokerStars were to her but says becoming a member of the team was a “very, very bad thing”. “It was the worst thing that could’ve happened to me because when I finally became team pro which was in 2007 or 2008, I was actually on the verge of becoming a very good player. I was going through a series of break-throughs in my game, I was very focused, very dedicated, very passionate about the game. I knew my limitations, I’ve never played with an ego, none of that crap, but when Stars signed me as team pro in my mind it kind of validated something, I don’t know exactly what, and my game became lazy. I became distracted. It was too many interviews, too many tourneys, too many politics, too many everything. My poker got lost in there, as did I, but it takes a while to see that. It was not their fault, this was me getting wrapped up in… I don’t even know what.”

All this struck Mayrinck in 2010 when she was playing the World Championship of Online Poker and her boyfriend, David “Bakes” Baker told her she wasn’t playing well. “It hurt me, I took it personally,” she says. “But he was right, I couldn’t see it but he could. Of course I had stopped studying, I’ve always been very disciplined and when I got signed, the discipline got lost. I was so busy, so much travelling, TV shows, etc. etc.. I just didn’t have time to focus on my game. Again not Stars fault they are just trying to get their money’s worth from their pros but for me it was overwhelming.”

Mayrinck then decided enough was enough and left the team. She continues, “I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I wasn’t getting results so I didn’t even feel worthy of being a team pro, despite knowing I’m a woman from Brazil who is friendly, media savvy, speaks five languages blah blah blah! I was like ‘WTF am I doing here?’ To be honest the amount of travel and live tournies absolutely put me off live tournies for a long time; the PCA would come around and I’d be miserable knowing it was coming.” She then pauses and adds, “Gosh I sound like a fuckin’ diva, I swear I’m not, I’m the least diva ever! I was just exhausted, I had lost my ‘fun’. I know most people would have killed to be team pro for Stars and they were really great with me, I’m not just saying that. I was the one who didn’t handle it well.”

Mayrinck knew that she was going to leave in 2010 but had to wait for her contract to end the following year. “It ended on April 1st 2011, literally 15 days before Black Friday. Pretty sick timing. People even asked if I worked for the FBI,” she giggles.

So then it was time to find the feisty Brazilian again. She took some time off and did nothing for a year. Her nothing is watching her favourite reality TV shows, taking part in sports, and playing video games. She then made a huge change by quitting smoking but this caused her to gain weight. This had a profound affect on the normally bubbly and confident pro. “That devastated me,” she says. “It messed with my confidence, my head, everything. So I played the WSOP in a bit of a quiet state which is not normal for me. I was trying to get rid of smoking and the weight I had gained, but then I saw I wasn’t doing well in Vegas, so I came home to Rio and since then I joined a rowing team in my soccer club, am working out like crazy have lost 16 pounds of the 22 I gained, and I have a pretty big stable of horses in Brazil, so I am coaching them, and getting back in the grind with zero ego. I am starting from scratch again, even though I’ve always played really high stakes. There can’t be ego in poker. I am starting from zero but I am also considering the possibility of going back to writing and directing.”

Maridu’s Next Move

This transitional period in Mayrinck’s life is most likely going to produce yet more creativity and success, going from past experiences. The Brazilian who has always gone after what she desires, including her boyfriend, David Baker, is ready for whatever life throws at her next. Whether or not this includes poker, she has played a massive role in the game in Brazil and has seen it grow in leaps and bounds, so it will always be very close to her heart. “I remember that when I first started with PokerStars in Brazil, around 2005 or 2006, Brazil was country number 32 on Stars, and in the span of three years it jumped to something like number 6. People are starting to accept it as a legitimate profession. I mean, of course it takes time in a third world country that is ultra-Catholic and still deals with issues that seem biblical, but it’s catching on like crazy.

“I think I have done a great part for the growth of poker in Brazil, to be the first woman to really speak up (and as you know I speak exactly what I think) and call myself a professional, to travel to tournaments, make friends all over the world, really show it wasn’t some seedy, backroom, smoky thing with cowboys and guns betting farms and cars. It wasn’t easy, I caught a lot of flack from the ultra macho guys in Brazil, and a lot of it was very hurtful, but whatever… I don’t dwell. It’s a macho country and I accept it.

“I will always take part in the growth of the game in Brazil, but just not as actively as before. Truth is, while I still have an ultra competitive drive, it’s more with myself than with anyone else, so I am gladly stepping out of some ‘spotlight’ or whatever you want to call it that I might have had here in poker. There are many good female players up and coming here and I think it’s their time to shine. I have a bunch of horses, I hire coaches for them, I try to spread the word and the joy of the game, but now I am kind of set in staying home quietly for a bit and deciding what my next step is going to be. Right now, I have no idea. I might go back to directing and writing. I’ve gotten an offer and I am considering it, but no matter what I will play poker, even if just for fun. We’ll see.”

Everything In Moderation… Or Not

Mayrinck appears to be obsessive over the things she wants to be a success at. In her beginnings at poker all she did was play until her friends held an intervention and took her away on a trip. She oozes passion over the things and people she loves, and she will keep trying until she gets whatever she’s focusing on right. This however means that failure is not an option, and this mixed with the fiery blood of a Brazilian woman in love, does not a good concoction make. For instance, her problem with tilt. “I used to tilt horribly,” she explains. “I have broken three Macs, five keyboards… my hand! And too many mice to count!” This has even led to problems in her relationship with Baker breaking up with her over her reactions in the past. She says, “He’s like, ‘I’m playing for hundreds of thousands and you’re breaking the house over a $109 freezeout?” So Mayrinck has learned to control her emotions and can tilt but can’t act on it. However, she adds, “It’s still there. I am a hot-blooded brazilian woman, some things you just don’t change!”

When describing her personality, Mayrinck does not try to hide the other sides of her character, “I don’t want to ever give off the ‘Pollyanna’ impression, I have a dark side and torments too. It’s very, very hard to get into a good rhythm of finding balance, and balance has never been my strong suit. I am not a moderate person, when I do something I am very committed.”

It’s clear that Maridu wants to be the best she can be, but her personal success rests on whether or not her family and her loved ones are proud of her, if she has the respect of her peers, and is feeling good about her own personal growth. “I am the least pretentious person ever,” she divulges.

Mayrinck’s life so far often sounds like something from a fairytale, but you would be hard pressed to find someone who is more down to earth, and in touch with who they are. She knows her limits and pushes them daily, and is not afraid to take the next big step, whatever that may be. No doubt whatever happens next, this will not be the last the world hears about the whirlwind that is Maria “Maridu” Mayrinck. ♠