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Poker Stories Podcast With Joao Vieira

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Nov 06, 2019

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Poker Stories is a long-form audio podcast series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.

Age: 29
Hometown: Madeira, Portugal
Combined Live and Online Tournament Earnings: $16.6 Million

Top Live Tournament Scores

Date Tournament Place Winnings
July 2019 WSOP $5k Six-Max NLHE 1st $758,011
May 2018 EPT Monte Carlo €25k High Roller 5th $252,527
Nov. 2018 Caribbean Poker Party $25k High Roller 9th $250,000
Jan. 2014 PCA $25k High Roller 8th $157,940
March 2019 WPT Barcelona €5k NLHE 2nd $144,704

Joao Vieira is only 29 years old and missed the entirety of the poker boom, but that hasn’t stopped him from climbing to the top of Portugal’s all-time money list both live and online. The Madeira-native is one of the top five online tournament winners ever, with more than $13 million in cashes. He also has $3.4 million in live tournament earnings, and most recently won his first career World Series of Poker bracelet, pocketing $758,000 in the $5,000 six-max no-limit hold’em event.

But poker is only the second “sport” that Vieira has gone pro in. The Winamax Team Pro spent much of his teens and early twenties playing professional basketball in Portugal, and as a junior, he competed on the national team and even had two 50-point games before he got burned out and transitioned to poker.

Highlights from this interview include being bad at days off, growing up on an island, an early knack for basketball, turning pro at age 15, playing like he was 7 ft. tall, Iverson vs. Stockton, being a late starter online, how an injury led to better poker, going from $10 to $300 sit-n-go’s in two or three months, developing good habits, being top five all-time on the online money list, a goal to crush the super high rollers, using a live read to earn a WSOP bracelet, a nice swap with Super Dario, keeping kids alive at summer camp, living in his headphones, and what Europe thinks of American fast food.

The Transcript Highlights

Going From Pro Basketball To Pro Poker

Julio Rodriguez: How good were you? This is were you can brag a bit.

Joao Vieira: I was quite good. I mean, I was a pro at 15.

JR: So what does that mean? You don’t go to school?

JV: No, I got invited to the pro team, and I started practicing with them. I still had two and a half years of high school, so I would go in the morning, and then do double practices, one with the youth team, and one with the pro team. So I didn’t quit school, I just had a professional contract [that I had to honor]. Even in college, I was still [attending] but I couldn’t miss a practice for [class].

JR: You were an athlete first, and a student second.

JV: Yes. I played for six years professionally, and two years to integrate with the pro team.

JR: But yet you are only 29 years old. You’ve done a lot in 29 years. At some point along the way, you had to learn poker and somehow become one of the best online players ever. It seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day.

JV: I’m a late starter in poker. It looks like I’ve been around for a long time, but I have not. This was just my fourth WSOP. I started playing poker, and just two years later I was playing the highest stakes MTTs online. It was a fast rise.

JR: Let’s talk about how you got into poker. Is that what pulled you out of basketball, or were you just done with the game?

JV: I was about to be done. I was getting frustrated. Too many years as a pro, not enough playing minutes. I wasn’t realizing the potential I had from when I was younger. I think I was kind of on my way out. I wasn’t having fun, and I knew it was time to go.

JR: So was poker kind of like a team bus situation?

JV: Kind of. I had a teammate from my younger years that used to play, and I had American teammates and some Portuguese teammates used to play online. We had to fly [to our games], and I would see them playing at night. So that’s how it started for me.

I got injured, for pretty much the last season and a half. I was still in college, but it was something that I wasn’t very in to. So I started playing. In a month, I probably watched something like 60 or 70 [online poker training videos].

JR: So things clicked right away?

JV: Yes. I went from playing $10 or $20 sit-n-go’s to playing $300 sit-n-go’s in two or three months. ♠

You can check out the entirety of the interview in the audio player at the top of the page or download it directly to your device to play on the go from iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.

Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Justin Bonomo, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Bryn Kenney, Mike Sexton, Brian Rast, Freddy Deeb, Joe Cada, Layne Flack, Chris Moneymaker, Maria Ho and many more. If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to get the latest episodes automatically when they are released.