When it comes to the number of World Series of Poker bracelets won by a country, Brazil is tied for tenth. However, when it comes to passion for the game of poker, the South American nation simply will not be outdone.
It doesn’t take long to feel that fire when talking with 22-year old poker pro Leonardo Mattos from Salvador, Bahia. Last week, in the early hours of the morning Mattos played his way to a win in WSOP Event #59 ($2,500 Double Stack NLHE), earning a career-high $399,000 score and his first gold bracelet.
“I was very focused. Total concentration,” Mattos said. “I felt comfortable the whole time. The event had a lot of regulars which makes the feat even bigger. I performed very well and selected spots very well, winning the important pots. So, I entered the final table with a lot of energy, a lot of confidence. During all of the moments of difficulty, I knew I just couldn’t let the title escape.”
When it came down to heads-up play, Mattos faced off against World Poker Tour Germany champion Christopher Puetz who held the chip lead. But after a back-and-forth match, Mattos outlasted Puetz to become the fourth Brazilian in 2020 to win a gold bracelet, just the ninth player in the country’s history. Despite his young age, it’s something that Mattos has been working towards for a long time.
“I was 13 years old when I saw the WSOP on ESPN and that inspired me a lot,” Mattos said, reflecting on his start in poker. “From 13-years-old until today, I never stopped. At 15, I was sure playing poker [for a living] was what I wanted and at 18 I joined a poker team. I always knew that was what I wanted.”
Over the past four years, Mattos has been working with 4bet Poker Team. 4bet is a Brazilian collective that mentors and stakes players, working together to achieve success in the game. And prior to his resume topping bracelet win, Mattos had already seen success. He soared past $1 million in total career online earnings with two PocketFives Triple Crown awards. In 2019, he won a PokerStars WCOOP for nearly $29,000. More recently, Mattos took down a 2020 World Series of Poker Side Event for what was his previous high score of $56,000.
But for Mattos, winning a WSOP bracelet has changed the game.
“A WSOP bracelet raises the bar,” he said. “I had never come close to winning anything like that. I changed the level, even though it’s only the beginning and I have a lot to achieve.”
Mattos plans on continuing to climb the mountain with the help of the tightly-knit Brazilian poker community. While there was no rowdy rail in the Amazon room cheering him on to victory, Mattos’ backers and teammates were following along with every final table hand he won.
“The community is very united. We have the biggest and best poker teams in the world and I think it just tends to grow. We are the most talented and, with this team culture, we are learning to be disciplined,” Mattos said.
“The 4bet Poker Team means a lot to me, they are my sponsors, the biggest poker team in the world. They really represent everything to me. Names like Will Arruda, Rafael Moraes, Thiago Crema, and now Mister Naza, they empower me a lot and take great care of my poker career.”
And Mattos’ career is indeed thriving. For a 22-year old, a $400K score might mean some large purchases or a long vacation. But Mattos insists that even though his share of the money will go a long way, that he’s already back at work looking for more.
“In relation to lifestyle, nothing changes,” he said. “It gives me more confidence for sure to achieve things like this again. The next step is to continues grinding hard, playing more expensive tournaments, and always arriving. Trying to be consistent. I am very well tutored by the 4bet Team, I trust them to know the next steps.”
One thing he does know is that whenever the world of poker returns to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic and live tournaments are once again up and running, Mattos will be traveling to Las Vegas for future World Series of Poker events in “search of more bracelets.”
“I want to win more and more, evolve more and more. I am guided by my passion for the game, money doesn’t matter. I want to be the best in the world and I have a long way to go to get there. There’s always the next step.”