At one point in the site’s history, PokerStars was famously known as the platform on which Chris Moneymaker turned a $39 satellite entry into $2.5 million by winning the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event.

That improbable win on live poker’s most prestigious stage sparked the “Poker Boom,” but after PokerStars’ latest rags to riches tale, a second boom might just be in order.

On March 24, while playing from his home in Osasco, Brazil, recreational player Alex Brito parlayed a $0.25 flier into $1.19 million by winning the PokerStars 14th Anniversary Sunday Million tournament.

The Sunday Million has been PokerStars’ signature tournament for over a decade, putting a $1 million guaranteed prize pool up for grabs for players who pay the $215 buy-in. To celebrate the event’s 14th anniversary, PokerStars went all-in by swelling the guaranteed prize pool to $12.5 million – all while keeping the standard $215 price point.

But as he told the PokerStars Blog after his momentous victory, Brito couldn’t quite swing spending that much on a single tournament – so he tried to pull a Moneymaker.

poker chip and cards on table, PokerStars 14th Sunday Million Winner online tournament

Layoffs Turn into the Lucky Run of a Lifetime

In his interview with the PokerStars Blog, the 38-year old Brito revealed that he was laid off from his job as a commercial manager six months ago. His wife also recently lost her job as a Pilates teacher, leaving Brito in search of a respite from his day to day worries.

After logging onto his PokerStars account – under the screenname “AAAArthur” after his 9-year old son – Brito realized the 14th Anniversary Sunday Million event was coming up soon.

As he explained, competing in the prestigious event had always been a dream deferred, but the juiced up prize pool gave him ample motivation to dive in for the first time:

“Every year, I read about the Sunday Million Anniversary but didn’t try to play it.

This year was different. I don’t know why, but I wanted to play it so much.”

Unfortunately, the recent layoffs gave him pause, as making a deposit to reload his account didn’t make much financial sense.

Here’s how he described the dilemma to the PokerStars Blog:

“It would have been crazy for me to participate [by buying in directly] as the buy-in is quite expensive for my current economic situation.

So when I saw the satellites I saw an opportunity.”

Beginning with a $0.25 Spin & Go – the lowest level buy-in for PokerStars’ rapid fire three-handed tournaments – Brito won enough to enter a $4 satellite event. Winning that tournament secured him entry into an $11 satellite, one which awarded 100 of the coveted $215 seats in the Sunday Million.

Brito successfully built a big stack and faded the field, finding his way into the big show on March 22.

And the rest, as they say, is history…

Brito Navigates Ultimate Tournament to Become Instant Millionaire

Last year, the 13th Anniversary PokerStars Sunday Million garnered 61,342 entries and reentries to generate a total prize pool of $12,268,400.

Those numbers were certainly impressive, but they were dwarfed this year after 93,016 entries and reentries to build the total prize pool to $18,603,200 – making this year’s edition the largest tournament in PokerStars history.

By the end of Day 1, Brito had survived to bag up 120,000 chips, good for a 60 big blind stack. Entering Day 2, around 23,000 players were left in contention, but only 13,319 would make the money to secure a cash.

Brito sunk to just six big blinds at one point, but scored a fortuitous double up with pocket Aces over Ace-Jack. From there, the money bubble burst to take the pressure off, as he later recounted to the PokerStars Blog:

“After the bubble burst on Day 2, my stack started to grow.

I kept picking up good hands and with an hour to go on the day I was chip leader with 50M in chips.”

After trying to play the part of big stack bully, and failing to make it work, Brito says he experienced a bit of “tilt” – but a well-timed break gave him a chance to refocus:

“We went on a break, I took a breath, and realized I was about to make Day 3 and win at least $10K.

From then on, I just waited for the day to end.”

When it did, Brito was 33rd in chips out of 91 contenders, and he soon found himself at the final table with a healthy stack. By the time four-handed play arrived, he and three ecstatic opponents paused the clock to strike an independent chip model (ICM) chop – ensuring him $1,142,802 and leaving $50,000 up top to play for.

Already on the run of his life, Brito finished things off in style to bag the extra dough and bring his total winnings to $1,192,802.

“When we face our problems and the mistakes we’ve made, we learn and become better people. Even when life is rough, you have to stand up and be happy. One day the storm will pass, and everything will fit.” – Alex Brito, PokerStars 14th Anniversary Sunday Million Tournament Winner

Asked to reflect on the almost unbelievable accomplishment – beating a 90,000+ player field on just a single bullet and saving his family from financial worry – Brito, the PokerStars 14th Sunday Million Winner remained a humble champion:

“Believe me, you must never give up. I’m an example. I’m just an aspiring poker player, a recreational player who has now managed to change life for his family thanks to poker.

When we face our problems and the mistakes we’ve made, we learn and become better people.

Even when life is rough, you have to stand up and be happy. One day the storm will pass, and everything will fit.”

Jonathan Zaun

One of Gamble Online's first dedicated reporters, Jonathan has spent well over a decade reporting on the gaming industry. While breaking legal news is his main area of expertise, Jonathan is an avid blackjack player & strategist who follows professional poker closely.

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