I used to be a professional chess player – now I travel the world in my new career and play with Neymar | The Sun

RAFAEL MORAES made a career gamble when he was a teenager that helped him hit the jackpot.

The 32-year-old from Sao Paulo in Brazil grew up playing chess after taking lessons from his maths teacher.

But he followed a trend by making the switch to poker aged 18 – and it’s a move that paid off.

He made history in 2019 by becoming the first Brazilian player ever to win a US$1m prize (£790k) in a single online multi-table tournament.

His biggest cash win at a live tournament came in Monte Carlo during a European Poker Tour event when he won €568k (£488k).

And now Moraes spends his time travelling to some of the most glamorous locations in the world while playing a game he loves.

The 32-year-old gave The Sun and media representatives from around the world a poker tutorial at the PokerStars European Poker Tour event in Barcelona this week.


He told SunSport: “Poker is always trying to take in the best stops in the world. It’s amazing and I'm very grateful about my life.

“Barcelona is the best place I’ve played in terms of the entire event.

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“I really love Barcelona and a lot of the people that travel here to play, and the size of the tournaments are the biggest.

“But the venue that Brazilians call the ‘Maracana of Poker’ is Monte Carlo – the venue is amazing, the roof opens.

“A place that I’ve never imagined I could play poker is Neymar’s house when he was in Paris.

“He is a friend of mine and always texting me when he’s playing online and has a thought about a hand.

“He’s a very good player and very dedicated. He loves Poker.”

Moraes added: “I live in Brazil and I play the World Championship online with PokerStars every May and every September.

“I spend three or four months there and then I travel to some of the biggest live spots in the world.”

Moraes sees plenty of similarities between the two sports and has cashed in during his 14-year poker career.

But he admitted it’s hard to make a career as a professional chess player, at least not one as rewarding as poker.

Moraes said: “When I was 18 or 19, lots of professional chess players tried to play poker.

“A lot of guys then started playing poker because it’s easier to be more profitable than chess.

“When you are a good chess player, you need to sit in front of a table and play for five, six or seven hours straight.

“You need to concentrate and study, and be able to stay seated for six hours and look straight ahead.

“Those characteristics are very important in poker as well.

“There are more possibilities to become a professional in poker and have a better life.”

Rafael is 32 and wants to play poker “forever”, even if it means he plays in retirement in “10 or 20 years time”.

He will be at the upcoming EPT Cyprus from October 11 to 22 and EPT Prague from December 6-17.

And the Brazilian can probably look forward to some more games around a dining table with Neymar when he hangs up his football boots.


  • PokerStars offers a truly epic experience of poker, they are hosting the EPT Barcelona in one of Europe's trendiest cities, welcoming the community again to a place of lively nightlife, sandy beaches and world-class cuisine.
  • For 2023 PokerStars has a jam-packed year of live events with the return of many well-loved, prestigious locations and 2 brand-new stops (Paris which was in February and Cyprus in October) on the tour, 2023 is set to be a big one!

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Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chase their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • GamCare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org

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