Maria 'Maridu' Mayrinck, 30, is a well known PokerStars professional from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She has built up her roll and climbed the poker ladder over the past few years to become one of the most liked players on the circuit. In March 2009, she took 3rd in the Full Tilt Sunday Mulligan for $29k and just returned home from 7 months playing poker around the world. Having been featured on ESPN's coverage of the World Series of Poker multiple times she is now taking her game to new heights. She is a consummate professional and a wonderful ambassador for the game and you also quickly come to realise that poker is her passion and is in her blood. (the interview was conducted live and transcribed to text)
Tell us about your background...
I was born in Rio and grew up living between there and New York. I have two brothers and a very large extended family which is very common here in Brazil. My father lived in New York and was a successful high stakes games player. He taught me how to play chess, backgammon and all type of games. By aged 9 I was somewhat of an expert :) I've always be attracted to competition and was an avid tennis player in my youth too. I attended high school in New York and used to play a lot of tennis there. I returned to Brazil to go to university to study Film and TV. I worked for some of the larger Brazilian stations and did a lot of directing and screen-writing there, one of my biggest passions in life. Shortly thereafter I was introduced to poker.
How did your journey in the poker world begin?
I started visiting all of the private poker rooms here in Sao Paulo and getting to know all of the players. I realised there was a niche there, to create a documentary about poker in Brazil. I began interviewing all of the players, way before any of them had built a large bankroll or had big success, e.g. AndreAkkari, Alexandre Gomes, CK and I grew to become good friends with them all. I also started keeping a blog online, www.needanace.blogspot.com (in Portugese) and that grew to have a lot of Brazilian followers. I had also injured my knee and was unable to play tennis anymore so needed to find a new outlet for my competitive streak. A friend of mine encouraged me to get online and start playing poker, telling me how exciting and fun it was. At this time I had zero concept of starting hands, bankroll management or any other technical skill necessary to be a successful poker player. I deposited around $1000 and lost it all within an hour playing cash games! I had no idea at all! I didn't know there were different varieties of games, different tabs to click etc. All I had was a scrap of paper with a list of the hand rankings. However after a few more unsuccessful deposits I began to realise that if I was losing then someone else must be winning. I immediately stopped depositing and playing, went out and bought every poker book available and also began studying poker TV shows too. I wanted to learn what the best players were doing differently to everyone else. I also hired a coach.
After some thorough analysis and speaking with some of the better players here in Brazil I went back to playing online, but this time with a game plan. I started out on small stakes sit and go's and stuck to very strict bankroll management. I started winning and became a sit and go grinder! I also separated my life roll from my bankroll. I think this is a huge key to success as it helps you realise if you want to keep playing then you need to build a roll to play with, right from the start. Having started back at the $5 Sit and go's I gradually began moving up stakes as my game continued to improve. Then I took a shot...
Against my normally strict bankroll management rules I took a shot in a $50 tournament and a few hours later had won it for around $8K or $9K! Even though I was delighted to have won when I look back now I can see it was a mistake to play when I was under rolled for this buy-in level. I started exploring MTT 's more but actually dropped back down to the lower levels even after winning this tournament, as I wanted to do it properly and learn from the beginning.
Respecting your bankroll is absolutely paramount to ongoing poker success and since then I have always stuck to my bankroll rules.
Describe some A-ha moments in your poker career, where you felt like you had a poker awakening and things began to really make sense?
I've had many poker a-ha moments actually but the most significant was about 2-3 years after I had been playing online. I really began to find my groove and had adjusted my sleep schedule so that I was never over extending myself tying to play every single tournament. I created a schedule of games I would play every day and stuck to it. When I found this groove I realised a lot of things... that it is so important to be disciplined about all aspects of your games, from bankroll management to realising what games and what times are best for you to play. This differs greatly for everyone. I was also able to analyse my game and honestly see my weaknesses as clearly as my strengths. The great thing I realised was that once you realise and accept your current limitations you can then figure out how to push through them.
I also discovered that you need to be in a constant state of evolution as the game is changing on a daily basis. If you stop learning then you stop growing as a poker player and that can be very dangerous as you begin get left behind. You need to make sure you are never playing robotically as the game is never static. You need to grow and evolve with the game on a daily basis.
What poker achievement are you most proud of so far in your poker career?
I am most proud of having earned the respect of my peers. For me this is the highest accolade you can have... when the players who's games you respect also respect your game and opinion, no matter if you are on an upswing or a downswing. It is so important to have a group of players you can talk poker with and analyse hands and situations as this really helps take your game to new levels.
Do you prefer to play live or online and why?
It varies a lot. Currently I prefer playing online but that is just because I have only now returned to Brazil after having spent seven months in Vegas and time at the PCA too. It is so nice to be back here surrounded by family and friends. I even have my boyfriend and another friend from England staying with me. Things are pretty hectic but they are good.
I do really enjoy live games too though as I think I am used to creating a good table image. I'm always really friendly to everyone at the table. I'm good at table chat and always have good table manners. This can be helpful to me too as oftentimes my opponents will play softer against me.
We thought you were really excellent on this year's WSOP coverage. How did it feel to play in front of the cameras against some of the best known live players in the world? Did you enjoy watching yourself on the ESPN coverage?
I hated it! Looking back on it I was really disappointed with the way I played a few hands. I made a couple of mistakes partly due to the table surroundings, i.e. cameras, lights etc. When I watch myself on those episodes it feels like that was not the real me. I wasn't fully myself. Also, I did play a few great hands but unfortunately they didn't make the final ESPN cut. However, there are also a lot of positives to take from it too. The next time I am at a TV table I will be much more prepared and better able to just focus on my game. I wasn't really happy with the hands I played but I really enjoyed my 'Nuts' segment.
How has poker been going so far in 2010? Do you have any specific goals you would like to achieve this year?
I have some very specific goals for 2010... mostly to increase my discipline and focus. I want to get back to the determination and hunger I had in 07' and 08'. In 2009 I became sidetracked as I began doing a lot of media work for PokerStars and general life issues began catching up on me too. Over the course of 2009 though I learned to balance things better and to take things in my stride. I am much better now at media requests, interviews etc... actually I am lying in bed right now doing this interview haha.
In 2010 I am planning to play a much heavier schedule online and offline. Last year I played maybe only 300 tournaments! That is a tiny amount for any serious online grinder. 2010 is all about focus and discipline.
What would be the best advice you could offer to players who are new to the game and want to become successful?
The number one key is to respect your bankroll and play the limits you are comfortable in. The moment you play outside those limits you will begin to play with fear. You will begin to play to cash instead of playing to win. Also, you need to be able to analyze your game very honestly. Be willing to accept your leaks and seek ways to plug them.
Other tips I would give are know thy own self, be humble and have fun!
Can you tell us a little about the emergence of poker in Brazil?
Poker is such a passionate and colourful game, just like Brazilian people.
We have seen poker in Brazil growing rapidly over recent years and more and more top players emerging. Do you think Brazil has even more to offer the poker world in the coming years?
Poker is growing so rapidly here. Currently a lot of players are still in experimentation mode as they learn the intricacies of the game but with time we will definitely be a force to be reckoned with. Even if you look at the size of the country it is very similar to that of the US. Also, there is good progress being made with the authorities to legitimize the game.
Brazil can be quite a macho country but I think it is the duty of all male players to educate their sisters, mothers, girlfriends, wives etc. It is important to bring them into the game and help them enjoy it. Also this is great for the player too as they begin to have the support network around them that is key to becoming a successful player, rather than keeping it hidden and secret. Actually it is the job of every poker player around the world to educate those who don't understand poker and therefore help increase the growth and acceptance levels of the game. Educate don't alienate!
Looking back at the past few years what would you consider to the biggest mistake(s) you have made in regards to poker? What pitfalls would you tell new players to watch out for?
The game has humbled me many times. As I mentioned earlier, the game is constantly evolving and it is up to you as a player to try and stay one step ahead. My biggest mistake was my initial bankroll mismanagement but I am happy to say that is all under control now. I'd advise players to always look for new areas to learn. Even from terrible players, there is always something you can learn, even if it is something as simple as understanding why their play was so poor. Also, keep your head on your shoulders, breath deeply and build a support network of family and friends and have peers available for feedback at all times.
What tips would you offer to players who are trying to move up stakes and be able to play larger live and online tournaments?
I would recommend all new players to start out on sit and go's. Sure the edge has diminished over the past few years but these are still easily the best way of building a bankroll. Learn ICM. Learn the winning formula. This will be a great framework to then take your games to new levels and gradually move up stakes.
I mostly play tournaments and sit and go's myself. I occasionally dabble in cash games but not too often. My problem is I am prone to tilt and in cash games this can be dangerous. I am not a machine. I am a hot blooded Brazilian who plays with a lot of passion! However, I may choose to focus on them in the future as there is certainly less variance in them than tournaments.
How did your family and friends react when you told them you would be playing poker professionally as a career?
It was a slow process, even my getting involved in poker. Thankfully my family have always been very supportive. I always tried to educate the people around me about the game and I think that helped a lot. I am very close to my family so their approval is very important to me.
What is the best thing that playing professional poker has afforded you personally?
I would say it is the overall lifestyle. I mean I always had a comfortable lifestyle as I used to work to my own schedule when directing and screen-writing but poker opened up more doors too. I love travelling to new places and revisiting friends I might not have seen in six months or more.
Outside of poker what other interests do you have? What do you do to balance your life? We interviewed a couple of other top Brazilian players, Christian Kruel and Joao Mathias and they both said they like to party a lot in Brazil..haha.
Unfortunately due to my knee I am unable to play tennis. I also have not written in a while, though I may get back into that this year. I am a huge TV series fan though, you name it I've seen it haha. I love to laze around, watching TV and just chilling out. I also love to relax on the beach as often as possible. I also of course love to spend time with my family, boyfriend and friends.
Oh, I have one other passion... Farmville haha (the popular game on Facebook). My mom introduced it to me and I am hooked. Actually my roommate is too and we have become pretty competitive! He always seems to stay just a few hundred points ahead of me. That's the thing with living with poker players I guess, everything becomes like a competition, from Credit Card Roulette for dinner to high stakes Farmville haha, just joking.
The poker lifestyle can be filled with vices too so it is important to keep control of yourself. I am thankful to say I have avoided table games now for a long long time. You have to keep your potential vices under control when living in the poker environment.
Do you have any fun anecdotes/stories you can share with us from the poker world?
During the WSOP, I was seated at a table with Phil Hellmuth and we were approaching the bubble. He had about 80 big blinds and I was sitting on about 14. Phil opened under the gun and when it got to me I looked down at QQ and shoved over the top of him. He folded, showing Ace Jack. I was a little shocked actually as thought he should call given the stack sizes. The good thing though was that I realized if he was going to fold Ace Jack in that spot then he would also be folding a lot of other holdings. As such from that point forward every single time for the rest of the tournament Phil raised I shoved over the top of him haha. I knew from having watched him before that he likes to raise a lot but doesn't like to call all-ins often at all. I actually shoved over him a couple of times without looking at my cards haha. I was afraid I'd lose my nerve if I looked haha. Phil kept saying "Hey Brazil, enough of the Jiu Jitsu style beating" haha. I like that story a lot as Phil kinda became my bitch for a while hahaha.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Maria. Before you go, we have several fun questions inspired by Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio.
What is your favorite fun poker phrase/slang/acronym?
Hmmm, I don't actually like many of them at all as I think they are often disingenuous, like when someone says good luck or nice hand I often feel they don't really mean it. So I guess my favourite phrase would be 'ty' as it is probably the most honest of them all.
If the poker industry disappeared completely, what other career would you most like to attempt?
Apart from returning to directing and screen-writing I think I would like to cut hair haha. It always looks so peaceful and relaxing when I walk by a hair and nail salon. I tried cutting my boyfriends hair once though and it didn't work out so well, so maybe I'll stick to the directing haha.
When your poker career is over, what would you most like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered for someone who brought enlightenment and happiness. Actually I would like to be remembered for many things rather than just one. Life continually evolves and you need to constantly evolve with it. We all need to strive to be better people. This includes taking care of the environment too, one of my other passions. Living in a tropical country allows me to see the effects of environment on a regular basis and realize the importance of protecting it.
I'd also like to be remembered as a good friend and being good for a laugh.