Court to Cup: Viny Lima’s Run from Basketball with Scott Blumstein to Borgata Champion

Mar 14, 2019

By Sean Chaffin

Champion Vinicius Lima

It was just a regular day in a Las Vegas gym in December. Guys dressed in shorts and T-shirts sprinted up and down the court, hitting jump shots and working up a sweat. Vinicius “Viny” Lima was looking to get in on the action, and was soon drafted for some time on the court.

A poker player with a few skins on the wall, the 24-year-old was always looking to get better on the felt and the court. Coincidentally, the team he played on that night was headed up by Scott Blumstein, the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event champion.

“I needed to pick up some players and he came over and we had a conversation about playing poker,” Blumstein says. “He asked me if I played poker, but the whole time I think he kind of knew.

The two players quickly clicked, and Blumstein believed his new friend was a solid poker player. Four months later, those conversations helped lead to Lima adding his name to the Champions Cup at HyperX Esports Arena here in Las Vegas.

“I told him I was heading home to play the WPT at Borgata,” Blumstein says. “I told him if he could find a flight to come on out. He couldn’t find one at first, but last-second he found a connecting flight in Canada and hopped off in Philly. He was determined to make a run and here he is.”

Here he is indeed. Lima becomes the newest member of the Champions Club after topping a field of 1,415 to claim he WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open title for a top prize of $728,430, a $15,000 entry into the season-ending Baccarat Crystal WPT Tournament of Champions, and a Hublot Big Bang Steel Watch.

Lima credited a boisterous crowd in the arena for helping him overcome being on a short stack, and then battling back for the title in an epic final table that lasted 236 hands and spilled into the wee hours of Thursday morning.

Champion Vinicius Lima

“Step one was planning on never going broke today,” Lima said after his win. “I was very fortunate to have good energy with me and ran good at good times, and when I was all in, I held up. I just battled and was very fortunate to have won this thing. It’s surreal and unbelievable.”

The Lima rail stayed vocal and loud throughout the extensive final table, and Lima says that kept his spirits high.

“It was the loudest thing I’ve ever witnessed live,” he says. “My friends and family came out and everybody was great. Every hand I won, they were making noise. The hands I wasn’t in, they were making noise. It made the whole experience a thousand times better.”

Lima previously worked in medical sales, but began playing poker full-time a few years ago and now lives in Las Vegas. While he had two months to prepare for the final table, he instead focused on physical fitness and mental stamina. He attributes that helping him persevere at a final table that lasted about 10 hours.

“I came in with a short stack, so aside from just a little ICM work there wasn’t too much to be focused on,” he says. “I just focused more on my health and mental aspects of things so I could be prepared for a long session like today.”

While Lima and the Blumstein talked some about poker, Blumstein didn’t offer too much mentoring or advice and credited Lima’s stellar play at the tables leading him to victory.

“We talked a little bit of poker, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good he was always and just kind of made him believe he could do something like this,” Blumstein says. “I think it’s pretty cool.”

This win smashes Lima’s career lifetime earnings of $263,186. He’s now won on one of poker’s biggest stages and plans on playing more WPT events in the coming months.

While Lima was on the short stack in Vegas after making the final table in Atlantic City in January, but remained determined. Blumstein knew his friend had the poker chips to come back and take the title.

“We talked a little bit, but mostly he’s been working on his own every day,” Blumstein says. “He’s also been working in the gym every day, eating super clean, dropping weight, but all this has been him. He’s crushing it.”

Lima says the relationship with Blumstein has worked out well beyond just talking poker. They both now share some esteemed company as WPT and WSOP Main Event winners.

“He’s a good friend now,” Lima says. “We just talked about hands and stuff. I’m very comfortable about where my game is at now, but he definitely gave me some good advice. We met a few months back playing basketball and talked a lot about cards, and he convinced me to fly out to Borgata.”

He adds with a big laugh: “Well, the rest is history.”

Champion Vinicius Lima

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.

Photography by Joe Giron / PokerPhotoArchive


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