Dalton Hobold was just 21 when he won $106,000 in an $11 buy-in tournament.
It was 2017 and the sixth anniversary of the PokerStars Sunday Storm – a gargantuan MTT with 131,715 entries – and the prize he pocketed for his runner-up finish remains his largest cash to date. By any measure, it was an incredible start to a poker career which today sees the 25-year-old Brazilian rank 14th in the world with $3.53 million in career winnings.
The fact that Hobold–known as ‘daltonhb’ on PokerStars and ‘morgota’ on GGPoker–is now a consistent crusher in high stakes tournaments is even more admirable when you know the many hardships he endured immediately after that score; enough to drive many players away from poker for good.
Hobold was a teenager when his older brother taught him poker at their family home in Itapiranga, Santa Catarina. He played more intently while at college studying civil engineering and soon won an online tournament for $1,000.
“I kept winning more and more tournaments and was making more money than in my job,” he says. “I decided to stop working but continue with my studies. For the next few years of college, I was a professional poker player. I made enough to pay all the bills.”
It was during his third and final college year that Hobold enjoyed his breakout six-figure score in the Sunday Storm. “I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “It was so much money that I didn’t know what to do with it.”
Hobold had no experience managing such large sums of money. He was only 21, after all, and ultimately the win led to the worst experiences of his young life. “I had so many problems with that money,” he says. “I think it would be better if I hadn’t won it.”
With $106,000 in his PokerStars bankroll, Hobold transferred $20,000 to his Neteller account. Not long after, his email was hacked and the perpetrator was able to break into both his partypoker and Neteller accounts, amongst others.
“That was my first lesson: never use a single email address for all of your accounts,” he says. “Luckily, my PokerStars account couldn’t be hacked, but I lost all of the money I had on Neteller. I contacted their support team several times so they could track the guy and get the money back, but it didn’t happen.”
It’s one thing to be robbed by a faceless villain. It’s another thing entirely to have your money stolen by someone you trusted and admired.
But that’s exactly what happened next.
The first poker book Hobold ever read was by a Brazilian named Leo Bello.
For much of the 21st century, Bello was considered a pioneer of poker in Brazil. A former doctor, he co-founded the São Paulo Hold’em Circuit, won the inaugural Main Event in 2006, and subsequently found fame as a poker personality. He wrote two books (2007’s Learning to Play Poker and 2009’s Dominating the Art of Poker), commentated on poker for Brazilian TV, and even appeared as a guest on Brazil’s most popular late-night talk show, Programa do Jô.
According to a post by user ‘VinnyCout’ on twoplustwo, Bello also ran a successful poker stable with more than 40 horses.
Hobold was close with Bello, exchanging dollars on online sites whenever the other needed funds. After the hacking incident, Hobold reached out to his old friend. “I asked him to help me get my money back,” says Hobold. “We called some lawyers for help, but it didn’t work. We then made a deal where I’d invest in his stable.”
Hobold sent Bello $56,000 in a PokerStars transfer.
“I trusted him a lot. He was famous in Brazil at the time, after all,” he says. But according to Hobold: “Bello was behind the biggest Ponzi scheme in the history of Brazilian poker that I know of.”
According to Hobold and VinnyCout, Bello began asking friends and fellow poker players to invest in his stable, and for two years everything ran smoothly, with investors receiving money back. But somewhere along the line, the payments to investors stopped, despite the stable supposedly being in profit.
VinnyCout claims Bello “oversold shares” of the stable while living a “luxury lifestyle in one of the most expensive points in Rio, doing (sic) many travels to Europe.”
To this day, Hobold hasn’t received a penny of his money back from Bello.
“Bello disappeared after that and my money was robbed…again,” he says. “This time it was even worse. Not only did I lose my money, I also lost my belief in poker and that was so hard to conquer.”
These experiences resulted in Hobold entering a period he describes as “near to a depression”. He became “really fat” and lost all of his self-esteem. “It was hard to play poker thinking about what had happened,” he says.
Everything turned around for Hobold when he joined the BitB Brazil team at the beginning of 2019.
“I learned a lot of poker stuff,” he says, including bankroll management and GTO strategies, plus he now had a big network of poker-playing friends. “This is all stuff that I never had before.”
These days Hobold plays in a ‘pool’ with two good friends and fellow poker pros, sharing all wins and losses between the three of them. It’s going so well they’re considering expanding the pool to start playing high stakes live tournaments.
In May 2021, Hobold was named the PocketFives Online Player of the Month after cashing for more than $331,000 across roughly 140 in-the-money finishes. The highlight? Taking down the $1,050 GGPoker WSOP Circuit Super Tuesday event for a $55,880 score, the fourth largest cash of his career.
He now battles against the best in the world every session he plays. “It’s really hard,” he admits. “And it’s important I know every one of them.”
As the current #14-ranked online poker player in the world and #5-ranked player in all of Brazil, you can bet they all know him too.