The familiar story of Luca Pagano and the chip lead with 24 left in Deauville
It's difficult to write that Luca Pagano is leading EPT Deauville. He is and it should be easy; after all, we've written it countless times before. The trouble starts though when you try to be original, you just stare at the keyboard convinced you've cut and paste a previous article. In essence you have. So with this in mind I've given up all attempts to sound new. I'll just say it: Luca Pagano leads the last 24 players at EPT Deauville.
Pagano started today with 344,000 chips, some way behind the leader Sam Phomveha who had more than a million and who found himself on the rail (sent there largely by Pagano) before the close of the first level. Pagano first doubled ("It was a miracle hand"), then moved past the million mark, as players like Martins Adeniya and Mikhail Lakhitov, prominent in the earlier stages of the tournament, were forced into the pay-out line.
Soon it was two million, then, as the third level of the day ticked by Pagano made it 2,500,000. As the shock and awe of that began to sink in word came back that he was now up to 3 million. That count finished on 3,561,000. In short Pagano has some 893,000 ahead of the next guy, Olivier Rogez.
"I've been able to accumulate chips. I was up to two million with that hand (against Phomveha). When players see you can win those big pots they start getting afraid. Those times they didn't believe me I had very big hands. Let's say that in poker it's important to get luck but at the right time.
"Everyone knows I play very solid," he added. "But in this tournament I keep betting for value and they keep paying me. It probably means these guys don't read your blog."
Pagano powered to the lead halfway through the day
Pagano leads the field not just in EPT cashes (this is his 20th) or in EPT finals (he's reached six) but also in experience. Since the first ever EPT in Barcelona (in which Pagano finished third) all the way to now, the Team PokerStars Pro has amassed nearly $2 million in live tournament winnings. The next best player in that respect is Marc Inizan of France.
But it has never been about the money, or at least it isn't any more to the poker playing businessman. It's that first EPT title that matters to him, which, after seven and a half seasons of looking, remains difficult to find. It's a point not lost on Pagano but not something keeping him awake at night.
"I won an IPT this summer," said Pagano. "Let's say the drama is over. I will keep trying. It means a lot but it's not going to change my life. I wouldn't change any of my previous results with just one win. I'm happy on the way it went in the past. If it comes in Deauville I'll be happy but if it doesn't happen I'll keep trying next season and for the next 25 seasons."
Pagano eases into Day 5
Regardless of how things pan out this week Pagano has already returned to the top of the EPT Tournament Leader Board, having conceded the lead to Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, albeit temporarily. Back at the top and proud of that he may be, Pagano will want to celebrate that with a win.
"I'm in the right spot, in the right way, with the right style of game, so I just have to keep playing my game," said Pagano. "And getting good cards like today."
To do that the Italian still faces some tough opposition. Experienced as he is the field is littered with players also used to the business end of a main event.
A mascot stands guard next to Mick Graydon's chips
It was at an event organised by Pagano - EPT San Remo - that Yorane Kerignard made it known that he wanted a slice of the EPT cake. Back then his portion was nibbled by eventual winner Andrey Pateychuk and Kerignard departed in sixth. But watching him closely one could tell the Frenchman was not yet finished. It seems he intends to put that right in the next two days.
Then there is Chris Brammer.
Pagano has the live track record but Brammer has it online. Second on the Pocket Fives leader board (and formerly first), this is Brammer's career best live result and a hard-to-believe first EPT cash. With more than a million won on PokerStars he's a likely candidate to match that come Monday.
Those looking for the left field pick to win need look no further than Russian player Artem Litvinov.
A "seat of the pants" player, Litvinov has been known to flip coins to determine how he should act, as well as taking cigarette breaks when anyone else would be glued to their 50,000-chips-an-orbit seat.
This time he became most notable for his reaction to winning a big hand, leaving his table, walking to the corner and performing a kind of boxing manoeuvre, like a man trying to beat up the voice in his head.
There are others, in-between the spectrum of weird and wonderful, who will think nothing of denying to Pagano what he has pursued for so long, details of all of them, and their chip counts, being available in our live coverage stream available here.
Julien Ehrhardt becomes one of the last to go to the rail on Day 4, sent there by Christian Togsverd
Now though we rest after what has been an unusually short day on the EPT, all thanks to an extra day in the schedule. There are still articles to read from this abbreviated Day 4, links to which are listed below.
That's it from Deauville on a cold day in Deauville, except if your name is Pagano.
Sunset in Deauville
Until tomorrow it's goodnight from Normandy.
All photography © Neil Stoddart