EPT10 Barcelona: From politics to poker and back again

We first noticed Mario Adinolfi during EPT Berlin two seasons ago. Adinolfi, who would finish 22nd that year, played with a notebook by his side, on which was a picture of Pope John Paul the II. When Alessandro Laubinger moved all-in against him Adinolfi called. Laubinger made a drama of showing his cards before placing a rosary in the pot for good measure. Seeing this, Adinolfi turned over king-queen and tossed his picture of the Pope onto the pile (see 3.34pm). As a well-timed comic moment it was brilliant, but the rosary held up.

Flash forward to Barcelona. Adinolfi was chip leader two levels ago, but the two levels that followed that changed things somewhat, first when he was forced to lay down aces, and further trouble against Dmitry Yurasov.

"It's always difficult with my kind of game," said Adinolfi. "I play 80 per cent of the hands so it's quite difficult to keep (level)."

Indeed, a wobble followed, in which he was reduced to around 50,000 before he doubled up on the last hand before the break, taking him back above average.

Mario Adinolfi ensuring a few setbacks on Day 2

It would be folly to pretend that it is his chips that you first notice about Adinolfi. That would be his size, as well as a thick head of hair and his beard. But over recent years the quality of his poker has been equally noteworthy. Adinolfi has two WPT final tables to his credit and makes increasingly regular appearances on the European Poker Tour.

He does this while making headlines in his life beyond the poker world. As a day job Adinolfi is a political journalist and has been a member of the Italian parliament in years past.

Just as recent years have proved interesting times for poker in Italy, the same could be said for its political landscape, with recent elections, held in the shadow of a troubled world economy, replacing old faces with the new ones, or some at least.

For Adinolfi, the way to put that aside it to turn to poker, where the stresses caused by party political differences are swapped for the stresses caused by the guy next to you who just took a large slice of your stack. Is it not merely another source of frustration?

"I do a lot of things and a lot of difficult things," he said. "It's not easy stuff. So you have to be calm because if you get cranky it's a problem! So it is helpful playing poker. You get stressed [in different ways], let's say."

It's helping today after enduring the nightmare last level. His stack plummeted from nearly 300,000 to around 50,000. But the double-up keeps Adinolfi alive and puts a smile back on his face. Although you sense the poker is always kept in perspective as far as he's concerned, with a world beyond the card room more than enough to contemplate.

Adinolfi after doubling up

"It's very important to understand that mental games, like poker, are always very (interesting)," he said. "I have a daughter who I teach to be a good poker player, and I teach her to read the newspapers, get involved in social problems, and to understand what's happening. That's the thing.

"I always say that poker is like a metaphor of life. You understand a lot of yourself at the poker table, a lot of the life elsewhere. Poker can be very useful [in that way]."

With that in mind Adinolfi returns for the last two levels of the day with a little more than 100,000 in front of him - but no picture of the Pope?

Adinolfi laughed. "I'm from Rome so the pope is my symbol," he said. "I usually play with him on the table, but here is strange because you can't keep anything, so I left it."

Divine intervention or not, Adinolfi is back in the game.

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Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.

Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in European Poker Tour