EPT10 London: Luca Pagano, High Roller

At about 11.45am today, players were fidgeting awkwardly in the lobby to the Grand Connaught Rooms. The security staff hadn't yet received the all clear to allow them into the tournament area, which meant the likes of Nicky Katz, Kitty Luo and Devilfish were loitering the "wrong" side of the door from their chips. Todd Terry and Chistoph Vogelsang, both of whom had long departed the Main Event, were also there, clutching tickets for the £10,000 High Roller event.

And then Luca Pagano showed up.

Pagano has been a good friend of PokerStars Blog from the very early days. Ever since season one, the Italian has been closely associated with the red spade and his sensational cashing record has subsequently provided more column inches for those of us on this side of the laptop than probably any other player.

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Luca Pagano: Taking his seat with the High Rollers

Pagano wandered over and asked if I had seen a member of PokerStars management staff who usually acts as liaison between the players and the various sponsors at the events. It was clear Pagano, who was also eliminated from the Main Event a long time ago, was preparing for a long day of media work.

"I haven't seen her," I said. "But if you're here for an interview, they usually take place down there. She'll probably meet you down there later."

"No, I'm playing the High Roller," Pagano said.

I laughed. At the end of last season in Monaco, I was looking through a list of players for the €25,000 High Roller event and thought I saw Pagano's name. Later that day, I saw him walking down the promenade outside the Meridien Hotel, apparently on his way from the tournament room. I offered commiserations for what must have been a particularly early elimination from that nosebleed tournament, and Pagano looked askance. He didn't know what I was talking about.

Indeed, I knew (and Pagano knew that I knew) that he didn't play High Roller events. His ridiculously busy schedule as owner/manager of Pagano Events usually made him too busy for any non-contracted work, and he was also far too careful about his bankroll to enter the high cost, high variance world of High Roller tournaments. I'd been mistaken in Monte Carlo and it was pretty obvious this morning that he was having a typically dry Pagano joke.

"Yeah," I said. "Anyway, like I say, the interviews are down there. I'll tell her you're looking for her."

Pagano seemed slightly put out. "I really am playing the High Roller," he said and for a moment seemed like an exasperated parent, frustrated by the continual misbehaviour of a child who is simply refusing to step into line.

"Yeah," I said again, still disbelieving, and we went our separate ways.

Not for the first time, it seems I own Luca Pagano an apology. He is indeed playing the High Roller event today, for what may be one of the first times.

"He's in every pot," said Rich Ryan, who is providing the hand-by-hand coverage on our dedicated High Roller page. "Every time I walk past there's 10k in the pot and Luca in the hand."

Certainly Ryan's observation is borne out by Pagano's Twitter and Facebook updates. It seems he really is getting very heavily involved today.

The first update ran as follows: "High Roller Londra - come iniziare un torneo importante: bottone rilancia con 72, io chiamo con 44. Board: 77294. Al mio all-in al river, fa call dicendo "i run so bad today" pensando di aver perso.. Almeno gli ho individuato bene la carotide!"

And although our Italian isn't up to much, it seems this represented a pretty grim hand in which our hero rivers a boat with pocket fours and loses to a flopped bigger house by a button-raiser with seven-deuce. (Google Translate tells us that the last sentence means, "At least I know where is the right carotid artery," so I think that bit might be wrong.)

Pagano didn't go bust here, though, and so he decided to join the insanity himself. Not long after, he tweeted: "High Roller - Double Up! Raise mio con 32 utg. Call Katchalov con 45. Board Q322A. Oppo suka. E io faro' la fine di Gus Hansen.. (non benissimo)"

I think "oppo suka" means something like "reverse suck-out" and there's no mistaking the reference to Gus Hansen, who is the kind of player who might ordinarily be raising with three high from under the gun.

It'll be an education for all of us to see Pagano in this event, and long may it continue. As you might expect, the tournament is packed with talent. Pagano's table now features Sorel Mizzi, Stephen Chidwick, Fabian Quoss and Joni Jouhkimainen. Elsewhere, Jonathan Duhamel does battle with Benny Spindler, Timothy Adams, Andrew Chen, Yann Dion and Vicky Coren, while another table features Dimitar Danchev, Mike Watson, Steven Silverman, David Baker, Richard Yong and Frederick Jensen.

On a wander through the tables, I heard Jason Mercier begin a sentence with, "My first win in Sanremo," which may have sounded like a boast if the person he was speaking to was anyone other than Martin Finger, who can of course now match many of Mercier's achievements. They were just comparing notes.

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Jason Mercier: counting the titles

Follow all the action from the EPT London main event on the EPT London Main Event page, with chip counts and hand-by-hand reporting. Follow the High Roller event on the High Roller page. EPT Live is at EPT Live.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour