EPT10 Grand Final: Bouncing Bonavena puts bliss back in bubble

Even grown men with more than $2.7 million in live tournament earnings can become mere boys when poised to min cash on a Main Event bubble. Perhaps we were overly pessimistic when we suggested in Vienna that the bubble's bubble had actually burst. Evidence today would suggest the contrary.

As crowds gathered around the table of what would ultimately prove the last hand of hand for hand play, the face of one man peeked over shoulders, gleefully willing the all-in player to depart. That man was Salvatore Bonavena.

There are certain players in the evolution of modern poker responsible for kick starting a boom of some kind, echoes of which can still be heard today. Bonavena triggered that explosion in Italy, winning EPT Prague in Season 5. The Italian poker landscape would be forever changed.

Flash forward five years and Bonavena could right now be counted among those to whom a min-cash means the world. He grinned, then grimaced, as poor Agshin Rasulov was dealt his fate. Then, joy erupted.

As arms punched the air and a round of applause, largely from the rather sporting dealers, rippled across the far end of the tournament room, Bonavena returned to his seat a changed man. He had faced peril face first and had survived. On went the hat, as well as a velvet jacket, from which a handkerchief featured proudly. Everything that happened today and forever more would be bathed in happiness.


Salvatore Bonavena after his win in Prague

And so he shoved on the first hand back at his table. "Come on, come on," he said, happily trying to cajole others to join in this relief filled shove and call his 22,500. He wanted a caller but didn't get one. So he sat down again, but higher and more upright than normal, perched high up, looking down on everyone. The poker was fun again.

He looked around for people to share this glee with but he couldn't find anyone. The grin though wasn't going anywhere. Now he was tossing a chip in the air, then spinning it on the table. Then finally he saw a friend approaching, coming to check up on him.

"It's okay!" he said to the man, who raised a triumphant fist in the air. Bonavena laughed. Could this €19,200 mean more to him than the €774,000 he'd won in Prague?

Next to him Grzegorz Wyraz opened in the small blind. Bonavena stared at him and, with a certain degree of comic flair, looked into his eyes, trying to get a "read". Then he called all-in, lumping his chips in, flipping over a pair of tens.

Wyraz, who didn't flinch through any of this, turned over queen-seven. Bonavena was ecstatic. But then a queen landed on the flop, and another on the turn. What was this? Bonavena was back in poker player mode, bemoaning this massive injustice, at least for a second or two. Then calm returned. He extended a fist towards Wyraz - not in the old fashioned way, hoping to connect with his chin, but in the modern way, whereby the other person does the same until they meet.

And so Bonaneva followed the dealer towards the pay-out desk. Gone was the irritation, replaced by the grin again, one that may take a while to disappear.

All the hand-by-hand action, including chip counts, will be in the panel at the top of the main event page. We will have feature pieces below that.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.