EPT10 Sanremo: The only thing better than playing poker is talking about it. Just ask Raul Mestre
There was a moment back in Season 5 when it looked like Raul Mestre might become Spain's first EPT champion. With two tables left at EPT Prague he was one of only two players with anything like proven ability (the other being Andrew Chen), and Mestre, who had shone during the preliminaries, was tipped for greatness at the final table.
But as we now know things didn't go that way for Mestre, who departed in eighth place (Chen exited in third), leaving the title and glory instead to a first Italian winner by the name of Salvatore Bonavena. Bonavena's win revolutionised the Italian game, its effects still visible today. Spain meanwhile waits impatiently for a first title.
For Mestre it would be three years before he cashed again, when he went even deeper at EPT Barcelona, falling short again, this time in fourth place.
But on both occasions Mestre was impressing regardless. He is widely known as one of the game's thinkers both in Spain and across Europe, and his results, including wins on the international stage, serve as evidence as to why.
Highly rated by both the media and his fellow professionals in Spain, Mestre's is a senior figure in the Spanish poker fraternity, always ready to discuss hands in great depth with anyone who loves poker as he does.
"I'd go as far as to say that I love the studying and discussing poker more than playing itself," admitted Mestre, who writes articles and a regular blog. "I really like that a lot. I know I'll be around poker for a long time. If I'm not a big player making thousands every year I'll be discussing hands and learning about the game."
Perhaps it's this love of the game - whether he's winning or losing - that keeps him sharp and forever focused on the task at hand. Mestre might not play many EPTs - his job running a poker company doesn't always allow for ten day breaks to play the festivals - but when he does he's a threat.
So it's hardly surprising that, back on the EPT after a hiatus, he is the chip leader at the second break, albeit losing to a flush on the hand before the break.
"Everything's going more than well," said Mestre. "You can't let your mind slip away because you lose a pot. I'm lucky enough to have a stack big enough. I lost 10,000 in the last hand but that's not so bad when you have 110,000."
This year might be different for Mestre, who plans to dedicate more time to playing the EPT. He's already proven that when he plays he can challenge anyone with a deep run. So work permitting it might be the year Mestre makes a mark on the tour, perhaps even ending the long wait for a first Spanish winner.
Full coverage of EPT Sanremo is on the main EPT Sanremo page. There's hand-by-hand coverage in the panel at the top and feature pieces below.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.