EPT11 Malta: My dad's bigger than your dad. Fact.


John Citrone, standing, keeps watchful eye on his son, Carlo

You absolutely wouldn't know it to look at him today, but there's a superstar inside the EPT Malta tournament room this afternoon.

John Citrone has come to watch his son play poker. The British family have a holiday home on the island, and this is the first time Citrone Sr. has ever seen a poker tournament play out live, despite Citrone Jr. being one of the UK's most prominent players for the past ten years.

But John is no stranger to the highest levels of competition. He is a former Mr Universe, one of the very first bodybuilders ever to pursue the pastime at a serious level. Today he is wearing a tan jacket, beige trousers and a black shirt -- a normal British holidaymaker on a chilly day in the Mediterranean -- but a quick Google, or a glance at his son's iPhone, reveals a gallery of pictures of a super-pumped bodybuilder, veins and muscles bulging in what appears to be something out of a fantasy movie.

But it's for real, the result of a life dedicated to honing a body to an almost superhuman state. "He's got seven world championships in different disciplines," Carlo said. "I wish it was poker. We wouldn't have to work."


John Citrone in his bodybuilding days

John, who is now 71, took up bodybuilding when he was 14 and has enjoyed a career spanning more than 50 years. He has competed against the very best in the, well, universe and is revered as a legend in the bodybuilding world.

"I've been up against Arnold Schwarzenegger," he said today.


Citrone and his old sparring partner Arnold Schwarzenegger

In 2004, he won the Mr Universe Masters title, a contest for over 50s, at the age of 61, adding that to four "regular" titles he had already earned.

Bodybuilding is still an amateur sport, meaning John has won no prize money throughout his career, but earning his income through offering training and nutritional advice to other aspiring musclemen and women.

He is distinctly underwhelmed by the dizzying sums on offer in poker. Carlo just told him that he was standing among the High Rollers, who had paid €10,000 to enter a tournament, but John shrugged it off. He occasionally looked over to the table at which his son was still plugging away with a short stack among the final 30, but said he "has never been into gambling".

Then it was Carlo's turn to shrug. "He still thinks it's gambling," he said.


Carlo explains the finer points to his father

Carlo has live tournament winnings of close to $1 million, but is already now guaranteed his best finish in an EPT main event. He looked down at a short stack and said, "I could use a double up." But with 30 left, he is already guaranteed €19,750 and seems delighted with his progress.

He also knows that even though Hossein Ensan is the man flexing the muscles at the table at the moment, recently extending his chip lead to more than 2.2 million, if they have to arm-wrestle for the title, Citrone Sr is going to wipe the floor with all these weeds.

Follow coverage of the EPT Malta Main Event on the EPT Malta Main Event page. There are plenty of side events going on, and the €10,000 High Roller starts at 1pm. Keep abreast of everything via the EPT App, available on Android or IOS. Snigger, snigger. He said "a-breast".

*Archive photos used with permission from John Citrone. www.johncitrone.co.uk

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour