IPT7 Malta2 Day 1A: Luca Pagano - more than a poker player

As we wrote in our introduction post, the Italian Poker Tour is in its seventh season and still going strong. The online Italian market isn't as buoyant as it used to be but the Italians, maybe more than any other European nation, love live poker for its social aspect.

There is also no doubting that the IPT, like other national tours such as the UKIPT and Estrelles, have benefited from pairing up on occasion with the EPT to create a festival. It's almost got to the point now that we'll start having to call these stops super festivals due to the amount of events - 76 alone this week in Malta - and the amount of players who come through the doors (22,696 played the last stop in Barcelona, for example).

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Today, Pagano is just a poker player

Day 1A of the IPT is a few levels into play and we caught up with Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano, the man who helped form and helps run and promote the tour. He talked to the blog about the IPT, his relationship with PokerStars and business and poker aspirations.

"For myself, today going very well so far (60,000 at the time of publishing). I've was lucky in the very beginning and I've been playing pretty aggressively. The table is very good in the sense that they tend to be a bit more passive. Honestly, as it's been a while since I've been back at the tables playing, I'm now feeling more comfortable with my game and it seems as if uck has listened to this. It getting better together with my confidence but we'll see! I'm not going to win the tournament today (unfortunately) but if I can make it through properly we can have some fun through the coming days.

Pagano made the final table of the very first EPT event in Barcelona back in 2004 and a relationship was formed that has lasted to this day.

"I've been with PokerStars for more than a decade now probably. I'm a poker player, consultant and business partner with them. It's a relationship we've been able to build on respect and trust for each other. Obviously I'm still very attached the Scheinberg family - who I'm very grateful to - but also the management that is now in charge, who is giving me the opportunity to organise and promote the IPT as I would like to.

The poker world had gone through a lot of changes in the last few years. Many only see the problems, a few see the opportunities that these challenges open up.

"Where this partnership is going to be in the next ten years, I don't know - well, let's say, I have a few ideas - but I cannot comment at the moment. Some nice surprises are coming though. There are a lot of things we can do in the poker industry. I like what (Alex) Dreyfus is trying to achieve; I'm rooting for him. He's hitting some very good goals in the right ways although he might be wrong about some things. I'm his biggest supporter though and hope he'll achieve what he's trying to do.

For Pagano it seems that his personal development is just as important as developing his business interests.

"On my side, I'm an entrepreneur as well and I've learned from others' successes and failures. It definitely an area I'm spending a lot of time and energies on. So, where an I going to be with PokerStars in the next years? I'll let you know very soon!

Fellow Team Pro Johnny Lodden cashed in EPT Barcelona to draw level on Pagano with 20 cashes. The Italian was, for a long time, well clear and still hold the record on final table appearances with seven but, a winning performance on the IPT - San Remo in 2011 - remains the achievement he's most proud of.

"That victory kind of satisfied my poker appetite in the sense that I was really looking forward to winning a major tournament. After that I relaxed at the tables and I focused on many other things. Again, I'm an entrepreneur and that's where I'm really focusing on at the moment. I had, and still have the opportunity, to go back to the books and am taking some important executive courses.

Now I feel like it's time to go back to the tables properly and get some other good results. Johnny Lodden has reached the twenties in cashes on the EPT, like me, so now we are in competition! I'm still leading with the amount of final tables but I'm still missing a victory. Let's say that's going to be my very next goal!"

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The venue should be easy to find

Main Event update:

Pagano went back to join the 209 other players that have sat down for Day 1A so far. The atmosphere in the room is quite calm, due to the fact that less than half the room is in use. The players should embrace the calm as it will be anything but in a few days time.

Day ones on the IPT are played out over twelve 45-minute levels, with a 75-minute dinner break after level 9. Play is due to finish around 11:15pm. The players start with 25,000 chips and David Martin has jumped out into an early lead with 68,000. Pagano, Alessio Peciarolo, Maksim Shulga and Ben Wilinofsky all passed 50,000 chips too through the first four levels.

The last of these players failed to make the break though. Former EPT Berlin champion Wilinofsky, managed to go from 52,000 to zero in quick time. He was one of 13 players to but so far.

Some late entries we'll keep an eye on include: Russell Thomas, Kitty Kuo, Kevin Killeen, Darah Davey, Jackie Cachia, Davide Suriano, Andrew Chen and Rasmus Agerskov.

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Too swingy a day for Wilinofsky

For full details of the festival, click here.

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Updates provided by Marc Convey, with photos coming from René Velli and
Tomáš Stacha.

Marc Convey
@The_Conv in European Poker Tour