EPT8 Campione: Looking back on the first Italian EPT

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It was a bright, sunny afternoon on the Italian Riviera and final table day in the first Italian European Poker Tour main event. The ocean sparkled under the glare of the sun, scooters whizzed by at youthful speeds and beautiful people, wearing beautiful things, were about to spend the next few hours of their day looking beautiful. This wasn't the start of the day though it was the end. The sun was still up, dinner had yet to be served and the final table of EPT San Remo was wrapped up in record time.

Apocryphal stories exist of the speed of that day, with some suggesting Jason Mercier had that event sewn up in less than two hours. The truth is more like four hours, but the point still stands. It had been a lightning fast final. It had also been one of its best.

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Dario Minieri at the final table in San Remo

The line-up went some way towards that, with Dario Minieri and Erik Koskas tangling brilliantly, and William Thorson putting on an epic display. It's easy to say that Mercier's appearance added a degree of languorous flair, but this was 2008. Mercier was an unknown coming to Italy to play his first EPT, just a lanky young man from Florida in a baseball cap wondering what all the fuss was about. Until he won that is; giving Italy a memorable final, and turning himself into a member of poker's aristocracy.

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Jason Mercier wins EPT San Remo (note the daylight)

Flash forward four years (and $6.3 million more dollars in Mercier's case) and Italian poker is out of its infancy and into adolescence, complete with hissy fits, occasional outburst of petty violence and the hand gestures of a Serie A footballer.

Even the Italian media have developed somewhat, or have at least try to temper a blatant bias towards their home boys and girls. In Season 4 they brought a bed sheet to the press room on which was painted a hastily written message of good will directed at finalist Dario Minieri. Then they hung it in the press room where he wouldn't see it. Now they make their devotion obvious and high-five their countrymen as they play.

That was four years ago. Italian players are now among the most populous on the EPT, although to date they can claim just one winner (more on that tomorrow). For now they'll be good for drama on and off the table, although the final on Saturday may take long than two three four hours.

Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in Campione