EPT8 Campione: New approach for Minieri about to pay off?
Chapter one of the book Italians of the EPT*, is about Luca Pagano. The cheerful champion of the Italian game has been one of the nation's success stories both on and off the table - this event is being run by Pagano events, for example. While he himself has never claimed to be one of the best players, his record speaks of a different story; one of 20 EPT cashes and seven final tables, testimony to a talented player, scoring consistently good results in a game that is always evolving.
While Pagano's rise has been steady, starting in the first ever EPT event in Barcelona in 2004, there exists another Italian player whose trajectory has been steeper, coming with frills and flashing lights and a nation of supporters. Let's call this bit Chapter Two - "Dario Minieri".
While Pagano is powered by a steady flow of grit, determination and the knack of making everyone like him, Minieri rides into an event, sometimes an hour late, on a rolling barrel of TNT; prone to falling off maybe but looking to make an impact worthy of his reputation. Pagano maybe a master, but Minieri is a maestro. Sure, sometimes it all goes off, ruining it (not least for Minieri), but the explosion tends to be pretty and at the very least memorable.
Today that Masetro is sick, coughing his way through a string of hands in the early levels, chiefly against Romano Lelli. It's the familiar sign of a Minieri moving through the gears, playing hand after hand in violation of what the books tell novices. This, along with an unpredictable style, has helped him to three final tables, finishing third in each. How far is he then from a first EPT win?
"I don't know," he said with a grin. "This time is going to be tough because the start wasn't very good."
Minieri was right of course, his stack slashed in half by virtue of his opening gambits. But that first win might now be a little closer, this event being just the latest since Minieri began a review of his own game, taking it apart and putting it back together again, with a few upgrades ("I try not to three bet so big as I used to").
It's a process he explained in Tallinn at the start of the season, and something he credits fellow Team PokerStars Pro Max Lykov with, promoting him to change direction after a poor EPT Season 7 and meagre World Series.
"I think you've got to learn from winning players," said Minieri, referring to Lykov. "So that's when I decided, after the World Series. I decided to review my game and change it a little bit. I'm a little bit upset that I didn't do that before. But when you see a great player, you learn a lot from him but playing him and improving your game."
It's a little strange to hear a player of Minieri's talents talking about the need for guidance, but refreshing at the same time; a long term outlook rather than a short sighted glance at the next available prize pool.
It's a continual process for Minieri, who, coughing and spluttering aside, is taking the small ball approach to injecting life into his game, an energy that has made him one of the most entertaining players to watch, albeit energy that sometimes costs him.
"I try to adapt to the table," said Minieri. "When there are loose players I try to play on them, to play a lot of pots in position with them, and to have some good hands."
Good hands? He's never needed them before. But this is the crucial stage for Minieri who in the past has either made the tournament his own on day one, or departed, smiling, to play the next tournament.
For now that's a kind of back to basics approach. "I'm happy to review my game after every hand, which is a lot of fun," he said. "Like when you first start to play poker."
But will this new approach pay dividends? The dividing line will be simple. If he's still on the chip count list at midnight tonight, expect this new Minieri to stick around. Then maybe we'll have the subject for Chapter Three.
* This book exists only in my head.