EPT8 Campione: What's that got to do with the price of tea?
If you need refreshment while playing EPT Campione the Casino have kindly laid on a few options. There's mineral water, bottles of the stuff, free for you to help yourself. There's also tea and coffee, but only the coffee is free, the tea isn't.
I'm not sure what is behind this prejudice, although it may explain the odd looks from serving staff we English receive when ordering tea (a major food group since the reign of William III) when there's so much free coffee to be had.
Then there are the sandwiches, plentiful and tasty and of no discernible price. The same delicious ham and cheese sandwich which cost €7.50 on Monday was €9 yesterday. Today I gave the man €10 and received three silver coins in return. They don't look valuable, although one was made in 1969, and is perhaps worth about €2.50 at auction.
These are just trivial inconsistencies visitors must deal with, along with the large non-smoking area full of smokers you have to pass through to reach the smoking area. The differences at the tables are far more dramatic, as anyone who has encountered the Italian revolution in poker will recognise.
Italy has produced some top draw poker players, including those here this week. The likes of Luca Pagano, Dario Minieri, Max Pescatori and Andrea Benelli compete at the highest levels, with considerable success. Then there are others, whose approach to the game is more passionate than most.
There is something within the Italian psyche that loosens the inhibitions of a player enough to express themselves in ways others wouldn't (in the UK it's called alcohol), like shouting or hand gestures. It's something even the best players have to adapt to, like a vet, used to worming cats, asked to do the same for a Bengal tiger.
"It's very fun, they're very friendly people," said Rupert Elder, whose EPT win came on Italian soil, back in San Remo in 2011. "Some of them are very aggressive in spots you wouldn't expect people to be aggressive. Some of them are very passive, like the recreational players."
Tossing diplomacy aside, Elder described some of the locals. There are the aggressive ones (which he claims tend more often than not to have beards), the younger ones, 'team pros' of sites the rest of us might overlook, and who, while shrewd, get "creative". Then there are those of a certain age who are passive in general. Elder didn't say what they looked like.
Elder is just one of many with their own stories of playing in Italy. But one thing they rarely mention is their value entertainment wise.
Italian players can be among the most fun to watch, playing a seat-of-the-pants style of poker, hardly the stuff of books, but in an unpretentious manner that is as endearing as it is reckless.
Regardless of your take on this, the public demonstrations of irritation, emotion and sheer unadulterated joy (often between competing players at the same table) has brought a splash of colour to the European game, ever since the tricolour draped Salvatore Bonavena, on winning his EPT title and sitting down to have his picture taken, was mobbed by a crown of Italians as delighted as he was at his achievement.
Salvatore Bonavena (centre) with Italy
It was a lesson to everyone not to under-estimate the sheer momentum of an Italian player on a roll (see Andrew Chen in the picture below).
Bonavena (and, curiously, Massimo Di Cicco) celebrates, as Andrew Chen (centre) experiences first hand the full force of an Italian revolution
Not that we trade in stereotypes, of course. That would be like suggesting that the English were fussy about their tea.