PCA 2012: Patient, poised, powerful Pagano
The story started ten years ago. As PokerStars was opening its virtual doors for the first time a young Italian was making a $50 deposit which 10 years later would make him one of the most accomplished Italian players of the game.
The stories of PokerStars and Pagano have been intricately linked since then.
Pagano, through curiosity bred on the play money tables and the occasional trip across the border to a Slovenian casino in Nova Gorica, made that first online deposit, swiftly grasping the complexities of the game and -- this bit is key -- making money.
Playing predominantly limit hold'em, Pagano was soon expanding his bank roll. Then, adapting his limit knowledge to no-limit, Pagano took that knowledge to Barcelona, Spain, where the newly created European Poker Tour (See Bath tub; Duthie, John) was about to be unwrapped. Pagano finished third in what would be an historic event.
Luca Pagano then...
But that was just the start of it.
Flash forward nearly ten years and Pagano was last night sitting at the feature table, his stack big enough to see from the spectator area, a can of coke on the table beside him.
In the past Pagano has brought Italian flare to his attire, a degree of Sprezzatura- what Baldassare Castiglione defined as well, making it all look easy -- whether it was the handmade shirts, the neat haircut, the shined shoes, the subtle flash of jewellery or the purple and yellow velour track suit, and always impeccably mannered. Actually Castiglione might have winced at the velour.
Luca Pagano now...
It was all in marked contrast to yesterday.
Here Pagano was playing with one leg flung over the other, wearing a white hoodie from a PokerStars player bag that looked a size too big, comfortable trousers you might wear on a Sunday, and some trainers. He'd never looked so at ease.
And why not. This is hardly the first time Pagano has had to shield his eyes from the lights above a TV table. Since that first cash in Spain in season one, Pagano's prowess has become almost legendary. This, we should point out, is his 19th EPT cash, a record by some way that puts him in second place behind Bertrand Grospellier on the EPT tournament leader board. Of those 19 cashes, an incredible six have been at final tables, and yet that first EPT win still eludes him. To keep his hand in he likes to win other events just to stay loose (All Stars of Poker in May 2010, $265,904; IPT San Remo in July 2011, $302,110).
Pagano is back today and back on the feature table, albeit three seat to the right of where he was last night. He still wears the hoodie, his hair is not particularly styled in any way. The only difference is his stack, higher now, with a million in sight.
Pagano is poised to prove a lot before this week is through. First he has to survive the day and reach the last 24. Should he do that, returning tomorrow, Pagano will be a table away from finishing with enough points to topple ElkY at the top of the TLB. Then, who knows.
Could one of the tour's greatest players about to write one of its most amazing stories?
We'll find out soon enough.