PokerStars Championship Panama: Betting big on De Mario

Massimo De Mario isn't the biggest name in the field today, but he probably has the most attentive and passionate fans.

A victory for De Mario this event means big money for a lot of people. The 20-year-old German player placed 350-1 odds on himself to win the tournament and BetStars opened that bet to the public. De Mario plunked $50 down on himself to win and another $50 at 34-1 that he'd make the top 10.

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Massimo De Mario

This recognition is a big shift from De Mario's life just two years ago. Back then De Mario's poker horizon was limited to the city limits of Wiesbaden. He was 18 and excited to play in his local casino before a Spin & Go changed everything. Now de Mario's has played poker against some of the best players in multiple continents.

De Mario qualified to the inaugural PokerStars Bahamas Championship in a $10 Spin & Go. It was the largest tournament he'd ever played and did better than he expected.

"At first I was hoping to mincash," De Mario said. "But then Cliff Josephy said I was the best player at the table and I realized I could compete."

De Mario ended up making it all the way to 22nd and cashed for a smooth $24,000. It sparked some confidence in De Mario, enough to start betting on himself. De Mario qualified for his seat in Panama as well and then placed his 350-1 bet.

Technically, De Mario has the best odds of any player in the field here in Panama. That's partly because he's the only player with official betting odds. De Mario said a lot of his friends back home placed bets down and are anxiously hoping to score big. De Mario's $50 bet could earn him $17,500 while the $50 "Top 10" bet would earn him another $1,700.

De Mario is still in the game, but things got off to a rocky start. De Mario says he flopped the nut straight against Sam Greenwood in the first level, but Greenwood ended up hitting a flush on the river.

"I have about 40 bigs now," De Mario said. I have to play tight. It's not my game, but yeah, I have to do it."

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Regardless of how it goes here, this won't be the last time we'll see De Mario on the poker circuit. He wants to play Barcelona and Monte Carlo. Maybe Sochi too if he gets a chance.

De Mario is still so early in his career and life, that he's not able to attend all the events he wants to. At 20, De Mario said he said he's still too young to go to Macau or Vegas, but they're in his sights.

For now he's focused on his current gamble: The chance to take down the first PokerStars Championship in Panama and win money not just for himself, but for everyone taking a 350-1 shot on a young German that's Cliff Josephy approved.

Alexander Villegas is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.