2008 World Series: The fastest gun in town

Dario Minieri just might be the most exciting poker player in the world. The Team PokerStars Pro from Rome, Italy, treats his chips as though they are on fire. He shoves them away from him at each and every opportunity, scorching a trail across the baize to the centre of the table where they spark and flame before often fusing onto others and coming right back his way. Repeat.

This breakneck approach means that Minieri is always one worth following, but sometimes you have to be quick. We have followed Minieri at countless tournaments over the years and know that it's always a gamble as to when we're going to write the "Dario post". It's so tempting to hold off until the later stages of the day, because if Minieri is still in at that point, we'll be able to include one of those terrific photographs of stacks and stacks of chips with two beady eyes, belonging to the pint-sized Pro, peering over the top.

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Sometimes, however, all you find is an empty seat. Minieri lives by the sword and is happy enough to die by it too. At the World Series in both 2006 and 2007, he had accumulated wheelbarrows full of chips deep into each tournament, but never took them further than 543rd and 96th, respectively. "Quick, get a photo. Dario has chips," is a phrase I've heard more than once, sometimes coming from my own lips.

But Minieri certainly knows that his fast and loose style can also prosper in spectacular fashion. He has made two EPT final tables, in Baden and San Remo, finishing third on both occasions, and this year won his first World Series bracelet, when he thundered his way through the field in the $2,500 short-handed event. That was good for $528,418, the highest cash of his career.

As he has risen to the top of his profession, Minieri has also collected nicknames and trademarks to match his fearsome reputation both online and off. He is never seen these days without the orange and red scarf of his beloved Roma football team, colours that bear a startling resemblance to those of Hogwart's School and have prompted many commentators less familiar with the Italian soccer leagues to refer to Minieri as the Harry Potter of poker. Rumours were even circulating early in this World Series that Minieri had bought himself a magic wand to wave over the table, adding an extra dimension to his Potter impersonation. (No photos exist, and the story is yet to be corroborated.)

It's all a far cry from the early days, and Minieri's first appearance at the World Series. Then, he was famously seated next to the wily veteran poker pro "Minneapolis" Jim Meehan, and the old-timer really didn't know what had hit him. Minieri seemed as though he'd never sunk a finger of rye in his life, but he was soon earning enough from Meehan to pay for several saloons and their entire contents. We snapped the photo below back at the 2006 Series, and it has stood the test of time.

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These days, Minieri is a superstar in his own right and has confounded just about every player along the way. Right now, in level two, he's still got something like his starting stack in front of him. We'll let you know once there is either a brick wall of chips or an empty seat in that spot. Give us about ten minutes.