WSOP Main Event Day 2A: Baggio, Botticelli, Bonavena
Travel back with us to Prague, Christmas in 2008. It's freezing cold outside with snow coming down sideways and gusts of winds blowing the faces off of people bracing themselves against the season of good will. Despite this the town had come to life with Christmas markets, mulled wine, carols, more of that mulled wine please, hot food and tourists buying gifts for the folks back home. The European Poker Tour is also in town.
One of those tourists was a Housing Officer from Cessaniti in southern Italy named Salvatore Bonavena. When Bonavena arrived in Prague he was an amateur poker player with a few good results from small scale tournaments across Italy. When he left he had beaten the likes of Luca Pagano and Dario Minieri to be nearly a million dollars richer and Italy's first EPT champion.
Italy, with Bonavena (center)
The effect was huge. Not only did he become a cult favourite on the tour but Italian poker came alive.
To begin with it seemed that half of Italy had come to the Czech Republic with him and most of them joined Bonavena on the table to celebrate in the official victory photo, ignoring protocol to embrace their new hero. Italian players had played their first EPT en masse, and overnight changed the record books.
Other Italian players have since gone on to success but Bonavena himself didn't care to put the brakes on.
The following month he reached the final table of the Italian Championship in Sanremo before recording his first World Series cash a few months later in the 2009 Main Event, earning $40,288 in 157th place.
Back home Bonavena simply picked up where he left off, winning the Sisal Italian Champions of Poker event in Sanremo in December 2009 and then an Italian Poker Tour event in Venice in January 2010, worth another $224,781, becoming the first person to win both EPT and IPT tournaments.
Then, working his way through the EPT season, he narrowly missed out on the final table of the Monte Carlo Grand Final, finishing 11th and narrowly missed another IPT final in San Marino.
Bonavena's charge looked impossible to stop and he brought some of that momentum to Las Vegas this summer. As the world prepared for the 2010 Main Event to begin Bonavena entered the $2,500 no-limit hold'em tournament. With a field of nearly 2,000 Bonavena deployed standard Italian finesse, hot-stepping his way through the field with a dazzling display that was worthy of fourth place. Add $254,777 to the bank of Bonavena
And so to today: Bonavena, a PokerStars sponsored player, started day two with 32,825. I saw him earlier with 32,000 and just now, not able to see him short-brimmed trilby and reading glasses, assumed he had busted. No, he's still there, sitting with 31,000.
That's what I'm talking about. May the adventures of Sal-Bon continue.
PHOTO OF THE HOUR
PokerStars player Arthur Bailey. Complete with golf gloves
CHAMPION WATCH OF THE HOUR
Joe Cada: 70,000
Chris Moneymaker 112,000
Tom McEvoy: 0
EXPLANATION OF THE HOUR
Brad Willis, noting Chris Moneymaker's double up: "You decided to play a hand?"
Chris Moneymaker: "Found the only hand I could play."
Willis: "Which was?"
Opponent: "But it was suited."
Moneymaker: "It was suited. I got tired of folding."
OVERHEARD PHONE CONVERSATION OF THE HOUR
"It's a great experience. I mean, what was I going to do with $10,000? Blow it on cash games at home, that's what."
CONTROVERSY OF THE HOUR
Matt Nieberg headed off to the break about 30 seconds before the clock officially ran down. He had "no less than 20,000, no more than 22,000" when he left. Twenty minutes later, he came back to the table and found no chips in front of his chair. Not one. Zero. His stack was gone.
For fairly obvious reasons, Nieberg did not consider this to be a positive development and asked the tournament officials to review the video tape to determine where the chips had gone. About 15 minutes passed before a security official returned, counted 22,000 out of the stack of Karib Omar, Nieberg's neighbour, and gave them to Nieberg. "You took them," the tournament official said.
Omar apologised for what seemed to be a genuine mistake. "It was an accident, an accident," Omar said. He explained the obvious: that it wasn't exactly the kind of thing you could expect to get away with. Omar was not issued with a penalty or anything, and everyone was satisfied that is had been a genuine mistake. Nieberg, however, held his hands cautiously over his chips. "These chips are not leaving my sight."
DOUBLE UP OF THE HOUR
On the hand immediately after Nieberg had received his chips back, Grayson "spacegravy" Physioc, sitting in the two seat (with Omar and Nieberg in the three and four), open shoved all in for 10,500.
Omar called him instantly and everyone else folded. Physioc had K♥9♥ and was up against Omar's 8♦8♣. The flop came 7♥6♣J♦ but the K♣ turned to put the Team Online member Physioc back in the game.
DISCUSSION OF THE HOUR
"What about if we're all in the pot and the board comes jack, jack, jack, jack? Do we all get the jerky?" - Players muse on a possible beef jerky bonanza. A Jack Link's swag-bag is awarded for any player with quad jacks.