WSOP 2011: Has Minieri lost his magic?

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What it takes to win the World Series of Poker main event is a subject that could be debated for hours; probably days, without a single satisfactory answer. But those with experience of this kind of thing could probably point out a few key factors, and while I'm not one of them, it doesn't rely on clothing or a lack of facial hair.

It would be fair to say though that talent, coupled with a significant degree of skill will take you part of the way. The rest is made up of a slice of good fortune and not running into Jerry Yang.

Purists pine for the natural champion, the best player in the room emerging victorious, or at least from the top tier of the game. In Dario Minieri, who plays today, they have just that.

Or do they?

If you scan back through all the posts about the young Italian over the course of the last few years it's invariably me who has sung the praises. I am an unashamed Minierist, inspired like a child watching old newsreel of long forgotten sporting heroes, of those incendiary ten-hand-in-a-row spells Minieri would perform after arriving late, or the junk hands he would turn over to defeat the well-meaning player who had read every book on his way to this point only to be busted by some mischievous kid. Now though the shine of Minieri has suffered after an EPT season without a cash finish, and a World Series with the same tally.

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Dario Minieri

Minieri already knows that it's like to win World Series gold, picking a bracelet in 2008 when aged just 23. The Italian may have grown out of his baby face, and the references to Harry Potter are now a little old. Minieri has also wised up a bit, more mature at the table, less likely to spark into life prematurely, waiting until the initial stages of a major event are navigated, with chips in the bank, before that familiar foreign English beats opponents about the ears.

But there remains the sense that Minieri isn't the player he once was, yet to recapture the form that would infuriate, fascinate and inspire at the same time.

Has life got in the way? The appeal of a world beyond the one that involves sitting in front of a computer screen playing heads-up poker hour after hour. Perhaps it's the view looking out from that Porsche Cayman S that he bought with Frequent Player Points all those years ago but is yet to learn to drive?

Rubbish. The man is brilliant. My tip for a Las Vegan return in November.

STOP PRESS: Minieri down to 10,000 chips.

****

ELIMINATION OF THE HOUR
Brazilian Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari who will only be winning one WSOP bracelet this year

ANALYSIS OF THE HOUR
Man: "It doesn't look like there are many people in here."
Woman #1: "You have to remember, this is FOUR DAYS."
Woman #2: "I KNOW. It's Day 2!"

UNIMAGINATIVE CHANT OF THE HOUR
"Po-ker! Po-ker! Po-ker!" --Railbird with a salad.

DECISION OF THE HOUR
Daniel Negreanu: "It's decided: Day 1C broke it down and it makes the most logical sense to play tomorrow.Also decided I will not be doing Rocky marathon."

FORMER SPORTS STAR OF THE HOUR
Teddy Sheringham, the former England, Manchester United and Tottenham footballer, is sitting in the orange section and going along nicely with about 40,000 chips. He's a handy poker player, having cashed for $118,000 at EPT Vilamoura last season for his fifth-place finish.

NO PROP BETS OF THE HOUR
Not a single player in today's field is dressed up in daft clothing. Yesterday we had Snow White and a couple of blokes in bathrobes, presumably the result of lost prop bets.

RANDOM STAT OF THE HOUR
Players from 124 different nations played in the WSOP in 2008, the highest number on record.