WSOP 2012: I can confirm that Salvatore Bonavena doesn't speak English


I can confirm that Salvatore Bonavena does not speak English.

The Italian, wearing his familiar leather jacket and with his hair slicked back, saw me coming and smiled, shaking my hand. Bonavena is a regular on the European Poker Tour and that's my patch. I figured it was about time we tried a conversation.

So, using elaborate hand gestures (surely an Italian would appreciate that?), and choosing my words carefully, I asked him how things were going...

SB: "All good here?"
Bonavena: "Good, good, I'm in Pavillion"

Then how many years he'd played the main event...

SB: You play before? (pointing over my shoulder to demonstrate "last year")
Bonanvena: "Two, two..."

With things going so well I joked that should he go on to win the main event Italy would go mad with joy. To signify joy I threw my arms into the air. Bonavena winced then smiled politely, before patting me on the arm and making his way back to his seat.

Team PokerStars Pro Salvatore Bonavena

This must be how celebrities and notable people live their lives on a daily basis, enduring the occasional lunatic wandering up to talk gibberish for as long as they can bear to listen.

But the Italian has been an enigma to many of us on the European circuit, someone beyond our range apart from a few conversations carried out with the help of the Italian media, who are happy to translate when the cause it to celebrate one of their own.

The Bonavena riddle began in Prague in Season 5 of the EPT, when the then unknown amateur from Cessaniti shocked everyone to become the first Italian winner on the tour. He celebrated and every Italian poker player in town celebrated with him, even the players he'd personally eliminated at the final table, each of them appearing in the winner's photo, a trend that continues to this day.

The Bonavena effect was huge, opening the doors to legions of Italian players who have dazed and confused opponents ever since, believing a second title is rightfully theirs. Their occasional bouts of unorthodox play have become hallmarks of the Italian game.

But, despite suggestions that he was merely a one-hit wonder - a flash in the pan - Bonavena has proved his detractors wrong. While others have used dash and recklessness to scorch their way to fleeting success, Bonavena has gone the distance, adding an Italian Poker Tour title to his record in 2010, while reaching the penultimate table of the EPT Grand Final in Season 7. So far, that's all worth nearly $2.3 million. Some flash. Some pan.

So today "SalBon" plays on. Could he become the first ever Italian Main Event winner? That depends on things out of the control of the smiling Italian in the leather jacket. But I wouldn't be surprised. Perhaps he wouldn't be either. But for his sake, I'll take a translator along when the time comes to ask him.



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