Luca Pagano starts Day 4 of EPT Deauville in a position he’s well accustomed: in the money, with his sights set on the final table and at the top of the EPT Tournament Leaderboard. The Italian Team PokerStars Pro sat down this afternoon with 344,000, some way below average, having lost a large pot last night of around 550,000 when his pocket nines were cracked by a raggy aggressive ace.
He’s already got off to a solid start here today recouping those losses but whatever position Pagano finishes in he will have accrued sufficient points to overtake team mate Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier at the top of the EPT Tournament Leaderboard having scored a record 20th cash. His closest rival for that is ElkY who is tied alongside Nicolo Calia, Joao Barbosa and Pierre Neuville with 11 apiece.
We tend to use terms such as ‘a regular face’ or ‘old hand’ to describe the players that have been frequenting the EPT for the last few seasons but with Pagano that simply wouldn’t do him justice. He’s been here since the very start, since EPT Barcelona in 2004, and has cashed in every single season along the way. He is the EPT.
That first EPT had 229 runners buying in for €1,000 each, a far cry from the main events of today. Pagano finished in 3rd there for a princely sum of €20,000, a piffling amount compared to final table payouts that players receive today. A lot has changed, for instance players 27th through to 19th received their buy-in back, but Pagano has moved with the game cashing in every single season along the way to score a record 20 main event cashes. Despite making six final tables the personable Pagano has failed to cross that final hurdle – he’s yet to make it to heads up. In terms of finishing position he’s yet to beat that third-place finish in the inaugural EPT main event. But it’s certainly not for the lack of trying.
We caught up with him to see what it feels like to be back on top of the EPT Tournament Leaderboard.
“You know that ElkY is a very good friend of mine but to get the TLB here in France is like a treat,” Pagano rubs his fingers together as if to savour the flavour. “But he’s going to have a chance to get it back in Italy in Campione.”
Ever the businessman, Pagano takes the option to push EPT Campione (March 26-31), which his company Pagano Events is helping promote. Alongside his cashing record the Italian has also notched up the most final tables, an incredible six. What are the chances of Pagano making that seven here in Deauville?
“I think that I’ll need to catch some good cards and double up two or three times. We’re going to play down to 24 players and even though I’m below the average I still have some room to play,” he said, typically optimistic.
Pagano started today with 334,000, which equates to almost 28 big blinds, and is already up to 770,000 having won two key pots without showdown. Let’s face it, he was unlikely to punt them off with a gutshot. A player on the tighter side of the game, but certainly not as much of a rock as many would suggest, Pagano really loves the game as a poker purist. To say that he wasn’t a fan of the way his opponent played his raggy ace late last night would be an understatement.
“It’s not just that I missed out a million stack but it’s the way that players sometimes play their hands. He pushed four-bet from the big blind with ace-seven,” said Pagano, his face clearly showing his disapproval.
“I was in the small blind. The button raised to 22,000, I re-raised to 58,000 from the small blind and the guy in the big blind decided to push for 250,000. Honestly if he was going to make that move with a hand like queen-jack or jack-ten then I would have understood it a little bit better. If you do that kind of move with ace-seven and you get called, which is very likely, at least it is if you’ve noticed how I’m playing, then you’re running three outs.
“He told me that he’d won and lost lots of big pots including a six-bet all-in with a pair of eights. He probably has more chance to win the tournament playing llike that but in the long run I think he’d probably get in trouble,” said Pagano.
He’s back above average and quite frankly you’d be a fool betting against him making the cut for the final 24. Final table number seven, here he comes.
Career live tournament winnings: $1,910,705
Number of EPT cashes: 20
EPT final tables: 6
Place on the all-time leaderboard: 1
EPT Tournament Leaderboard (before EPT Deauville)
Minimum points Pagano will finish the event with: 5,210
Moments after posting this article Pagano’s tear continued as he rocketed into the chip lead with 2,239,000. Another instance of the PokerStars Blog golden touch.