Six years since his last appearance in a live poker tournament, Simone Ferretti is back in the game — and he could not have scripted a better comeback. The 39-year-old Tuscan won the 30th PokerStars Italian Poker Open (IPO), in Nova Gorica, Slovenia last week, and with his €105,000 first prize picked up a Platinum Pass to the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) in Barcelona next August.
Ferretti, who goes by “Ferros80” on PokerStars.it, is a former professional footballer, who became a coach when injury cut short his playing career. He was introduced to poker by some fellow players about 12 years ago, and quickly fell in love with the game and became a well-known face in Italian poker circles. Between 2009 and 2013, he won four titles and amassed around $290,000 in cashes. But he subsequently took a break from the tournament game, admitting that he “did not manage his winnings very well”, before his dramatic comeback last week.
We grabbed a few minutes with Ferretti, a married father of three, immediately after he completed victory in Nova Gorica, and asked him about those missing years, and also to hear what his plans are now that he has a confirmed seat in what is set to be one of 2020’s most spectacular tournaments.
Hi Simone. Congratulations on your victory. That was a really intense final table.
Greetings to all PokerStars friends and Blog readers. Indeed it was a difficult final table and a hard-fought victory. Usually, in this type of tournament, the composition of the final table is a little softer but today there were two excellent live players [Andrei Roscan and Riera], three Italian regulars [Alessandro Giannelli, Roberto Canali and Francesco Elefante] and even the runner-up Sebastiano Scarcelli, despite not being a well-known name, put a lot of pressure on me until the last hand. I had a difficult start, then I recovered and in the end I managed to bring home the result. I have to say that, compared with the past, I can now manage difficult mental situations, like a bad beat, much better.
You referred to the past. You had a lot of good results before 2013 and then, all of a sudden, nothing for six years. What happened?
Many things, but in all fairness I have to admit that I did not manage my winnings very well. I never completely stopped playing poker. I focused mainly on cash games. Besides being the kind of poker I prefer, the main reason is that in 2013 poker began its decline in Italy. Big sponsorships were over and without that money it was impossible to play €2,000 buy-in tournaments regularly. Recently, though, I discovered the low buy-in tournament circuit – the only one left in Italy – and it seemed interesting to me, with a fairly “soft” field. I wanted to play live MTTs again and I said to myself that maybe, if I updated my poker knowledge a bit, I could get some results.
And you did. Six years after your last cash, you finished fourth in the Italian Series of Poker Main Event and immediately afterwards came the victory here at the Nova Gorica Perla Casino, which also earned you a Platinum Pass. How do you feel about all this?
Well, of course I’m very happy. Tired, but very happy! I’m still trying to focus on what I’ve done. Winning a PokerStars tournament is a dream that every Italian player wants to achieve. In the past I won a major tournament, “La Notte degli Assi”, but winning a PokerStars event is a completely different thing. Add the Platinum Pass to that, and we enter the realm of dreams.
This tournament took place in Slovenia, but there has also been a revival of live poker in Italy. What do you think of the IPO-PokerStars partnership?
It’s true, we are in Slovenia, but it’s normal for all Italian players to come to Nova Gorica to play poker. IPO-PokerStars is a great combination, no doubt about it. On the one hand, there’s a tour that has never missed a guarantee, attracting fields of more than 3,000 people and offering six-figure first prizes. PokerStars also now provides the Platinum Pass, a ticket for a tournament that can change the life of any player and, in the case of the IPO, you have a chance to win the Platinum Pass by investing only €500. PokerStars-IPO is definitely +EV for the Italian market!
The PSPC is a one-of-a-kind tournament, with a mixture of top players confident in their skills, amateur players looking for the final breakthrough and businessmen simply in search of fun at the table. How do you prepare for a tournament of this type?
Studying, planning strategy and playing live tournaments. Luckily enough, there is a year until it happens. I will be able to discuss how to approach the PSPC with some very strong Italian players I have known for a lifetime, such as Dario Sammartino, Gianluca Speranza and Mustapha Kanit. They fly high now, among the elite players in the world, and I am very happy for them. However, they remain good friends from whom I will surely learn how to deal with big tournaments like the PSPC. We poker players should remember that there is always someone stronger, someone to learn from.
The game has changed a lot in the last few years, and yet you don’t seem to be affected by this change.
It seems so! Before deciding to play again in a live tournament, about four months ago I resumed grinding online. I immediately got some good results. I think that, for a person who knows how to play and is open to learn, the field is still affordable. Making money is no longer as easy as it was between 2009 and 2011. Winning live is certainly easier, but there is much more variance too, so it is necessary to combine both live and online poker.
You spoke about the importance of a correct mental attitude in poker. You used to be a football player and a coach. Did sport help you to become a strong poker player?
Definitely, especially when you have to face difficult times. I’m no longer an athlete unfortunately [taps his belly], but while I was still playing I suffered two bad injuries that stopped me for months. It was a stressful time, as is the life of a professional athlete in general, and you need to learn how to manage it. The same happens to poker players when everything seems to go wrong. A dear friend of mine once said, “Poker is like life: there are times when you have to learn how to stand the suffering, only to come back.”
What does the future hold?
First, a bit of rest because the IPO was still a challenging tournament. Then I don’t have a full calendar of events yet, I’m one who lives without planning too much. I will certainly devote myself to training for the PSPC.
Last January, Ramon Colillas won the PSPC in the Bahamas for $5 million and became a PokerStars Ambassador. What would you do if that dream comes true?
With $5 million (but something less would be fine as well!) I would take a permanent break from any commitments! I’d enjoy every moment of my life with my beautiful family, my wife and my three children.
And if that didn’t happen?
I would enjoy it all the same, thanks to my family and a profession that I like and that always gives me plenty of emotions. The dream is always there.