On June 5, 2009, Casino Sanremo hosted a poker tournament that seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary. There were 225 players, paying €2,200 apiece, and a player from Rome named Stefano Puccilli won it for €120,000.
That tournament, however, was the start of a series that turned out to be far more than most people expected. It was the first event ever held under the banner of the Italian Poker Tour (IPT), which in turn was the first major poker series ever to navigate through this country alone.
In theory, it was an experiment that was not guaranteed to succeed. Any new venture always comes with an inherent threat of falling at the first hurdle. In practice, however, this venture was as safe as houses. PokerStars were the sponsors and this was Italy, a country deeply immersed in a poker boom.
So it was that this week in Sanremo, the IPT returned these parts for the 16th time. And when tournament administrators completed their counting, they found 609 names on the list and a record-breaking 1,124 entries split over three starting days. They came, they bought in, they bought in again and again.
That last statement probably requires some explanation. The IPT in Sanremo this week was played over three “accumulator” start days, a format that allows three €770 buy-ins to every player, should they so wish. You can play Day 1A and (with any luck) bag up chips at the end, then come back on Day 1B and start again. You can do the same on Day 1C and then return on Day 2 and open all your bags, adding up to three stacks together.
It means three chances to accumulate a pile of chips, or three chances to sneak through by the skin of your teeth, whichever turns out to be the most appropriate. It also swells the prize-pool dramatically, which in this case hit €763,196.
The tournament reached its final table late last night, leaving us with only nine players today. Six were from Italy — above par for an event in which 51 per cent of the field were home-grown — but there were also representatives of France, Sweden and Korea. The perceived value of the IPT has always attracted players from across the globe, and its former winners include the likes of Matt Perrins, Ramzi Jelassi and Valdemar Kwaysser, while Ukraine’s Oleksii Kovalchuk is the only player with two titles.
(The cream of the Italian crop have shown their mettle too. Luca Pagano, Salvatore Bonavena, Luca Moschitta and Alessio Isaia have emerged victorious.)
This week’s final table looked like this (starting stacks in brackets):
Seat 1: Marcello Miniucchi, Italy, 4,540,000
Seat 2: Alessandro Borsa, Italy, 820,000
Seat 3: Fabio Scepi, Italy 2,750,000
Seat 4: Nicolo Ceccarelli, Italy 2,260,000
Seat 5: Adel Kabbani, France, 2,020,000
Seat 6: Alessandro De Fenza, Italy 3,855,000
Seat 7: Alex Longobardi, Italy 2,200,000
Seat 8: Jae Sim, Korea, 1,980,000
Seat 9: Alexander Norden, Sweden 1,955,000
And at time of writing, three players are left: Miniucchi, Di Fenza and Sim. They don’t look like getting it over with anytime soon, so head over to the Italian PokerStars Blog for latest information.
Full coverage of EPT Sanremo is on the main EPT Sanremo page. There’s hand-by-hand coverage in the panel at the top and feature pieces below.