As interviews go, it was neither the most exhaustive, incisive or illustrative, but the key message came across.
“I’m back,” Luca Pagano said. “I’m back.”
This occurred over the breakfast buffet in the Pullman Skipper Hotel. That’s the place just around the corner from the casino that, once a year, is transformed from a well-appointed five-star joint, perfect to take the kids, to a well-appointed five-star joint, a bloody nightmare for anyone who is not a poker player.
Pagano was fidgeting around the cereal section while your humble correspondent was looking for a spoon. It had been a while since a quaint tableau such as this had been arranged, but it used to happen all the time.
As the early adopters of PokerStars Blog will know, Pagano used to feature incredibly heavily. He was one of the first players ever to be snapped up by Team PokerStars Pro, and he was a regular face at final tables on the European Poker Tour.
Indeed, for years Pagano, who is now 37, held the record for the highest number of cashes on the EPT and for final table appearances. I think both have now been overhauled, but 20 Main Event cashes and seven finals is a tremendous haul.
It all stopped towards the end of Season 8, when Pagano began focusing much more on his business concerns, namely Pagano Events. Although he came out of exile to make a final table of a High Roller in London in Season 9 (and win a tournament on the IPT), Pagano at the poker tables has been a relatively rare sight.
But — key message alert — he is back. He was not fidgeting around the cereal section for a laugh. He was piling down the sustenance for what he hoped and expected to be a long day back at his first day job.
“It’s been up and down,” he said, just as Level 5 began this afternoon. Pagano was sitting with about 33,000 chips, representing marginally more than his starting stack, but seemed to be perfectly content with that.
He had Ryan Riess to his left, a player who wasn’t anywhere close to being World Champion when Pagano was doing his best work on the EPT, and he won’t mind me mentioning that there are a few more grey hairs these days than when he was in his pomp. (Blame that on the business.)
Otherwise, the same red-framed designer glasses were in place and he was going through the motions in the same well-practiced fashion. “I am back,” he said once again.
Taking a quick look at the Pagano EPT results (see below) demonstrates actually that he perhaps has one other record that cannot be broken. Pagano has cashed in EPT Main Events in 13 different countries, including almost all of the places that the tour never visits anymore.
In addition to in-the-money finishes in Barcelona, Monaco, Prague and the PCA, Pagano has cashed in Deauville, Vienna, Copenhagen, Dublin, Dortmund, Warsaw, Tallinn, Vilamoura, London and Snowfest. Although Dublin (at least) is making a comeback, it seems unlikely any of his younger rivals will be picking up many of those flags.
If only he’d have done better in Baden, Budapest, Berlin and Kyiv, Pagano would have the full compliment of cashes in defunct EPT locations. And that’s some record!
LUCA PAGANO ON THE EPT
Barcelona, 3rd, €20,000
Deauville, 8th, €13,500
Vienna, 14th, €5,750
Barcelona, 24th, €7,800
Copenhagen, 24th, DKr 47,776
Dublin, 13th, €20,330
Dublin, 24th, €10,210
Copenhagen, 27th, DKr 84,346
Grand Final, 6th, €337,000
Dortmund, 6th, €153,000
Grand Final, 55th, €31,000
Warsaw, 4th, zł 357,790
Prague, 6th, €100,000
Deauville, 72nd, €10,900
Tallinn, 26th, €8,000
Vilamoura, 52nd, €7,263
Prague, 43rd, €10,000
Snowfest, 50th, €6,600
PCA, 30th, $40,000
Deauville, 7th, €110,000
London, High Roller, 7th, £60,930
You can follow all the action from the various tournament floors on PokerStars Blog. The Main Event action will be on the Main Event page.
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