Damiano ‘DAMMO_23’ Aloi had never been outside his native Australia prior to last week. Now he’s here in London, 10,100 miles from home, having the time of his life.
“Has it been worth it? Let me tell you, it has been worth every penny,” he tells PokerStars Blog over a beer in the Lex Live 2 players’ lounge at Aspers Casino. “And it cost a few pennies to get here from Australia.”
Back home in Adelaide, the 24-year-old usually spends his time coaching football (“Seven days a week, mate!”). But when he has free time, there’s one guy who’s always there for him: Lex Veldhuis, through which he’s made some great friends, many of whom he has met here for the first time.
“The reason why I made this my first trip abroad is that I’ve been a part of this community for so long–I think my 26-month Sub to Lex’s channel went through whilst on this trip–and all the people I interact with,” Aloi explains. “Because of the time difference, I often fall asleep to Lex and leave the TV on.
“To know all the people in chat online is one thing, but to come and actually meet them is unbelievable. I’ve made some new friends, met people I’ve chatted with once or twice, everybody is just so friendly. I’ve already said I’ll be at Lex Live 3!”
For someone who Aloi now has such a strong connection with, the way in which he discovered Lex’s stream was actually by knowing nothing him.
“I wasn’t really watching poker at the time, but when I was 18 or 19 I was a bit of a punter. I remember busting a few tournaments online on a Tuesday night, and I felt I’d had enough. But then I saw the $215 Super Tuesday was running, and I went to reg it. I saw that Lex was playing it–I didn’t even know he was a PokerStars Pro–and then I saw he was also streaming it. I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Aloi had to sit out for the first installment of Lex Live, which took place in Namur, Belgium back in March 2019. It’s a massive trip from Australia after all, and he just didn’t have time to plan it.
But when Lex announced the second stop in London, he knew had to be here.
“I decided I didn’t want to miss it and for the past couple of months, I’ve been planning it. I came here with a limited bankroll, but it’s been a good trip so far. This trip has been more than just a poker trip though. It’s been about interacting. It’s been sensational. There’s a party going on right now, but I’m also sweating five of my friends in the High Roller!”
At this point in our conversation, the elusive Twitch moderator RuthAnnK comes and takes a seat at our table. Aloi beams with admiration. “Meeting RuthAnnK alone has been worth the trip!”
It’s a brave leap for a young man who has never left his home country to fly to a new city and spend all his time with people he has never met before. But while many would argue that sitting watching a Twitch stream is unsociable, being here at Lex Live shows the opposite is true.
Members of this community know each other. There are no awkward silences (particular when Aloi is around), and no one is made to feel left out.
“It’s been great meeting all of the PokerStars Ambassadors,” Aloi says. “I love watching Spraggy and Fintan, and I’ve been a Lex sub for so long. Then I meet the guy and he’s like, 6-foot-10 or something. I get a bit starstruck. Even James from OP-Poker, he’s the guy from OP-Poker I watch the most, and meeting him was a bit like, ‘wow’. Then from the community, getting to meet RuthAnnK, Croaks, everybody.”
Here, Aloi is able to play side events each morning, community Sit & Gos each night, and has even made it through to Day 2 of the £230 Main Event. But back home in Australia, where online poker is illegal, it’s harder for him to scratch his poker itch.
“Not having online poker in Australia does hurt,” he tells us. “I used to play online a lot, now I’m trying to get back to playing live. Unlike Melbourne and Sydney where poker is massive, there aren’t many games in Adelaide where I live. It’s small, high rake.”
This experience has inspired him though.
“In January, although it won’t please my parents, I’m thinking of going back to playing live poker semi-professionally. If I move somewhere with online poker I’ll start grinding the low stakes on PokerStars too, and we’ll see where we go from there.”
Whatever his plans for the future, Aloi is having the time of his life right here, right now.
“Seriously. If anyone is on the fence about Lex Live in the future, just do it. It’s the greatest.”