Poor Antonio Buonanno. Never is so grand a champion so readily forgotten than in the EPT finale, a victory that is typically begrudged more than celebrated, taking place as it does at something like 4am.
In Buonanno’s case it was worse. At 6am a group of sleepless TV production staff mustered what strength they could to make it look like the season had ended in front of a room full of people delighted by Buonanno’s win. More accurately it took place in a deserted Salle des Etoilles, empty but for those bemused people paid to keep guard of the valuables or clean up the detritus of ten days of poker. Each looked on with an expression that asked why such an anti-climax couldn’t have been recorded five or six hours earlier. Poor Antonio Buonanno.
It’s a shame because Buonanno could quite rightly claim to have put in more effort than anyone on his way to the title, with the possible exception of his wife Carmen. She spent every minute of the 17 hour final table leaning on the rail a few feet from some increasingly rowdy, then drunk, then hung over, then sober again Brits. They were cheering, then slurring, then sleeping, and then cheering on again, Buonanno’s main rival Jack Salter.
There were two sides to Salter, both of which shone throughout the final table. First there was the demonstrative young Englishman perhaps a little too eager in his enjoyment of the spotlight. This Salter was full of flounces, shrugs, sulks, huffs, and affected a habit of making a triangle with his fingers when wishing to move all-in — a reference to the “all-in triangle” – rather than making any verbal declaration.
There were other things too. He seldom arrived back from breaks on time and a one point asked for the clock to be stopped momentarily while he talked to his friends on the rail. It was denied of course, but he made the other players wait anyway. Then as heads up play trudged on, he requested that the blinds be frozen, to avoid any risk of a crap shoot. Thankfully, to those with planes to catch, this too was denied.
But there was also Salter the player, who when not performing in the ways above, looked on course to become one of the most exciting Grand Final winners in tour history. Salter excelled, spilling obvious talent all over the place.
As chip leader he looked unstoppable. He looked every inch the thoughtful, intelligent player. Here was a young player in the biggest game of his life and yet he looked at home. But then, perhaps he looked too much at home.
In his shadow was Buonanno, watching all this with a mixture of frustration and bemusement. But the Italian met Salter every step of the way. While he may not have been able to match him for talent, he held his ground, taking advantage of the lengthy heads-up — the longest in tour history – appearing to get stronger as Salter grew more tired.
The defeated Salter didn’t hang around for the winner’s presentation but Buonanno enjoyed it none the less, hugging his wife before holding the trophy aloft with arms straight, as if he were hanging off the edge of a cliff.
There may not have been people to share his joy, or witness it for that matter, but it had been a fantastic final, ruined only by the fact it took 17 hours. But that’s what the TV edit is for which, with a well-rested production team to assemble it and load onto our screens at some point in the future. Perhaps then Buonanno might take a turn outside of Salter’s shadow. He deserves it.