When watching high stakes poker played up close, things very often look the same. The body language between a good player and a not so good one seldom differs when raking in a pot, at least unless they’re one of those people who likes to jump about a bit and make a scene.
The degree of skill is noticeable only in the subtlety of the hands they play, and the way they play them. And that’s sometimes hard to spot.
So there is always cause for rejoicing when a young player comes along to buck that trend, making their natural talent as obvious as the grin on their face as they brush aside the opposition. They do something that changes the way the game is played from then on, even if only slightly, and they’re rightly remembered for it.
One of the most exciting of this breed emerged several years ago, a young Italian player by the name of Dario Minieri.
Minieri first pulled off his magic act in season three of the European Poker Tour. It was there, in Baden, that the pocket sized Minieri, dwarfed by the oversized feature table, dazzled with a demonstration of finesse not shared by his countrymen on the rail, who shamelessly bounced, cheered, and hugged their way through every hand he played.
That day he would finish in third place. But his name was now etched in the minds of those who had heard stories of his uniqueness, a sort of kind-hearted assault on every hand you played, then explained back to you in broken-English, like an exchange student trying to apologise for inexplicably stealing your wallet.
It lasted for some time too. There was nothing samey about Minieri at the table. Even the way he looked at his cards was different to anybody else, his fingers spread to create a peephole. Ironically, he would then play his cards as if he hadn’t looked in the first place.
Then something happened. Call it a bad patch or a drop in confidence, but while Minieri didn’t exactly disappear from the tournament scene, he disappeared from the pay-outs desk. Time and again you would expect to see the old Dario raising ten straight hands after arriving an hour late. Instead he’d be off within the first couple of levels.
But this year Minieri seems to have turned a corner – that is if his recent post on the PokerStars Blog is anything to go by. The Italian scored a few cashes at the World Series of Poker over the summer, even reaching the final table of one event, which, as he admitted, did his confidence the world of good.
Now, on the back of that, well rested and with SuperNova Elite status secured, he looks ahead to the new season of the European Poker Tour with renewed confidence. The proof of that will be in his performances, starting in Barcelona at the end of this month. But one thing’s for sure. If Minieri is back to his usual cocky self he could make it a season to remember.