Roberto Romanello is a live poker player. He rarely ventures online, but he did so a fortnight ago, and to good effect. Lee Davy sat down with him to talk about his little score and venture into other areas of his life that are important to him.
How was your WSOP?
“I looked at it as a good World Series. My side action was good, and I was lucky enough to get a decent result right at the end when I finished eleventh in the Venetian. I cashed for $50k in tournaments, and I did well in the side action so it was a winning trip for me.
“But I love getting big results in tournaments. Looking at it from that point of view, that’s one area I would have liked to improve upon. I was confident I would make a final table, so I was disappointed that didn’t happen.”
There was a lot of talk about collusion in the S&G area. I saw you playing there a few times. What’s your view on how likely is it that something like that could happen?
“You are going to get friends who sit down together at the same table. That happened to me once or twice. I don’t collude, but there are times when you lay off each other – you don’t go to war. I would never cheat, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to make moves on someone I know well. At the same time if I pick up a big hand then I am going to play hard regardless of whom I am playing against.
“I didn’t see anything untoward on the tables I played at. I am very smart in those situations. If I see something that I think looks unusual I would speak up about it. I wouldn’t keep quiet.”
Do these scandals bother you?
“It leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. I wouldn’t cheat anyone out of a penny. I am very honest. It’s the way I was raised. But, whenever you get a large volume of money you will always get cheats. So I’m not surprised when cheating comes up, it happens in a lot of sports.”
You cashed in the $5k NLHE event at the Venetian. Ben Warrington played in that event and later admitted that he oversold action after getting into a gambling debt. This kicked off a debate on the forums about forgiveness. What’s your view?
“I remember seeing the article about it and it was one that shocked me. He has always been very well mannered, and always seemed a nice guy. I am sure he is still a nice guy. I remember thinking, ‘shit, he must have been desperate to do that.’ I felt like I knew him, and I think behind this story he is a genuinely nice guy. What he did was wrong, and I didn’t know how to digest it at the time.
“Everyone makes mistakes, however, and it’s up to the people that he hurt to forgive him or not. That’s up to them. If someone explained everything to me, was sorry and took time out to do that with me, then I am confident I would find forgiveness for them. If they chose to ignore me, and couldn’t give two f**s about me then it’s going to leave a sour taste.
“I had an incident before when a well known player, who I didn’t know very well, came up to me at EPT Berlin and asked me to loan them €10,000. I wasn’t friendly with this player, but I knew of him and thought he had a good reputation. I was a little shocked that he asked, but he assured me I would get the money back.
“I had just won two major tournaments, I was doing well, and I decided to loan him the money. Cut a long story short I got the money back in dribs and drabs. I never pressured him for it. I never had a problem about the time it took for him to pay it back. Eventually I got all the money and we were square.
“A year or two later we become friends. I was in Vegas and I played on the family money. I was running bad and was nearly through my money. At the same time this person, who I had helped out previously, was on a really good run. He was winning a lot of money and was in great shape. So I asked him for a loan for a few days until my family wired me the money to The Bellagio.
“He started to tell me that he was charging vig. That was a knife blow to the kidneys. He was trying to make money off me. It really hurt my feelings. I started to fill up because I was getting so angry. I asked him if he was serious and he was. I started to feel physically sick. Then he told me that he would rather not give me the money.
“I was gutted. I felt like I had been repeatedly stabbed. I didn’t have time to give him a piece of my mind. I went back to the table and played. As much as it hurt, if this person came to me and explained why they did what they did to me, although he would get a piece of my mind, we could move on. I would get it off my chest, and if he was cool about it we would be fine. I know I have it within me to forgive him if he approaches me, listens to me, and understands how much he hurt me.
“I gave him money when I didn’t really know him. He refused to do that when he knew me really well. I gave him money over a long period of time; I wanted a loan for a few days. The fact that he wanted to make vig on me was also bad. I want him to know he hurt me, and until I get that off my chest, it’s difficult to communicate with him. But I know I can move on once we have both cleared it up.”
Tell me about your little online score.
“I didn’t play for eight months prior to Vegas. I came home feeling really good and felt that I was playing well. I was on a high. I came home and got straight back into working. I switched off from poker apart from playing my local Thursday night game with the boys. We’ve been playing a Dealers Choice tournament; I have been three times, made the final table each time and won it twice. It’s a great bit of fun and I’m enjoying it.
“Saturday night I looked online and there was a $215 Turbo event. I had actually gone to bed; it was about 11pm at night. I deposited $250 and got stuck in. I ended up finishing seventh AK<AA, cashed $1.7k and I was chuffed. I went to sleep on a high.
“On the Sunday I was feeling good. The Premiership was back on. I watched the live games, watched Match of the Day and played poker – it was like a real man’s day. I used the $1.7k to play the major events on Sunday. I had dinner with my girlfriend, had dinner with my family, and then when my girlfriend went home I fired up the games.
“I had chips in the Sunday Million, Second Chance and the 500. I put my ‘A’ game on. Every prize pool was huge. They were the three tournaments left on my screen and I had a lot of chips in them all. I went out in the Sunday Million in a cooler. Then I was left with the Second Chance and 500.
“I made the final table of the 500, and was short stacked in the Second Chance before busting. All my energy went into the Sunday 500 and I made the final table as the chip leader with nearly 2m chips and cruised all the way through. I was never really in jeopardy. I got heads-up from 2m to 3m and was never really at risk.
“I did a deal for $50k and played it out for $6k and I lost AJhh<TT and bricked. I really enjoyed it and it was a nice feeling considering I hardly play online, and never really take it seriously. I know in my head when I put my mind to things I know I can achieve them.”
Are you going to play more now you have won?
“I am chuffed that I won, and there is scope for me to play more online, but it’s not where I want to be. I will enjoy it next time I play. It’s important to play only when I feel well. If you are playing when you don’t want to then that’s a mistake.
“I am also looking at the live game in the same way. I enjoyed the WSOP, and I have always loved the EPT. If I get the chance to play now and again I will enjoy it, but I have a lot of other things I want to achieve in my life at the moment. I love poker very much and if I achieve everything I want to in life then I can play whatever I like whenever I like. That’s my goal in poker. To not be reliant on anyone else.”
When people ask you what you do for a living what do you tell them?
“I am asked that question a lot and I tell people I run restaurants with my family. They usually ask me that question at the poker table. I am proud to say that I run a family business.”
What advice would you give to an 18-year old Roberto Romanello?
“I have been lucky to have ‘it’ when I came into the game. What I mean by that is I had some talent to play the game at a high level, but always had the backing of my family. When I was involved in a life changing pot I was always able to play the hand the way I wanted to because I always had my family to fall back on, and that’s helped me create the success I have had. So I would say to myself to enjoy the game, but if I am in some successful business, do not give it up. Stick at it, play poker on the side.
“Being a professional poker player doesn’t mean you only have to play poker. You can also be a successful businessman and I think that makes you a better poker player. As much as I have won, and I have reinvested it wisely, I still do not feel like I have achieved my goal of doing enough so I don’t have to do anything else in order to play poker professionally. I am not even close, and my Hendon Mob says $3m in earnings. I don’t think I have crossed the line where I have made enough to leave my businesses behind and focus solely on poker. I have never felt that. I am always looking for the jackpot, I am always hungry for it, and until I achieve it I will always be fighting for it.
“My goal is to be a successful businessman, and achieve the things I want to achieve, and when I have done that I can go around the world and sit in any game that I want, with my own money, then I have achieved my goal.”
What does the first 60-minutes of your day look like?
“I wake up and drink a glass of water, then a small glass of orange juice and straight into the shower. If I didn’t shower first my head would be gone. Then I usually go downstairs for some fruit, or go straight to the restaurant – 20-yards from my house – and have a nice healthy breakfast. Then I am either working that day, so I will remain there, or I will chill. I will work on my business projects.”
If you could spend 10k hours working on anything what would you choose?
“I hope to choose to experience that time with my children when I become a father. I want to do the right things in life and be a great family man.”
Which of the habits you have adopted in your life has provided the best results?
“That’s an easy one. My best habit is being around my family. It has made me the person that I am, and as helped me to achieve the things that I wanted to achieve in life.”