UK poker guru Roberto Romanello talks us through his poker plans: “Ultimately my goal is to be at the top of everything”

Roberto Romanello became an ever present on the UK poker scene in 2007, with two GUKPT final tables

The player

Welshman Roberto Romanello burst onto the poker scene in 2007 with two televised final table appearances on the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour. And his love of table banter helped him to scoop the tour’s Personality of the Year award. In total he’s won $248,566 in live events, including a $38,759 payday for coming 312th in the 2006 WSOP Main Event.

You had a great 2007, winning $133,835 in tournaments and being named the GUKPT Personality of the Year. Why do you think you bagged the title?

I think it’s because table banter is so important to me, and because I enjoy the game so much that I probably come across as a loud and crazy player at times. There are some players who are rude at the table but I don’t think there’s any need for that. I don’t think you’d get the personality award for being nasty!

That said I’ll do everything I can to get hold of my opponents’ chips, usually by talking them into a big pot they shouldn’t be in, but there’s no menace in it and I’ll have a drink with anybody after the game. My banter works best on the donkeys, but the more experienced players will be able to tell if I’ve got a hand or not so I do have to be careful who I use it against.

Give us an example of how a bit of banter has helped you at the table.

I was playing a £250 freezeout when I got this one guy on complete tilt. He had 30,000 chips and I took all but 5000 off him when he was moved table. He came back about an hour later with 40,000 chips. I said that he was my bitch because he’d given me all his chips, gone away to get more, and come back to give them all to me again. He was laughing about it and said that would never happen.

It wasn’t nasty, everyone was having fun, but I was giving him a little bit of a rubdown. Anyway, the same guy raises for the second hand in a row when I’m dealt J-J. I pretend I’ve only looked at one card and say, ‘Bugger this, I’m all-in.’ He goes red and makes the call with pocket Nines. I would never have got that much action against Nines without all the banter beforehand.

How long have you been playing poker and how did you first get into the game?

I’ve been playing for exactly two years 22 January. I first started playing after badly breaking my leg playing Sunday league football. I was housebound and started watching a lot of poker on TV and asked my brother to buy me a laptop so I could play online. Within two weeks I won entry into a WPT tournament after accidentally entering a satellite online. Both my brother [Anthony] and I went deep in the tournament and I ended up going out on the bubble.

When I came home I just wanted to play and won almost £50,000 from live tournaments in less than three months. Everyone was getting to know me in the local cardrooms and persuaded me to play in the World Series where I ended up winning $39,000. Things kicked off from there and I didn’t really look back.

Has poker become a full-time pursuit taking over from the chip shop business?

We’ve got a family restaurant business, which my Dad started when he moved to Wales from Italy. I try to pitch in as much as I can when I’m at home because it’s hard work for everyone. As soon as I come home I always tell my brother to have the night off, but yes, I am spending more of my time away playing poker.

If the likes of the GUKPT and GBPT hadn’t kicked off last year do you think you would have played as much poker?

I’m itching to play all the time so if they weren’t there I’d have to play the next biggest thing. Because I had a great start to 2007 I was able to buy into the Monte Carlo and Prague European Poker Tour events, but this year, like any player that wants to play all the events,

I’d love to pick up a sponsor. That’s one of my goals for 2008, so that I can relax and play my natural game. I always play to win and it makes me very proud when I go home to Wales and tell my parents that I’ve won something. That’s what gives me a buzz.

If you won just one tournament this year, money aside, which would it be?

I think it would still have to be the World Series of Poker Main Event, but I also have a lot of pride in my GUKPT final table appearances. I would really love to win one of them because they’ve come to mean a lot to me, having had so much fun playing them.

When you’re playing the British circuit you get friendly with a lot of the other players, have a drink with them, and once you get to know them they cheer when they know you’ve had a result. I really enjoy that social side of the game.

So after a great 2007 where you finished 14th in our UK poker rankings, what are your ambitions for this year?

When I started winning a lot and saw I was ranked it gave me a lot of confidence. Ultimately my goal is to be at the top of everything. I know I can do it. I believe in myself and I’m never afraid of playing anyone at the table. I never fear a player. If I think I’ve got the best hand I’m not going to not play it just because it’s soand- so. I will play as hard as I can to take a pot down. I’d love to be number one in Europe.

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