Collusion and Soft-Playing in Italy

26 November 2008, Created By: Sorel Mizzi
Collusion and Soft-Playing in Italy
So I'm in Italy to do an interview on an Italian poker television show called Poker Sportivo in Bologna and there just so happens to be a €2,200 event 200 km away in Venice.

How can I pass this up?

Of course, I decided to play the event. I could have easily been the only non-Italian in the approximately 300-player field, and was definitely the only non-European.

I got off to a great start after nearly doubling up with A 6. I'm particularly proud of this hand since I called out exactly what my opponent had and was right :)

Here's how the hand went:

100/200 blinds
Me: 20k
Villain: 11k

I open from early/mid to 600 and get called by cut-off and BB. Flop comes: 7x-8d-9d.

I bet 1250 and guy shoves in for approximately 10,500 more. I think about it for a while. Even though I have a monster draw I don't have the odds to call unless he has a draw as well.

There was so much value in this tournament that if I felt he had a made hand I simply would have folded. I thought about it for about a minute, engaging him and telling him that I thought he had Q T.

The Tournament Room
So much value in Italian tournaments.

Eventually I made the call and to the table's amazement he tabled Q T :). Somehow I managed to hold and quickly found my stack at about 37k which was my high point for the entire tournament.

I dwindled down to about 30k and then lost a 25k coinflip with QQ vs AK at 200/400. This brought me back down to around 20k.

Bustout Hand with Controversy

At 300/600, 75 ante, I raise 85o to 1600 from middle position. I get called by a lady in the BB.
Flop comes down: 6x-7x-Jx

*From experience from playing with this player, I know that she leads out almost always when she hits a piece of the board.

She's first to act and bets out 1600.

I meant to just call but instead put in 2500 by accident and am forced to minimum raise. I act as if I meant to raise and nothing is wrong (minimum raise is actually a pretty good line in this spot anyway :-.

She mulls it over and calls. Turn is a 6.

Again she leads out. This time for 4200. I have about 15k behind and decide that she's not very strong and there's no reason for her not to put me on a big hand here so I shove all-in.

At this point there is a crowd of media surrounding the table. She thinks about it for a long time and out loud goes over the possible hands I could have (in Italian) "AA? KK? QQ? AJ?"

At this point I'm pretty confident she's going to fold but to my amazement ends up calling with 7-8. Her hand holds and I congratulate her and wish her the best of luck.

Day 1b
Soft-play and collusion part of the Italian poker experience?

As I'm heading out, an Italian blogger comes up to me and says that during the hand the guy sitting next to her said, and I quote, "Call him; I had J-6." Not once, but twice.

At this point, I'm severely tilted and infuriated that this level of explicit collusion can go on and was determined not to let this go unpunished.

The blogger and I talk to the Tournament Director (TD) and tell him what happened. I state my case and tell him that this guy should be pulled from the tournament since he likely cost me mine. The TD decides to give him an eight-hand penalty temporarily until he talks to the dealer.

I watch as the TD tells the guy that he has to sit out for eight hands and it's OBVIOUS the guy knows that he's done something wrong as he gets up off the table with no argument and no hesitation, probably relieved about only getting an eight-hand penalty.

In the meantime I'm talking to the TD, asking him what difference it makes if the dealer didn't hear it or heard something else. The people who heard him say this are completely impartial - if anything they would more likely be on the Italian player's side more than mine; why would anyone make this up???

The dealer a) might not have heard it b) doesn't want to "rat out" a fellow Italian c) they could have easily been friends.

Sure enough, the TD talked to the dealer and the dealer alleged that he heard nothing; therefore, the eight-hand penalty stood and this clown got away with a slap on the wrist for the worst kind of collusion that ended up more than likely costing me my tournament life.

Obviously I'm very disappointed at the TD's decision. I think I should have either got my buy-in back or the TD should have removed the player from the tournament.

I would have honestly preferred the latter. The whole situation just left a really sour taste in my mouth about poker in Italy.

The Italian poker community is very small and pretty much everyone knows everyone and it appears collusion and softplaying happens regularly in Italy. People seem to show each other their cards and everyone at my table looked like they knew each other and were friends.

Despite all of this, I still think I'll play EPT San Remo. Playing poker in Italy kind of reminds me of playing poker on Party Poker a few years ago, the software sucked but you can't afford not playing because the players are so awful.

Sorel Mizzi
What happened was flat-out wrong.

On the whole, in Italy's case the players are awful - in comparison to Party Poker having crappy software, you just have to deal with all the collusion and softplaying that constantly goes on.

To be honest, it doesn't really bother me when two Italian friends are heads-up in the pot and tell each other their cards or check down the nuts/bet really small (this happened a few times).

When two players are heads-up I think that you should be able to do or say anything within reason since it doesn't really effect anyone else at the table and puts more emphasis on the psychological aspect of the game which I like.

But what happened to me was just flat-out wrong and should never happen to anyone.

--Sorel Mizzi

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