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Luca Pagano: Every Poker Player Should Try a Day Job for 1-2 Years
He used to be the poker player with the most cashes and final tables on the European Poker Tour.
Then Luca Pagano turned his attention to his business, Pagano Events, to expand the game across Italy.
Now, after a 10-month hiatus from live poker and almost three years after his last EPT cash, he’s back at the tables at the kickoff event to EPT Season 12 in Barcelona.
He's also got news to share about the future of EPT Malta, the potential of eSports and how to appreciate the privilege of a poker player's life.
PokerListings: Fully equipped with patches of both PokerStars and Skrill, welcome back to the EPT as a player. What happened to being a business man?
Luca Pagano: I’ve taken a break from business for several months. I felt I had to follow something new so I decided to take the position of Head of Marketing at Skrill/Neteller.
I am now a consultant, an entrepreneur and a player at the same time. With this new position I’m going to get a lot more insight into how large international companies work.
The next step on my personal path is going back to school. I registered at Stanford University in the US for a new one-year course they have there. It’s called corporate innovation.
This course is going to show me why and how things are happening in companies like PokerStars and Neteller. I can appreciate this much more than I would have when I was 22. I think everybody should go back to school when they approach 40.
PL: I guess, at a higher age, you also have a different level of motivation.
LP: Completely different! As a young person I would just do what I was told and hoped it to be over, but now I’m literally counting down the days until the course starts.
PL: Can we say that with your company Pagano Events you’ve reached a peak and you need new inspiration to make the next step?
LP: Absolutely, and this step might already be there in October. Poker is going through a consolidation period now but I’m expecting for it to experience a renaissance because of the support of other gaming disciplines like eSports and fantasy sports.
PL: But then casino games and sportsbooks are on the rise, too. Are you not afraid it could go the other way and we’re losing the traditional poker player?
LP: Not really, no. I think those who turn towards casino games are generally more gamblers than poker players.
I see a lot of synergies between eSports and poker. Whenever I speak to eSports players they show a tremendous interest in poker.
There will be opportunities opening up for both sides and as a player and entrepreneur I want to be prepared and put myself in the right position for the next big thing.
PL: The EPT is coming back to Malta right before the Battle of Malta, which was the largest tournament on Malta last year. Is that smart scheduling?
LP: I am very much in favor of having the EPT and the BOM so closely together. Both events can benefit from working together.
Having the EPT in Malta again after only a couple of months is maybe not ideal, but it’s the only possible slot for it during the season.
We wanted to move it to October as it’s a better time than April to go to Malta. Had we not done it this year there wouldn’t have been an EPT Malta for 18 months.
That would be neither in our or the players’ interest. Barcelona will surely stay the largest event on the EPT – although it can’t really grow much more because there is a physical limit of space and we’ve reached it.
EPT Malta will be positioned in a different way. I’m thinking it could be sort of a final.
PL: But how? It can never take away the Grand Final from Monaco?
LP: No, but Malta offers a different player experience. I don’t believe in venues where 18 year old kids get charged 40 Euro for a sandwich.
PL: I just paid four Euros for a cup of coffee in a plastic cup and all they did was press a button. Barcelona seems to go Monaco’s way.
LP: I cannot comment on that but I can assure you this will not happen in Malta. As long as I’m involved in the planning process I’ll always push player experience over profits on beverages.
Players who enjoy the event will come back. So the point is not to earn more but to earn smarter. That’s why you also need additional activities.
Barcelona and Malta are perfect examples for great activities off the felt. At other venues we have to work on the offerings.
Poker events are going into the fun direction. Players want to have fun. That’s why Barcelona is so successful.
There is so much to do, so many places to go and honestly that’s what we need at every poker tournament.
PL: Fun has also been an essential part of the Battle of Malta concept and that’s very successful. Is it correct that the two events might be switching places on next season’s schedule?
LP: We’re still discussing it but probably yes. This year there will be satellites for the BOM during the EPT and it would make sense to do it the other way round next year.
Again, we can see synergies develop. We have two very different, great products, so they should support each other.
PL: Malta has recently been shocked when it was uncovered that the mafia had infiltrated several gaming companies. There have been shutdowns and arrests.
LP: This is part of a much bigger problem, which is an Italian problem. Currently the mafia is changing. They are reinventing themselves and they are, among others, using gaming companies to launder money.
Malta is at the heart of the gaming industry so the infiltration is only a natural consequence. However, I’m happy about this development because it cleans the industry, and every day it gets a little better.
The more transparency we achieve, the better for the players, and in the long run the better for the industry. I’m not against control and regulation as long as the regulators don’t interfere too much with what the operators do.
There’s a thin line between regulation and total control.
PL: Finally, how does it feel to be a player again?
LP: I feel re-energized. I’m missing a bit of confidence, because I was away so long, but I think I play a very good game.
I’m much more in control now from an analytical point of view. I feel the excitement again. Honestly, I’d want every poker player to go and have a regular day job for one or two years.
I think they would appreciate the privilege of a poker player’s life much more. Also they would have more respect for all the money they’re given.