– General Introduction –
Dario Sammartino is an Italian professional poker player. He was born on April 5th, 1987 in Naples, Italy.
He’s best known for finishing 2nd in the WSOP Main Event for $6 million in 2019. He lost the heads-up battle for the title to Hossein Ensan from Germany. In the late stage of the tournament, he also had a memorable controversy: the dealer miscounted his opponent’s chips after an all-in bet, but Sammartino, consistent with the rules, still had to call for the correct, larger amount.
Overall, he has over $14.5 million in live tournament earnings, which makes him the most successful Italian live tournament player of all time. He has one EPT title from 2019.
– Key Career Dates –
- 2008: He starts to cash in mid to high buy-in tournaments on a regular basis.
- 2017: He finishes 3rd in the WSOP $111,111 HIGH ROLLER for ONE DROP NLHE event for $1.608 million.
- 2019: He finishes second in the WSOP Main Event for $6 million. That is the biggest single live tournament cash of his career to date.
– Dario Sammartino’s Career –
→ Beginnings ←
Sammartino learnt 5-Card Draw poker from his father at a young age. Sadly, they only started to play the game a lot after Dario’s grandfather, who he was close to, passed away.
Sammartino got hooked on card games. Importantly, his father taught him early on that poker is a game of skill that one can make money from. When the Moneymaker boom got to the Sammartinos’ home country, Italy, the young Dario was just a teenager. So he got to discover the new hottest game, No Limit Texas Hold’em, fairly young as well.
As soon as he legally could, he started playing in Italy’s newly opened poker clubs. He also registered on PokerStars under the screen name “Madgenius87” and started grinding tourneys online as well.
His bio on WSOP.com claims that he previously worked in the public relations field. However, by the late 2000’s, he was able to make a sustainable living from his poker winnings.
→ Live Tournaments ←
Sammartino has $14.574 million in live tournament earnings, according to his Hendon page. That puts him in the #1 spot on Italy’s all time money list. He cashed in 124 different events over the course of 11 years.
The first recorded cash on his page, somewhat oddly, is from a tournament played in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. In November 2008, he came in 8th for €3,800 in the €1,000 Main Event at the Royal Poker Tour. The first time cashed in a poker event in his home country, Italy, was in June 2009. He finished 2nd for €7,700 in the €500 NLHE event at the Poker Grand Prix in St- Vincent.
Sammartino went on to consistently deliver scores from mid to high buy-in events around the world for years. The first time he really hit big and made a payday for over $100,000 was in October 2013. He took 2nd place out of 1,010 players at the €700 Italian Poker Tour (IPT) Main Event in Sanremo. He won €95,000, which equaled $130,849 at the time.
In January 2016, he came in 3rd in the $25K NLHE High Roller event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for $542,160. In April 2015, he finished 4th in the €100,000 European Poker Tour (EPT) High Roller event in Monaco for €709,500.
→ World Series of Poker ←
Dario Sammartino is yet to win his first WSOP gold bracelet. However, he’s already racked up a whole slew of massive tourney scores from the World Series.
His greatest achievement is finishing 2nd in the 2019 WSOP Main Event. 8,569 players entered that year, the second most in the tournament’s history. Sammartino eventually lost the heads-up battle for poker’s most coveted title to the German Hossein Ensan. The Italian man, dressed in a dapper black suit and bowtie, took home $6 million, which is the biggest single live tournament score of his career to date.
Sammartino had this to say about his unusual attire at the poker table in an interview with our site in August 2019:
“I always carry something elegant in my suitcase for a special occasion. The Main WSOP table was definitely the best opportunity to wear it. It was my date with history, and the crowning glory of my dream.”
On his way to the final table, he had to deal with a controversial floor ruling against him as well – more on that later.
He has another major result from the WSOP. In 2017, he finished 3rd in the $111,111 HIGH ROLLER for ONE DROP NLHE event for $1.608 million. That star-studded field featured some of the biggest poker stars, such as Fedor Holz, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Hellmuth, or the eventual winner Doug Polk, yet Sammartino managed to make it to the final table and take 3rd place.
He has two other third place finishes at the WSOP: one from the $10,000 No Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw Championship for $114,023 in 2018, and one from the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. event for $184,854 in 2019.
Overall, Dario Sammartino has cashed in 36 World Series events for a total of $9.321 million combined.
→ Live Cash Games ←
Sammartino has always focused on tournaments from the very beginning of his poker career. He hasn’t appeared on any online live streams or TV shows where he played cash games publicly.
→ Online Poker ←
Sammartino plays under the screen name “Madgenius87” on PokerStars and partypoker. Unfortunately, his tournament results aren’t racked by the online MTT database PocketFives.
However, we do know from their reporting that he took down the $530 buy-in High Roller Warm Up: [Special Edition] NLHE tourney on partypoker in November 2017. He managed to top a 137-player field, for which he got $14,271.
In 2020, when all the WSOP events were forced to be played online due to the dreaded coronavirus pandemic, Sammartino had an impressive 12 ITM finishes in the international leg on Natural8-GGNetwork.
Out of these 12 cashes, his biggest score was in the $8,000 No Limit Hold’em Asia Championship event. He finished 10th out of 3,247 entrants and won $21,941.
→ Scandals ←
Chips miscounted by the dealer in the 2019 WSOP Main Event
With 11 players left in the WSOP Main Event, Sammartino picked up pocket 10’s in UTG+1. He opened to a little over 2BB’s. Nick Marchington 3-bet all-in from the small blind. Sammartino, facing a tough decision, asked the dealer for a count. She cut the stack in the middle of the table and announced that it was 17 million (about 21 BB’s) – so far, nothing out of the ordinary.
Sammartino, covering Marchington, made the call. This is when things got off the rail. Another player at the table realized that Marhcington actually had more chips in his stack when he shoved – 22 million (27.5 BB’s). What’s more, he turned over pocket Queens, well ahead of Sammartino’s pair of Tens.
At this point, the Italian poker pro erupted. The “regular” floor people weren’t enough to handle the situation, so the Vice President of the WSOP, Jack Effel was called over.
He explained that it was actually “an easy decision”. Due to the rule the WSOP rulebook refers to as “accepted action”, regardless of what amount the dealer announces, the players need to call for the actual amount in the chip stacks.
Thus the aggrieved Sammartino’s call was forced to stand. He did lose this pot – however, as we wrote earlier, he ended up finishing runner-up for $6 million,