A few weeks ago, Dario Sammartino finished runner-up of the WSOP Main Event pocketing $6M in the process.
Our reporter Gaelle Jaudon had the chance to talk with him about this incredible performance.
Somuchpoker: First, congratulations on the nice suit you wore at the final table. It was a really classic Italian style, and I think it’s good for the image of poker. Did you already have it in your suitcase when you arrived in Vegas, just in case? What was your plan?
Dario Sammartino: 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.
SMP: You stopped playing poker for a bit before the WSOP to enjoy some time with family and friends. How important was that for you? What did it change in your mindset?
Dario Sammartino: I love playing poker, but when the game becomes something obsessive, it makes you lose the connection with reality. It is important to balance; otherwise, you could lose so many fantastic things that life offers you. Poker must be a means not an end. I needed to stop playing for a while so that I had time to enjoy life without poker again and then enjoy poker again like when I first started playing.
SMP: When you reached the final table, you were the most experienced player but also the player with the smallest stack. What was happening in your mind, and what was your strategy with the other players?
DS: I said to myself, you have wanted this moment for a long time, go and do what you do best in life: play poker and have fun. Enjoy this fantastic experience.
SMP: How did you prepare for the final days with all the pressure and the media attention? I know you stayed in a villa with other Italian players. Did you work with them?
DS: I was without a cell for most of the final table days. I gave it to my friends, because all of the messages I received disrupted my concentration, so I preferred to detach myself from the outside world and enjoyed the love and attention of my friends who they were there with me at that moment in Las Vegas. It was fantastic. They treated me like a prince and cuddled me so much. Their love was my plus.
SMP: You also had an amazing rail—the craziest and loudest too. 🙂 And you received a lot of the support from the poker community. Do you have words to describe the energy and the feeling it gave you?
DS: As I have already said, the support, the love, and the energy that all of my friends sent me was my extra weapon. They gave me the strength to do something extraordinary, and I thank them for life.
SMP: It’s true that the rail is a huge part of the show and the support. It was very emotional and a nice image when Hossein’s rail hugged you at the end. It was a good example for poker. Can you share your thoughts about that?
DS: I believe that poker should be like this—a sport to bring people together, where people can share experiences. I believe that this year’s final table has set a great example for the whole poker world. It was a final table made up of fantastic guys, and we kept up with each other throughout the final table, despite being rivals.
SMP: How is it possible to come back to a normal life and poker grind after so many emotions and such an intense experience?
DS: Ah ha, good question. I don’t know, but I’m not a grinder. I only play poker when I want to and when I feel good.
SMP: Is there like a down or sad moment after such an overwhelming experience?
DS: I had moments of emotional decline, but then my fantastic family and friends reminded me that I am a lucky guy and that it is a shame not to enjoy the normal life fully.
SMP: Did you review your play from the final table and the heads-up? Are there some plays you regret?
DS: I still haven’t seen the replay, but I’m sure I played my best game up to heads-up. I could have done better in HU, but I’m so happy. I may have finished 2nd, but I’m happy just the same.
SMP: The most impressive thing was that you managed to stay in the competition with a short stack almost all the time. You even had 8 big blinds on day 6. Did you have a key moment when you thought, ok, I can win this?
DS: I remember the day before day 6, when I was 8bb, I was at home with all my friends, and I said, “Guys, I can do it tomorrow. Tomorrow I get double up, and then I win all the money for Antonio Esfandiari.” These were my exact words before day 6, and, incredibly, that is what happened the next day. When you believe in something with all of yourself, incredible things happen. Our minds have the ability to make dreams become reality.
SMP: Did the money jumps play a role in your game?
DS: I never look the prize pool when I play. I only see how much first wins. When I play, I don’t think about the money
SMP: What can you say about Hossein and the others? He seems to be a really great person.
DS: I love all of the guys at that final table. Each of them had something special. With Alex and Hossein, a special relationship was formed because we shared one of the strongest experiences of our win together. They are like brothers to me.
SMP: What are your projects now, personally and for your career? To what extent will the money you won change something in your life?
DS: I will surely play much more relaxed, but I don’t think I will invest this money in poker. I have so many projects that I was already working on before, and I intend to lend a hand to the most unfortunate people among us. To me, it is absurd that there are children in Africa who do not have clean water, and then there are those of us who are playing for millions of dollars. I want to do something to rebalance things.
SMP: On a scale from 0 to 20, how happy are you in your life?!
DS: 10 even. Even if I did a great job and have achieved economic tranquility, personally, I still have to grow so much. I still have a lot to learn from life, and I need to know myself better to be able to be really peaceful and happy. As I said before, poker is just one part of my life.
Interview by Gaelle Jaudon