The Italian Fish With Tears in Her Eyes

I recently wrote an article called Poker Hotties where I challenged the requirements to get onto a poker television show like Late Night Poker. I believed you needed one of three things: skill, character or beauty. I then posed a question:

“Where are the characters in the female pool of poker players?”

Based on my travels around the European poker circuit and the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas, I believe you could count them on one hand, and still have a few fingers left to suck on. They are about as rare as a monogamous male. So it was a pleasant surprise to find a rough diamond during my recent trip to Malta and the World Poker Tour (WPT).

After registration had closed on Day 1a of WPT Malta there was not one female playing in the entire field. Then on Day 1b the estrogen levels rose in the Portomaso Casino as at least eight female poker players took their seats. The photo galleries changed from pictures of the talented to pictures of the beautiful. The use of words on the blogs changed and words such as beautiful, decadent and delicious poured onto the web and we even had a table of beauty instead of a table of death. Anyone and everyone in the poker industry were rushing around the tables to check out the aesthetics. What were they wearing? What parts of their flesh were they revealing? Nobody cared if any of them were any good at poker and nobody thought any of them had a cat in hell’s chance of winning anything.

Seated at one of the tables was a young Italian girl called Cecilia Pescaglini. A media colleague who told me that I must check her boobs out first brought her to my attention. I whizzed over to her table to check her out and although she did have an impressive set of mammary glands it was her play and character that piqued my interest. There were two things she did all day. The first was talking incessantly in Italian (she didn’t speak English) and the second was playing every single hand. You could tell that she was having fun and she seemed to be getting on the nerves of everyone else at the table. By the end of the day she had managed to talk and play her way up to a stack of 83,175 and a 9th place finish.

On Day Two, Pescaglini upset all of her male admirers when she wore a tracksuit top that was zipped right up to her neck. But for once it was not the beauty that attracted the beast, but her style of play. She was sharing a table with three players who were at the top of the leader board: Antoine Saout, Daniel Carter and Matt Giannetti. During the break I asked Carter how he was feeling and he told me that he had an Italian Fish sat at his table that he was trying to get into pots with. He was referring to Pescaglini. 30-minutes later and I realised Carter was missing and Pescaglini’s stack was swollen. It seemed Carter had played one too many pots with Pescaglini and the Italian fish now owned all of his chips!

Pescaglini then started to grow her chip stack quicker than Ron Jeremy can grow his thingy. She continued her vogue of playing nearly every pot, called every single three and four-bet (in or out of position) and she kept arriving at showdown with every conceivable suited set of cards. But what really garnered attention was her penchant for playing huge pots and taking huge risks. Every single thing she did flew in the face of the poker pro’s belief of how the game should be played. The players quickly labeled her a joke while I just thought she was a revelation. She finished Day Two with 976,000 chips and her nearest competitor was Marvin Rettenmaier with 415,000 chips. The two of them clashed in the final hand of the night, a hand I initially reported as being a fantastic bluff but later realised I had made a huge reporting mistake, and in fact Pescaglini just didn’t have a clue what she was doing!

Matt Giannetti opened from the hijack to 5,500 and Marvin Rettenmaier called with Ac 8c in the cut-off. Cecilia Pescaglini was seated on the button and she also called, as did Tony G in the big blind. The flop was Qc Tc 6c and Giannetti bet 16,000, Rettenmaier made it 43,000 and Pescaglini cold called while everyone else folded. The turn was another ten and Rettenmaier bet 71,000 and Pescaglini moved all-in for 413,000. The entire room had stopped playing and was surrounding the table. Cameras were shining brighter than the stars congregating in the night sky outside. Pescaglini was on her feet whilst Rettenmaier was sat down thinking “what the fuck is happening here?” He eventually folded his hand and Pescaglini went crazy and showed Jc 3c. This is why I thought she had turned her hand into a bluff, because she was so excited that she had managed to get him to fold! During an Italian interview I learned she thought she had the best hand and was cheering because she had seen that he was holding the nut flush!

During Day Three the players started to complain that she would not shut up. The Italian media told me that she wasn’t a very nice person that she kept cursing at everyone in Italian. All the top pros kept saying they wanted to be on her table, to get into pots with her and take the fish down, but the fish kept swallowing them up one by one. She eliminated one player and as he went to shake her hand she just jumped up and down shouting, “Player out! Player out!” She reminded me of Jedward; almost child-like and seemingly unaware she was throwing etiquette out of the door. For the media and the viewer it was exhilarated and hilarious poker coverage.

Pescaglini ended Day Three 2nd in chips and then started the final day by turning up late. Her phone went off during the live streaming and a boy band pop song fired out its lyrics at maximum volume. The sound seemed to go on forever as her Hello Kitty earphones got tangled in her golden mane. I asked Christofer Williamson what his plan was and he told me it was to get involved with Pescaglini. He eventually got his wish but just became another statistic along with the double figures that went before him. It seemed that nobody could beat the person they were calling the worse player in the tournament. I couldn’t help but think that her ability to do or play anything actually had the so-called top pros dumbfounded. They simply never had a clue what she had or what she was going to do next. In a way her own naivety was the key to her successful run. She was running rings around them all and was proving that there was another way to play poker even if it would only be successful for one tournament.

The final table was a drab and boring affair and the media were thinking Thank God for Pescaglini. She was the only person seated at the table who seemed to want to take any risks. She made some absolutely horrendous calls but the media and the viewers loved her for it. While everyone else just sat motionless hoping that the title would come to them she went for the title. Eventually, Pescaglini found herself heads up against Matt Giannetti. The Italian fish had guaranteed herself $159,412 but was playing for the first place of $273,200. She had almost eliminated Giannetti earlier when she was all-in KK v 77 but the American spiked a seven on the turn to survive elimination. You just knew that had it been Pescaglini who had spiked the seven she would have once again been ridiculed for her vast amounts of luck, instead people were saying it was only what Giannetti had deserved. Pescaglini won the first five hands but Giannetti won the next two and took a slight chip lead just before we hit the tournament winning hand. Giannetti moved all-in holding 9c 7d on a Tc 8h 2c board and Pescaglini made the call with Qs Td. She was heading for a double up and huge chip lead when Giannetti once again found the luck he needed and was crowned the WPT Malta champion (jack on the turn). Nobody would dare say that Giannetti was lucky. He was a proven top professional with a November Nine date already in the bag. He was just a quality pro winning another tournament. Cecilia Pescaglini couldn’t give her interview because she couldn’t stop crying. She truly believed her name was on that trophy, she truly believed she had played well and she truly believed she deserved it. Everyone else truly believed she was lucky, made horrendous plays and was nothing but an Italian fish.

Cecilia Pescaglini was WPT Malta. Poker played in the way the purists preach is often drab and boring. Poker played the Cecilia Pescaglini way is humorous, scintillating and provides drama in droves. In addition to her erratic and unconventional style she had balls the size of King Kong, an arrogant little attitude and she dressed like a girl heading to a cheap disco. If it were up to me I would book her on the next ten series of Late Night Poker immediately. She is one female poker player who definitely has character.