Among the very few Italian players to earn a World Poker Tour title and World Series of Poker gold bracelet after winning WPT Venice and 2012 WSOP Event #44 in 2013, Rocco Palumbo started 2014 with an impressive run that netted him a PocketFives.com Triple Crown achievement after a closing what he calls "a disastrous year."
After winning Event #46 and Event #47 of the W Series on Winamax on Jan. 11 and 12, and the $109 NL Hold'em [Turbo] $17.5K Gtd on PokerStars on Jan. 17, Palumbo took down MiniFTOPS Event #35 on Full Tilt Poker on Jan. 18 after beating a 1,485-player field for a $93,328 payday.
PokerNews got in touch with Palumbo to discuss about his remarkable results, as well as his life as a poker expatriate for six months after his decision to leave Italy for Slovenia and challenge himself against the dot-com players pool.
PokerNews: I can’t imagine a better way to start 2014 than bringing home a PocketFives Triple Crown already in mid-January. How does such a good run feel?
Palumbo: Trust me, winning a Triple Crown feels great, but that is nothing compared to the satisfaction of hitting those results after a very bad downswing. 2014 started in the best possible way, especially after a year of suffering for a lack of big scores.
According to some rumors, the MiniFTOPS event you won on Full Tilt Poker was not even in your plans. As far as I know, you should have been busy playing on PokerStars’ Italian Poker Tour in Nova Gorica rather than grinding online. What happened?
Although I am not fond of the accumulator formula PokerStars introduced to the Italian Poker Tour, I thought of giving the tournament a shot as I live close to the tournament venue, and as I haven’t been playing live for some two months.
But then I got some fever, and I decided to stay in to play online rather than going there for the Day 1b. Apparently, I made a very good choice!
I don’t want to spoil your enthusiasm, but, as you also said, these great results are coming right after a not-so-fabulous 2013. How did you manage to stay focused when your grinding was not bringing any big scores?
Unfortunately, after winning one WPT title in Venice, my 2013 was a real disaster. Yet, I tried to push myself to stay as focused as I could, because I think that either you do everything at your best, or you better do nothing. I guess I haven’t been in a great mood for awhile; sometimes I might even feel a little depressed. But then, once I sit at the table everything changes. I fought against my bad run by studying and trying to constantly improve my game.
It’s almost six months now since you chose to leave Italy and join the club of "poker nomads" by moving to Slovenia. Are you still happy about your choice of relocating because of poker?
As I wanted to keep living as a professional poker player, I think I had no other choice than to leave Italy, as the country simply does not want us. Of course, moving is never easy. It costs you a lot of money and brings you away from your family and the people you care about.
Speaking of your family, how difficult was it to explain to them that you could not live in Italy anymore because you wanted to play poker?
My family always supported my choices, even if they brought me far from them.
For how Slovenia can be right across the Italian border, I am now living a six-hour drive away from my son, and this is not easy. Luckily, I often get the chance to see him and my ex-wife.
Playing on dot-com rooms versus playing on dot-it ones, can you give us the three main differences that make you think you did well by moving away from Italy’s regulated market?
I guess I can name differences that could also be the reasons motivating some other people not to leave Italy: ambition, prize pools and competition. All these are much bigger on dot-com tables. I understand how some people can easily choose to stay home, play easier games, and enjoy smaller prize pools. That’s just not for me; I prefer playing for something more.
2014 also started with European regulators discussing shared liquidity across different markets. Would you consider moving back to your home country if Italy and Spain joined forces?
It is very hard for me to say something about this or guess what would happen then, but it is possible that shared liquidity will convince some players to move back. As for myself, being an Italian citizen, I could play on dot-it tables even from Slovenia. So, no, I guess that would not be enough to convince me to move back.
So, how about the rest of your 2014 then, did you already set any goals for the year?
No, not really. I will soon launch my personal blog, and I have been waiting for the moment I will get on my first post for planning my year and think of what I would like to achieve during 2014. I would have liked to try to go for the Supernova Elite status on PokerStars, but we are already at the end of January and, as I don’t have a set plan in place yet, I guess I am already too late for this. I think I will focus mostly on big EPT and WSOP events and, at the same time, work harder to improve my online game.