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The story of Swansea-born Roberto Romanello’s rise to poker stardom

Roberto Romanello was born in Swansea and now resides in the small West Glamorgan town of Gorseinon, north-west of the city. This is a distinctly rural community that’s the complete opposite of the glitz and glamour of some of the places Romanello’s been in the last couple of decades.

Romanello may not be a name that’s well-known to the people of south Wales, but it’s certainly one that’s familiar with poker enthusiasts and poker players. As a matter of fact, the man behind it happens to be the most successful Welsh live poker player in the history of the game.

Roberto Romanello’s poker journey

Romanello’s poker career started in rather inauspicious fashion. In 2005, he sustained a sports injury which put him out of action for a few months. Having witnessed the rising popularity of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event and the growing access to online poker games, Romanello took up the game to pass the time.

What happened next would surprise even Romanello himself. Within a fortnight of learning the ropes, he qualified for a live poker tournament package to rub shoulders with some of the biggest poker pros on the planet. 12 months later, he’d made the pilgrimage to Las Vegas to play in his inaugural WSOP Main Event, staged at the Rio All-Suite Hotel. He went on to cash in his Main Event debut, finishing 312th for a pay day of around £31,500.

The Main Event is one of those bucket list-style poker events that pros and keen amateurs worldwide endeavour to play. It also helped to spawn the rise of online poker tournaments with huge fields of player entries that now dwarf even the Main Event itself, which gets over 10,000 players with ease. The MicroMillions Main Event at PokerStars, for example, has attracted 27,863 entries, including almost 10,000 re-entries during the early stages of the tournament. The MicroMillions is one of the headline events in this operator’s calendar of online poker tournaments as the world’s leading low-stakes festival. Think of it as a low-roller version of the WSOP in Vegas.

2006 proved to be Romanello’s breakout year in the poker scene. He entered the Barcelona leg of the European Poker Tour (EPT) which remains one of the leading live poker circuits in the present day. Romanello won the €500-entry event to take a €42,200 first prize. His love affair with the PokerStars-led EPT circuit continued four years later, as he won the Main Event at the Prague leg of the 2010 EPT. This time he took home a cool €640,000, setting him up for life as a professional poker player.

Romanello would go on to make even more headlines by winning the 6-Max Turbo event at the Barcelona leg of the 2011 EPT for another six-figure prize. He’s also been no stranger to the WSOP in recent years. In fact, he won his first WSOP bracelet in an online event back in July 2020, winning Event #39, a $10,000-entry No Limit Hold’em tournament.

Earlier this year, Romanello was in the winners’ enclosure again, landing a Super High Roller victory on the WSOP International Circuit in Nottingham and claiming a £66,500 first prize win. He continues to set the standard for other Welsh poker players to follow, posting career live poker earnings to date in the region of £3.7m.

Who else is on the Welsh All-Time Money List?

The late Dave Colclough remains second on the all-time money list among Welsh poker winners. Camarthen-born Colclough was born on March 4th, 1964. “El Blondie”, as he was affectionately known in the poker community, turned to poker after an initial career in computing. His career earnings from live poker totalled £2.14m.

The elusive Mansour Matloubi is still third on the list. The 70-year-old Iranian-Brit, who played under the Welsh flag whilst active in the poker scene, became the first non-American to win the WSOP Main Event back in 1990. He made the final table of the 1993 Main Event too, underlining his talents.

It’s clear for the next generation of Welsh poker players that there’s a lot to live up to, but a lot of inspiration in equal measure.