That was the question many fans asked when they arrived at the Rio this morning to see his name at the top of the leader-board.
He may be lacking televised final table appearances and notoriety in America, but Italian poker pro Dario Minieri is one of the most respected players in the European online poker scene.
Minieri plays high stakes cash games, the biggest buy-in tournaments offered on the Internet, and is one of just a handful of players who've been able to prosper in the super high-stakes heads-up single table tournaments for an extended period of time. In the fall of 2006 Minieri made online poker history when he used his PokerStars frequent player points, the online poker equivalent of frequent flyer miles, to buy a Porsche. The average online poker player uses frequent player points to buy a t-shirt, a hat, or maybe a jacket. Dario bought a sports car. That's sort of like using frequent flyer miles to fly to outer-space . . . five times. And it took him just 10 months to accumulate the points.
Minieri ventured onto the live poker circuit in Europe in 2005, but it wasn't until last year, when he turned 21, that he was allowed to play at the World Series of Poker. After several money finishes in European tournaments, he traveled to Las Vegas and entered the 2006 WSOP Main Event. His tricky and aggressive style served him well against the colossal field, at one point placing him among the chip leaders in the tournament. He petered out at the end of day 3, however, and was eliminated from the tournament in 543rd place, earning $22,226. Two months later Dario entered a European Poker Tour event in Austria and picked up the first six-figure score of his career after finishing third out of 331 players. As of today, Minieri has been playing live tournament poker for less than two years and has already earned over a quarter of a million dollars.
Minieri went on a Jamie Gold-esque run on Day 3 of the 2007 Main Event, beginning the day with less than 350,000 and ending with 2.4 million, almost a million more than his nearest competitor. Dario's successful aggression was the buzz at the Rio at the end of Day 3, and although he now has enough chips to sit back and relax, don't expect him to take that approach. As PokerNews reporter BJ Nemeth wrote, Minieri "doesn't know the meaning of the word 'slow'."