Rome, ItalyFinal Table Position:
6,200,000Career WSOP Cashes:
3 (no bracelets)Favorite Poker Movie: Rounders
. I have seen it many, many times."Favorite Poker Book
: Phil Gordon’s Little Blue Book
"It was the first book poker book I ever read. Picked it up when I was 19 and it was a great help."Favorite Poker Player:
"I played at the same table with him at the Main Event and he is a great guy. We joked around a lot with each other and he really helped me relax. He was on my right when I had a great run on Day 7. You don't get to say that you played with a player like him very often."Favorite Poker Room: Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino
"It has to be the Rio. I had such a great summer there. Great variety of games there."
Watermelons and dirty dishes.
That's what Federico Butteroni's daily life consisted of during the better part of 2014, after leaving his home country of Italy to spend a year in Australia. Worn out from playing poker full time, his goal was to get away from it all, recharge and refresh.
He never held a "real job" – as he put it – so upon arriving in Australia he worked as a dishwasher at Little Caesars Pizzeria in Leederville and hauled watermelons on a farm in Carnarvon, in the northern tropics of the country. It was down-and-dirty, blue-collar labor, and the furthest thing from grinding online or in a casino.
One year later, it's clear Butteroni's strategy worked. After re-entering the poker world, the affable 25-year-old has enjoyed a profitable run in his old profession, highlighted by reaching the final table of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event. As he prepares for the November Nine and his chance to take home more than $7.6 million, Butteroni is convinced he would not be in this prime position if it weren't for his time spent Down Under.
"I was burnt out on poker. I wasn't playing well and I needed a break," he says. "Looking back it was the best thing for me at the time."
While in Australia, Butteroni learned English well enough to speak fluently and met many new people whom he calls dear friends today. While the time he endured in the blazing hot sun on a watermelon farm and in a busy kitchen scrubbing dishes wasn't easy, he claims the entire experience helped shape him as a person.
"I'm a better human being because of it," he says with conviction. "I was an arrogant person and I didn't have a good mindset about how to earn money and spend it. Australia changed all of that."
Six months into his visit, Butteroni moved to Perth looking for another challenge. When he struck out looking for a new job, he decided it was time to get back to poker and began playing regularly at Crown Perth
. During a seven-week span he made three final tables and took home more than $13,000, the biggest payday coming with a runner-up finish worth $6,300 in a Sapphire Series Poker Challenge No Limit Event.
"I felt like a totally different person at the poker table," says Butteroni, who plays at PokerStars
under the name "Themonster6." "It wasn't a grind
anymore. I was having fun again."
With his 12-month visa expired, Butteroni returned home a new person with an entirely different outlook on poker and life in general.
He spent 45 days in Japan visiting friends in 16 different cities. At night, he played online in cash games on his laptop and had enough success to fund a trip to Las Vegas for his first World Series of Poker, something he always dreamed about. But his bankroll
wasn't big enough to play in the Main Event — at least not until he placed 20th in the $1,500 No Limit Monster
Stack Event, earning $45,633, the biggest score of his career. He also won a Rio Daily Deepstacks Event for $31,756 and cashed for $3,622 in another WSOP $1,500 No Limit Event.
Playing the best poker of his life, Butteroni entered the Main Event feeling as good as he ever had at the poker table.
"I was lucky enough to run good in Vegas and make it an easy choice to play the Main Event," he said.
He continued to run hot, but on Day 7 of the Main Event he started as one of the shortest stacks. With 36 players remaining, he was second-to-last on the chip count list. But he survived, thanks to a few hotly contested hands in which his emotions ran wild – moments that are sure to get air time on ESPN's Main Event coverage.
"When you've come as far as I have and your tournament life is on the line, it's difficult not to get emotional," he says.
Since the November Nine was decided and Butteroni cashed his $1 million check, he has gone back into
recharge mode. He's not playing a lot of poker, but instead is working out hard every day at the gym, knowing the physical and mental challenges of playing in a Main Event final table. In August, while vacationing on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, he made sure to take the four-hour train ride south to meet countryman Filippo Candio, who lives on the island and is the last Italian player to make the Main Event final table (2010).
"It was great to meet him and hear about his experience at the Main Event," Butteroni said. "We didn't talk much about poker. He spoke to me more about what to expect, how to handle the situation and manage my emotions. I think it will be very helpful."
When the cards go in the air
at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in November, Butteroni will once again be short stacked, sitting in ninth place, a staggering 57.9 million chips behind the leader, Joe McKeehen. While he faces a daunting task, Butteroni says he knows how to play a short stack
and is confident he can make another spirited run. Either way, he plans to make the most out of playing on such a grand stage.
"I am honored to be playing for my country. It's important to me to be a good person at the table and represent Italy," he says. "It would be a dream come true if I could win the Main Event and bring a bracelet home to all of the people in Italy."This article is part of Casino City's series of WSOP November Nine profiles. Other articles include: