EPT Malta: The Maltese Curiosity Shop

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Final five in the Malta Cup

I didn't know until reading it this month that Charles Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop is a novel about gambling addiction. It really is. Little Nell and her grandfather are required to flee the titular emporium because of gambling debts, and the novel has a couple of scenes of card-playing that must be among the earliest in English literature.

Dickens was a peerless observer of humanity, both timeless and prescient in a lot of what he saw. His descriptions of the card table are characteristically astute and when he wrote of the players in a game in the Valiant Soldier public house that "there they sat, with a calm indifference to everything but their cards, perfect philosophers in appearance, and with no greater show of passion or excitement than if they had been made of stone", he might easily have been writing about the final table of the Malta Cup.

They are down to five players in that particular jamboree and it is playing out in the furthest, darkest corner of the main tournament room. There is no conversation whatever between the final five, and the only indication that they are not indeed made of stone comes when they are forced to post blinds or declare betting intentions, or occasionally skittering to talk to friends on the rail.


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For all that, it's a cosmopolitan affair, with players from Austria, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Poland and Hungary, and some fascinating end-game strategy being applied by each of them.

Roman Skudar, Neil Ryder and David Breitfuss are very closely grouped at the top of the chip ladder, with around 4 million each (blinds 60,000-120,000). But when I arrived, Grzegorz Wyraz and Andras Stumpf were in desperate danger, each with only about eight big blinds.

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Grzegorz Wyraz: Shove, shove, shove

In the traditional sense, Stumpf had position on Wyraz, i.e., Stumpf was to Wyraz's left. But in the particular circumstances, Wyraz was making the most of the fact that he was able to get his chips in the pot first and moved all in twice when he was in early position, folding only when Breitfuss and Ryder wanted to play a pot when he was in the big blind.

Wyraz then open-shoved from the small blind, forcing Stumpf to fold his big blind, and then open-shoved again from the button, again getting it through.

The hand between Breitfuss and Ryder threatened to be one of those dreams for the short stacks. Both Wyraz and Stumpf looked on with glee after the Austrian opened to 250,000 and Ryder three bet to 500,000. Breitfuss called and they saw a flop of 4♥4♠A♥. Check, check.

Breitfuss check-called Ryder's bet of 375,000 on the 8♠ turn, then they both checked again on the K♣ river. Breitfuss's A♠J♠ beat Ryder's 9♦9♥, with both men realising it would be very foolish to get knocked out with the shorties still at the table.

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David Breitfuss

The blinds went up to 80,000-160,000 and Wyraz again started shoving every hand. He managed to get his stack up to more than 2 million in the process, without ever being called, and was even able to push Ryder out of a pot when Ryder opened the button and Wyraz shoved from the big blind.

Stumpf was frustrated. He had dwindled all the way to four big blinds, obviously finding no appropriate spot to get his chips in. Eventually when he did jam, it was scarcely appropriate too: he had only T♣7♦ when he decided to defend his big blind against Ryder's open.

Ryder had A♣T♠, but was certainly somewhat more animated than previously when the flop fell 8♠9♥5♦. That gave Stumpf an open-ended straight draw, which didn't get filled on the 2♦ turn. But the J♣ was one of Stumpf's outs and he doubled back to eight bigs.

Down they all sat again and turned back to stone.

Everything about EPT Malta is on the main EPT Malta page. More specifically, all the hand-by-hand coverage of the €25,000 High Roller is on the €25,000 High Roller page and everything from the IPT Main Event is on the IPT Main Event page.

No really, begin plotting your own bid for EPT glory by downloading the PokerStars client and having a crack. Follow this EPT event via the EPT app. There you will get all the latest news, chip counts and payouts. You can download it on Android or IOS

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour