EPT11 Malta: Oleksii Khoroshenin is the leader in the special added thrill-ride

The inaugural EPT Malta Poker Festival is one day old and like the greedy dreams of a billionaire's favourite daughter, everything we hoped for has come true.

We knew just by looking at the promotional photographs that there would be sun and there would be a sea view, but the organisers had not necessarily focused all their attentions on getting a tan. What they also needed was a well-attended poker festival in a destination that could pass more than just the sniff test. Malta had to deliver everything that is now expected on the world's most prestigious tour, and EPT players are not easy to please.

But you know what? One day in and it looks like all the boxes have already been ticked. It's like Malta has been with us since Season 1, and it has received a tacit endorsement from many hundreds already.

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Where everything is "special" and "added"

We kicked off today with Day 1 of the Italian Poker Tour (IPT) main event, and 378 players showed up for that. Of course they did. But most poker watchers' eyes will have been on the action one floor below in the Portomaso Casino, where the higher buy in end of this shebang got started with a €25,000 "Special Added" High Roller event.

The "special added" bit doesn't mean a whole lot, except to distinguish this event from the regular €10,000 High Rollers and the €50,000 Super High Rollers, which often bookend the bigger festivals. A quick wander through the tournament floor, or a glance at our overnight chip counts, however, quickly reveals that this is business as usual: The event has earned the approval of some of the game's biggest names.

Of the 86 entries today (comprising 67 unique buy ins, plus 19 re-entries), Oleksii Khoroshenin is the leader. The EPT Vienna champion from Ukraine bagged 277,000 chips, a pretty decent embellishment on his 50,000 starting stack. At the end of the day 43 players remained, but that is far from final.

The approximate top five looks like this:

Oleksii Khoroshenin - 277,600
Nick Petrangelo - 239,000
Piotr Franczak - 205,600
Dan Smith - 200,300
Dzmitry Urbanovich - 199,800

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Oleksii Khoroshenin: Front-runner

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Nick Petrangelo: Second place

But this is also an event in which players such as Philipp Gruissem (188,500), Martin Finger (178,000) Ole Schemion (57,900), Davidi Kitai (100,300) and Adrian Mateos (128,100) bagged chips.

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Just your regular meeting of wizards

Vanessa Selbst, Sam Trickett, Olivier Busquet, Martin Jacobson, ElkY, Mike McDonald, Fedor Holz and Ike Haxton were among those who hit the rail, but with one re-entry available up until the start of play tomorrow, it's proving difficult to get any of them out of here for good. Many bought back in.

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An early departure for Sam Trickett

If you head to the main EPT Malta page, you'll see a panel at the top that has all the hand-by-hand action from the day, plus a tab that will tell you the full chip counts. Tomorrow, after play has started at 12.15pm, we'll also have an idea of the prize pool, etc., and be playing another ten one-hour levels.

In the meantime, you can look through some of today's coverage, which started by welcoming a new dawn in the Mediterranean, progressed through an identity parade of stars, was drowned in a deafening silence and disintegrated into a bonkers hand with Martin Jacobson and tactical tips involving a hamburger.

There will be more of the same tomorrow. By the time you read this, Ike Haxton, resident of these parts, will already be home.

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How far have you got to go?

Follow all the action from the EPT Malta festival at PokerStars Blog. We have hand-by-hand action from the €25,000 High Roller in the panel at the top of the €25,000 High Roller page. Feature pieces are below. We also have a man on the IPT Malta stop. Unless you're a massive idiot, you should also download the EPT App, available on both Android or IOS.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour