EPT11 Malta: An opening orbit on a new day

You know when you're first into a train carriage, or on to a plane, and you look around at rows of empty seats and think, "Great, I've got it all to myself." You know when you do that, and then wait ten minutes, you'll end up thinking, "What a bloody fool. It's packed now. Why did I even get my hopes up?"

That scenario has almost precisely* played out this afternoon in the conference centre of the Portomaso Casino in Malta. Yesterday, the players in the €25,000 Special High Roller event had the run of the lower tournament room: they could pretty much have commandeered a table each, such was the space they had been afforded.

But today, with the second starting flight of the Italian Poker Tour (IPT) Main Event kicking off, the high rollers have found themselves wedged up in the corner. They haven't quite been forced to put their rucksacks under the seat in front of them, but I'll be amazed if there's still the option of chicken or beef by the time the dinner cart comes by. The cabin is full to bursting; they're sitting on the wings***.

Only 40 players remained when the $25,000 event finished last night, and two more bought in today. Registration is now closed, however, so tension is likely to escalate in that tightly-packed corner of the tournament room as they play into the money through the next ten levels.

"Tension" is relative at this level, of course, because high rollers tend to have seen all of this before and worry a little less about the money. You only need look at their faces as they strolled into the tournament room: Sorel Mizzi was primarily fascinated by the chocolate eggs that had been distributed to each player; Steve O'Dwyer had to coil his hair up into his "mun"; and Philipp Gruissem was late.

O'Dwyer also had something to ask Mustapha Kanit: "Did you make good on your promise?" O'Dwyer asked.
Kanit looked blankly back at his inquisitor. "What was the promise?" (This seemed to be a "No".)
"You told me in the elevator what you were going to do," O'Dwyer said.
"Oh," Kanit said. "I don't know."

Riveting stuff.

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Mustapha Kanit: What is his secret?

Anyhow, soon enough, the cards were in the air. They were about to play some poker. O'Dwyer and Kanit were sitting at a pretty tasty table, so out came the notebook and it was time for A Round With the "Special" High Rollers:

Table line-up:

Seat 1 - Philipp Gruissem, 188,500
Seat 2 - empty
Seat 3 - Daniel Dvoress, 86,400
Seat 4 - Isaac Haxton, 83,000
Seat 5 - Ramin Hajiyev, 63,100
Seat 6 - Mustapha Kanit, 43,000
Seat 7 - Simon Ravnsbaek, 63,000
Seat 8 - Steve O'Dwyer, 27,200

Level 11 - Blinds 1,000-2,000 300 ante

Hand 1 - Button with Daniel Dvoress

Not only was this line up pretty tasty, but there were some intriguing stack sizes at the table. We veered from the 14 big blind stack of O'Dwyer to Gruissem's 94, with everything represented in between.

In a main event, with hundreds of players and a long way to go until the money, the start of Day 2 usually means a free for all. But it wasn't certain that the same would happen here. It's all about picking spots.

So, hand one: folded to Steve O'Dwyer in the hijack. He shoves. He wins. Oh.

Hand 2 - Button with Isaac Haxton
Simon Ravsbaek opened to 4,5000 from under the gun, and action was folded all the way round. He took the blinds and antes. The dealer began shuffling up for the next hand, before a gracious Ravnsbaek suggested he might want to include the two cards with which he had just won the previous hand. They were scooped into the mass and off they went.

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Simon Ravnsbaek: Gives these cards back

Hand 3 - Button with Ramin Hajiyev
Daniel Dvoress got this started, raising to 4,500 from the hijack. Simon Ravnsbaek defended his big blind and that took them to a flop of J♥A♥7♠. Ravnsbaek checked. Dvoress bet 5,000, which Ravensbaek called and they both checked the Q♠ turn.

The 9♣ came on the river, and now Ravnsbaek led. He pushed out 7,800. Dvoress folded.

Hand 4 - Button with Mustapha Kanit
Daniel Dvoress was undeterred from the last hand and opened again, making it 5,000. Steve O'Dwyer felt he had enough chips now that he could call from the big blind and take a flop of 7♦6♦4♣.

Dvoress bet 6,000 and that persuaded O'Dwyer to let it go.

Hand 5 - Button with Simon Ravnsbaek
Action folded all around to Steve O'Dwyer in the small blind, and he moved all in for 26,000. Philipp Gruissem, who these days looks like he's auditioning for a part in a remake of The Artist (where the speech cards are in German), instantly called from his big stack.

O'Dwyer: A♦9♥
Gruissem: 4♦4♠

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Steve O'Dwyer and Philipp Gruissem

The flop came 2♠5♣4♣ and a lesser man than O'Dwyer might have packed up his things and prepared to depart having seen his opponent flop a set. But he said nothing and didn't move and after the Q♦ turned, the 3♠ popped up on the river to fill his straight. O'Dwyer doubled.

Gruissem tugged at his top lip. By the time we get to Monaco, his moustache will be long enough to twirl menacingly in these situations.

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Philipp Gruissem: Silent movie villain

Hand 6 - Button with Steve O'Dwyer
I think this was a walk for Dvoress in the big blind. It was over in a flash.

Hand 7 - Button with Philipp Gruissem
Mustapha Kanit opened the pot for the first time today. He made it 4,000 to go, and that was enough to scare everyone else out of the way.

Hand 8 - Button with Daniel Dvoress
Simon Ravsbaek, by some measure the most active player in these early stages, opened to 4,500 from early position. Philipp Gruissem called in the cut off and Ramin Hajiyev defended his big blind.

The flop came 9♣6♥4♦ and both Hajiyev and Ravsbaek checked. That allowed Gruissem to flick out 7,000 and pick up only Hajiyev with a call.

Both players checked the 5♥ turn. Then they both checked the K♦ river and Hajiyev picked up the pot when he opened 7♥7♣.

Salman Behbehani wandered over from a newly broken table and took seat two. But that was it for this opening orbit. Baby steps into what will likely be a much more frantic day.

*metaphorically
**we're still talking metaphorically
***it's just busy is all.

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. You might also want to download the EPT App, available on both Android or IOS, unless you don't, of course.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour