EPT11 Malta: Build it and they will (probably) come

I don't think I'll be revealing many inside secrets if I say there was some trepidation inside PokerStars HQ ahead of this event. It wasn't that they thought Malta couldn't handle a European Poker Tour event (it clearly could) but there will always be apprehension at a new venture. Despite the well-worn aphorism, the most you can say with any real confidence is that if you build it, you hope they will come.

The €25,000 "special added" High Roller event, which began today, is indicative of this uncertainty. Poker players are a pretty fickle bunch, and there are plenty of options year round for tournament players. If you want people to take a chance on a new venue, you have to make sure you're offering something for everyone. You also have to hope you can rope in a few of what Malcolm Gladwell might call "connectors", i.e., people "with a special gift for bringing the world together". Those people in poker tend to be the players signing up for the highest buy-in events.

It was probably a risk too far to offer a €50,000 Super High Roller at a new destination. (What if nobody came?) But the connectors had to be lured here for the start of the festival, and that's why this kind of hybrid High Roller event was added to the schedule.

This is the first time that we've had a €25,000 buy-in event outside of Monaco on the European Poker Tour (we have also had a $25,000 tournament at the PCA, but note the currency) and it has been pretty clearly aimed at bringing in the big guns, who will likely also play the main event. And if they bring all their friends, so much the better.

As we reported earlier, it is fairly clear that this has worked. The field is a reliable who's who of the top poker talent. But better than that, it's also notable how well represented tournament poker's separate cliques are, and how many players have shown up who may otherwise most likely may not have bothered.

For instance, Igor Kurganov is here, a linchpin of the group of German High Rollers who are a regular presence at the highest buy in events. And where there's a Kurganov, there's usually a Gruissem. Sure enough, Philbort has arrived. (And, there's a Quoss, a Holz and a Finger too.)


Philipp Gruissem: Among the German wizards

Jeff Rossiter's presence in the room suggests that there's been at least one conversation in Macau in the past month about possibly heading from Asia to Malta. Lo and behold, this €25,000 event has also attracted Steve O'Dwyer and Stephen Chidwick, most recently seen at the Macau Poker Cup, where Chidwick finished second in the HK$80,000 High Roller and O'Dwyer won a HK$20,000 event, each for around HK$1m. (Rossiter has been known to do most of his best work off in the same Special Administrative Region of China.)


Stephen Chidwick: Back from Asia with a few bucks

Adrian Mateos is the top money earner in Spanish tournament poker, and he is now a fixture in the highest buy in events on the EPT. He is playing the €25K. Although Sergio Aido, his friend and flatmate, hasn't yet been seen in an event with a buy in of more than €10,000, the two travelled here together, along with Diego Gomez, and the latter is in the IPT Main Event.

Mike McDonald is one of only two men to have played every Super High Roller event on the EPT (the other is Jason Mercier), and McDonald is duly registered for this one too. He leads a familiar smattering of Canadian faces, including Mike Watson, Sorel Mizzi, Sam Greenwood and Timothy Adams.


Mike McDonald: Wouldn't miss it

"Hello stranger," Garry Gates, the PokerStars VIP host, said as Adams carried his tray of chips to his starting seat.
"Stranger!?" Adams said. "I missed two stops!"

Aha. But he came back for Malta, didn't he.

The "stranger" label might more readily have been applied to Dan Smith. Smith used to be at pretty much every European Poker Tour stop, and large portions of his $8.9m tournament winnings were accumulated in Europe. But having played in Barcelona in August last year, Smith has not been seen since. But he too has been lured to the Sacred Isle.


Dan Smith: Welcome back

Of course, Smith is hardly likely to be the only American in any field, and his peers and countrymen Pratyush Buddiga, Bryn Kenney, Olivier Busquet and and David Peters are here too.

When you throw in the Russian regulars Vladimir Troyanovskiy and Andrey Shatilov, we have a a field that represents a grand success for the organisers of EPT Malta, and seems certain to ensure a pretty tasty Main Event, and €10,000 field too.

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