EPT11 Malta: New stop, familiar faces

Before a player can be dealt into a hand in the €25,000 High Roller they have to go through a process that goes a bit like this. Step 1: Register. Step 2: Collect their seat assignment. Step 3: Sit down in said seat assignment, then produce identification to prove they are who they say they are.

No one has yet taken umbrage at step three - it's a staple of most big buy-in poker tournaments - but many you feel might have, if only jokingly, been thinking 'What? Don't you know who I am?' For the small field of just 27 (and rising) contains a large chunk of the most famous poker players on the planet, the poster boys for this and any other tour.


Team Pro Online's Ike Haxton eyes up Sorel Mizzi

Plenty of poker players call Malta home, one of whom is Team Pro Online's Ike Haxton. He'd drawn the five seat at table four and from this prime real estate in the middle of the table could look to his right and see Paul Newey (seat one) and Pratyush Buddiga (seat three) whilst with a cursory glance to his left he could ascertain that he was going to be out of position to Andrew Chen (seat seven) for the majority of hands.

Play didn't remain four handed for long though as Sorel Mizzi - a man with a mere $10.9M in lifetime earnings - took the seat to Haxton's direct right. The two soon engaged in conversation. "How far do you live from here Ike?" asked Mizzi. "About two minutes," replied Haxton. The Canadian's follow up question wasn't about Malta's culture or what there was to do nearby, instead it was much more workmanlike. "How's the internet?" said Mizzi, a question crucial to any professional poker player of course. "It's fine, not super fast or anything," replied Haxton, who sensing Mizzi needed more information added. "I maybe get a couple of outages a year but that's about it."

But if we needed reminding that this trip to a Mediterranean island was very much a working trip a hand of poker soon broke out between the two. Haxton raised to 600 from under-the-gun, Newey smooth called on the button and Mizzi, who was in the big blind, took his time before electing to raise. He bumped the price of poker up to either 2,600 or 2,800 as it was unclear if his big blind was back behind the line or just over it. Either way neither Haxton nor Newey asked for an exact count of the raise as both players pitched their cards into the muck. Pot won and conversation over, Mizzi put his headphones on and went into work mode.


O'Dwyer is making a habit of going deep in High Roller events

If you thought the crowd at table four was tough it didn't get any easier at table three. Two Super High Roller wins within three months isn't something too many players can put on their C.V. but Steve O'Dwyer can. He took down the Super High Roller at the PCA in January and the equivalent event at the APPT in Macau in November. He has position on David Peters (seat three) and Jeff Rossiter (seat four). As with Haxton's table, play began four handed, but their numbers were soon boosted by the arrival of online whiz kid Patrick Leonard and Andrey Shatilov, the Russian has two EPT Main Event final tables to his name.

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Another top draw Germany vs Holland match up

By now you probably get the idea that there weren't many so called 'spots' in this tournament. There weren't any at table two that's for sure. A line-up of Philipp Gruissem, Jorryt van Hoof, Stephen Chidwick, Dan Smith, Adrian Mateos and Sam Greenwood wouldn't look out of place in an event with four times the buy-in. They aren't just high rollers, they're super high rollers.


Team PokerStars Pro Eugene Katchalov

And last but not least table one contained the combined talents of EPT100 Super High Roller winner Olivier Busquet, the original Super High Roller champion and Team PokerStars Pro, Eugene Katchalov and the consistently consistent Joao Viera.

Like when there's a close coin flip in a massive cash game pot the first two levels of this event will be run twice so expect plenty more big names to show up as the day continues.

You can follow hand for hand coverage in the panel at the top of the page, then plenty of features scattered throughout all the EPT Malta pages. And to get all the latest news, chip counts and payouts, don't forget to download the EPT App on both Android or IOS.

Nick Wright
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour