The man beneath the hood: Valentin Messina on his return to EPT Malta
It turned out to be the defining image of EPT 11 Malta in March, if not the entire season. A man, who had every right to be enjoying perhaps one of the most joyous moments of his life, instead chose to console the man who, by virtue of being beaten, felt the exact opposite.
Jean Montury proved not only a worthy winner, but also a gallant one.
While Montury would get to celebrate, collecting a first prize of €687,400 as well as the winner's trophy, the man whose face was obscured in that image later came to reflect more positively on what a great achievement finishing runner up had been. That man was Valentin Messina.
As the EPT prepared to touch down on the Mediterranean island this week Frenchman Messina is already preparing his next Malta campaign. Having lived on the island for two years now it's the pace he calls home, a place where his poker career as developed and bloomed, and now at least, where the memories of last season are now happy ones.
For one thing Messina has already won his seat for the Main Event, and while personal obligations keep him away from the IPT Main Event (coverage of which begins tomorrow on the PokerStars Blog) he'll be there in a bid to repeat his efforts last time around, or who knows, go one better.
"I'm very confident about my game," he said. "I have no pressure because I know very well the difficulty to repeat such a performance. Obviously I would like to make a back to back but the task will be difficult!"
Messina has what he considers another advantage - the home field kind.
"During a deep run it's super important to be able to go home after each day to my wife. It helps me to be calm and relaxed, an essential element!"
That, coupled with the 2,000 hands he plays every day ("mainly in NL200 and NL400") put him in good stead ahead of the Main Event which starts on Sunday.
I really want to [put in] an excellent performance," he said. "And why not imagine doing better than last time?!"
Regardless of what happens this time around, the image of Messina, head down on the table, beaten and exhausted, is one of the Tour's most iconic. No one would begrudge him going one better this month.
For details on this season's EPT Malta festival go to the EPT homepage where you'll find tournament schedules and other usefl information. You can follow all the action from Portomaso Casino in Malta, along with the progress of Messina, on the PokerStars Blog from tomorrow.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.