EPT13 Malta: Fast company as German leads the €10K

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Dietrich Fast: Smiling all the way to the top

The opening day of the EPT13 Malta festival started slowly, but true to form gradually warmed up before ending in a frenzy.

With a 6pm start time to the curtain-raising €10,000 single re-entry event, and registration remaining open throughout all eight levels (and two more tomorrow), players had the luxury of flying into Malta today, taking a shower, having a nap, then playing.

Ben Heath, who was on the 11:40am flight out of London this morning, seemed to have taken the leisurely route to the top of the counts when bagging and tagging started at around 12:30am this morning. But even though his 142,600 seemed to be the biggest--and was reported as such--tournament organisers noticed that Dietrich Fast had signed for 147,300. A little bit more.

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Ben Heath: Pipped to the lead by Fast

So it was that Fast, a German player who lives in Austria, pipped Heath who, in turn, pipped Anthony Zinno. Zinno has 140,400. (The starting stack was 50,000.)

Zinno had also taken it easy. He didn't arrive until about Level 5 or 6, but knocked out Steve O'Dwyer when he turned a set of kings and was on cruise control since that point. O'Dwyer, who won the €10,000 single-day event here last year, had been the chip leader at one point, but he can now decide whether to re-enter tomorrow.

Charlie Carrel was also briefly out in front. He eliminated Stephen Chidwick early on. But Carrel was cut back and Chidwick re-entered. There were five re-entries among the 50 entries total we have seen so far.

So, to repeat, registration remains open until the end of the second level tomorrow, which is Level 10 of the tournament. After that, levels become one-hour long. Everyone will hope to soon be in Fast company.

Here's the top ten.

NameCountryEntry infoChips
Dietrich FastGermany 147300
Ben HeathUK 142600
Anthony ZinnoUSA 140400
Patrick LeonardUK 118000
Orpen KisacikogluUKRe-Entered on Day 1117500
Oleksii KhorosheninUkraine 112600
Ole SchemionGermany 106500
Dan ShakUSA 104300
Nick PetrangeloUSA 102600
Senh UngUK 91300

Head to the chip-count page for the full list. Scroll through below for all the action from today.

12:45am: Heath heads Zinno
Level 8 - Blinds 500/1,000 (100 ante)

That's it. They're bagging. Ben Heath is the leader, with 142,600. He is just ahead of Anthony Zinno, who has 140,000. We'll wrap it up properly in a moment. Stay here.

12:40am: Six more hands
Level 8 - Blinds 500/1,000 (100 ante)

They have stopped the clock and are playing six more hands.

12:30am: Houri and Thorel sticking around
Level 8 - Blinds 500/1,000 (100 ante)

Nick Petrangelo ruefully shook his head after coming out third best in a strange hand. There was about 40,000 in the pot already and four players involved. They were at the turn with the board showing 4♣A♣7♦9♥.

Yehoram Houri was all-in, but there was no side pot yet. The other players were Sylvain Loosli, Petrangelo and Jean-Noel Thorel.

Thorel checked, as did Loosli. Petrangelo bet 12,000. Thorel, with only 15,400 behind, called and Loosli let his hand go.

The river was the 6♣ and Thorel checked. Petrangelo bet 3,000 and Thorel then raised all-in, for 3,400 total. Petrangelo obviously called and showed 7♠7♥. Thorel tabled his J♣8♣ and, having hit a straight, was guaranteed the side pot at least.

But that was all he was getting. Houri had K♣7♣ and took the biggest chunk.

12:25am: Divergent fortunes for two-bullet men
Level 8 - Blinds 500/1,000 (100 ante)

Two players on their second bullets -- Stephen Chidwick and Jean-Noel Thorel -- played pots on neighbouring tables at the exact same time. One of them won, one of them lost.

Chidwick first: He raised to 2,000 from mid-position and Dietrich Fast three-bet to 5,200 from his left. It folded back to Chidwick and he called for a Q♦8♥5♥ flop. Chidwick checked.

Fast bet 3,000 and Chidwick shoved, pushing about 15,000 over the line in total. Fast quickly folded.

So, on to Thorel. He raised to 2,400 from under the gun and Sylvain Loosli called on the button. The flop came 4♣Q♣5♠ and Thorel checked. Loosli bet 3,000 and Thorel called.

The A♣ came on the turn and Thorel check-called Loosli's bet of 7,500. Then after the 7♣ came on the river, Thorel check-call-mucked after Loosli bet 12,000 and showed J♣8♣.

12:05am: Aldemir straightens out Schemion
Level 8 - Blinds 500/1,000 (100 ante)

Koray Aldemir and Ole Schemion were at the turn. The four board cards were the 9♦A♥Q♦K♦ and Aldemir checked. Schemion wanted to bet and for a while he wondered how much. Then he just moved all in, for about 48,000.

Aldemir called instantly and Schemion said, "You win, I guess." His A♣9♣ looked good on the flop, but not so much after the turn. He was against Aldemir's J♠T♥.

Schemion still had outs to the full house, but the river was a blank and that was that. Aldemir's stack was 21,200, so Schemion still has about 25 big blinds.

12:05am: Zinno races into the lead
Level 8 - Blinds 500/1,000 (100 ante)

"Hey buddy, nice of you to come to the tournament." This was Max Silver's ironic rub-down of Anthony Zinno, who sat down very late tonight but has just knocked out Steve O'Dwyer in what is likely the biggest pot of the tournament so far. It gives Zinno more than 160,000 and the chip lead.

I saw almost none of it, beyond O'Dwyer realising that he was just about covered by Zinno's stack even though he was emphatically covered by Zinno's hand. His pocket kings had turned a set.

O'Dwyer, who was chip-leader himself not so long ago, is now heading out the door, but Zinno is in business very quickly.

Felix Stephensen and Jason Wheeler went out within about three minutes of O'Dwyer busting too.

12:05am: Thorel finds aces
Level 7 - Blinds 400/800 (100 ante)

Conventional wisdom is that you don't give anyone at the poker table any information that they haven't paid for. But you only get aces once in a while, so there's no harm in proudly showing them now and again.

That's Jean-Noel Thorel's philosophy, at least, and he just showed his A♠A♦ even after Sylvain Loosli folded on the flop.

Loosli opened to 2,000 from under the gun and Thorel three-bet to 5,100 from the cutoff. Loosli was the only one who called and they saw the 7♠J♦J♠ emerge. Loosli checked, Thorel bet 5,100 and Loosli tossed his hand.

Thorel tossed his too, but face up into the middle so that everyone could see the bullets.

That's the last hand of that level and they're now going into Level 8, the last of the day.

11:55pm: Fifty and counting
Level 7 - Blinds 400/800 (100 ante)

There have now been 50 entries into this one, and there will likely be a whole lot more by the time registration closes after two levels of play tomorrow. The recent arrivals include:

Oleksii Khoreshenin, Benjamin Pollak, Ramin Hajiyev, Anthony Zinno and a welcome return for Ole Schemion. We haven't seen him in a while.


11:45pm: Two Silver bullets
Level 7 - Blinds 400/800 (100 ante)

Max Silver is on his second bullet. He recently wandered away from Table 2, only to re-emerge pretty hastily on Table 6. "Second?" Felix Stephenson asked, and Silver confirmed the bad news. "Is that your second?" Viacheslav Buldygin asked about three minutes later, having not heard the original query and inadvertently rubbing some salt in the Silver wound.

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Max Silver

11:40pm: Troyanovskiy won't be squeezed
Level 7 - Blinds 400/800 (100 ante)

I'm sure Mrs Troyanovskiy can get away with it, but Viacheslav Buldygin just learned that Vladimir Troyanovskiy does not like to be squeezed.

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Vladimir Troyanovskiy: Do not squeeze

This hand started when Pierre Neuville opened to 2,000 from the button and Troyanovskiy called from the small blind. Buldygin three-bet to 7,900 from the big blind and although Neuville got out of the way, Troyanovskiy said that he was all-in, committing 55,000-ish. That was more than Buldygin had and he wasn't ready to risk it. He folded.

11:30pm: Heath and Kozlov jousting
Level 7 - Blinds 400/800 (100 ante)

Ben Heath and Martin Kozlov are the big stacks on Table 5, and they just danced around the potential for playing a big pot. In the end, Heath backed down and lost only a small amount.

Heath opened to 2,000 from under the gun and Kozlov, in the cutoff, three-bet to 6,000. Heath called. The flop came K♠2♣2♦ and Heath check-called Kozlov's bet of 3,200.

The 3♣ came on the turn and Heath checked again. Kozlov bet 9,500 and Heath let him have it, maintaining a stack of about 140,000. Kozlov has about 90,000.

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Martin Kozlov

11:25pm: Neuville moving up
Level 7 - Blinds 400/800 (100 ante)

Pierre Neuville is on the up again and a whole new table of players are learning that he genuinely has some game. Neuville was one of three players at a flop of 5♠6♣8♣ and Neuville, who was in the small blind pre-flop, checked. Felix Stephenson, in the cutoff, checked too and then Connor Drinan, on the button bet 3,000.

It didn't take too long for Neuville to find a check-raise. He made it 8,000. Stephenson respected this move from a fellow former November Niner, and Drinan folded too. Neuville has about 105,000 now.

11:15pm: Penultimate level
Level 7 - Blinds 400/800 (100 ante)

They're now into Level 7, the second-last of this opening day.

11pm: Drinan loses the minimum
Level 6 - Blinds 300/600 (100 ante)

Connor Drinan and Pierre Neuville just played a surprisingly small pot, with Drinan wriggling away from a grim flop for his pocket kings.

There wasn't much in the middle pre-flop, probably only enough to represent a raise from Drinan in early position and a call from Neuville to his left. The flop then appeared: A♣2♣A♥. Drinan bet 2,000 and Neuville called.

The 5♣ came on the turn and Drinan checked. Neuville bet 3,000 and Drinan called, seeing the T♦ on the river. Drinan checked and Neuville checked behind.

Drinan turned over his K♠K♥ which was now second-best to Neuville's A♠J♥.

10:50pm: Seiver finishes off Thorel
Level 6 - Blinds 300/600 (100 ante)

Jean-Noel Thorel turned to his massage therapist and said, "Finish." The reason: he had just committed the last of his chips with a board reading Q♣Q♦A♦9♠8♦ and Scott Seiver, the man he was up against, had turned over his K♣Q♥. Thorel showed his A♣4♠, which was not good enough. Seiver stacked up 61,000.

Thorel told the massage therapist that he would be coming back, just as soon as he had returned to the cage with another €10,000. She then checked with the tournament supervisor whether Thorel would be returning to his old seat.

"No," the tournament supervisor said, before adding, "but it is possible." This is a re-entry, which means players draw a new seat assignment if they buy back into action. And that meant it was technically possible for Thorel to get the same one he had just left.

But, five minutes, later, it was clear that wasn't happening. Thorel shuffled back into the room and the massage therapist had to move her bag of stuff over the other side of the room beside Thorel's new seat.

10:40pm: Troyanovskiy profits from Carrel
Level 6 - Blinds 300/600 (100 ante)

You'll notice from the chip-counts below that Charlie Carrel's flying start has come to a bit of a grinding halt. The man who seems to have prospered most as Carrel has dwindled back to his starting stack is Vladimir Troyanovskiy.

They were involved in a recent pot where it looked like Carrel bet the flop of K♥Q♠9♣ and then three-bet after Troyanovskiy raised. Troyanovskiy called, taking them to the 2♣ on the turn.

There was exactly 41,200 in the pot at this stage, but no more went in as they checked that deuce, then also checked the 3♦ river. Carrel's 9♦T♦ lost out to Troyanovskiy's K♦T♥.

10:31pm: Wheeler stuck in the last level
Level 6 - Blinds 300/600 (100 ante)

"Thirteen-fifty," Jason Wheeler said, throwing out two orange chips, worth 1,000 apiece but stating his intended bet very clearly. One problem: there aren't any 25-denomination chips left, so getting change was going to be difficult.

The dealer rounded it down, stating the bet was 1,300, and when action folded round to Chi Zhang, he doubled checked it was exactly 1,300 he was asked to pay. "In my head, it's thirteen-fifty," Wheeler said as he gave him the eye-ball. Zhang called.

The flop came 3♥3♠9♥ and Zhang checked. Wheeler bet 1,500 and Zhang called.

The 9♦ came on the turn, and they both checked. They weren't much interested in the Q♥ on the river either. They both checked again. Wheeler showed A♦8♥ and Zhang showed A♠8♠ and that one fizzled right out into a chop.

10:30pm: Some stacks
Level 6 - Blinds 300/600 (100 ante)

If I remember rightly, Steve O'Dwyer nursed a short stack for much of the deep stages of this tournament last season, only emerging late to claim the title. He is going about his title defence in markedly different fashion this time around and presently has the chip lead. Here are some stacks:

Steve O'Dwyer - 145,000
Martin Kozlov - 120,000
Martin Finger - 95,000
Vladimir Troyanovskiy - 90,000
Ben Heath - 80,000
Patrick Leonard - 75,000
Dietrich Fast - 75,000
Connor Drinan - 71,000
Charlie Carrel - 55,000

10:10pm: Break time
Level 5 - Blinds 250/500 (100 ante)

This wasn't on the original schedule, but they're taking a 20-minute break now and are colouring up the 25 value chips. They'll come back to play straight through Levels 6-8 and then wrap up for the day.

9:50pm: Check, check, check, check, check, etc
Level 5 - Blinds 250/500 (100 ante)

Get ready for a lot of checking.

Pierre Neuville opened to 1,200 from under the gun and Vladimir Troyanovskiy, his old sparring partner, called from one seat along. Connor Drinan, in the big blind, also called, and those three saw a flop of Q♣6♣4♣. Drinan checked.

Neuville checked his cards. Then checked. And Troyanovskiy checked behind. They saw the 8♣ on the turn. Drinan checked. Neuville checked. Then Troyanovskiy did the double-check: first checking his cards, then tapping the table to check.

The 8♦ came on the river and Drinan checked. Neuville checked. Troyanovskiy checked. Drinan turned over J♦J♥. It turns out that his lack of card check was something of a tell. He knew he didn't have a club because he had two red jacks.

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Connor Drinan

Surprising as it may sound, neither Neuville nor Troyanovskiy had a club either and the jacks were good.

9:40pm: Heath four-bet
Level 5 - Blinds 250/500 (100 ante)

Dario Sammartino opened to 1,000 from the hijack and no sooner was a three-bet to 4,000 out there from his neighbour than Ben Heath, on the button, had made it 8,500. That four-bet was good. Charlie Carrel, who is Heath's friend and (at one point, I think, his flatmate) is still leading the tournament, but Heath has had a good start too. His stack is nearly double what he sat down with today.

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Ben Heath

9:25pm: Level up
Level 5 - Blinds 250/500 (100 ante)

We're over the hump, folks. That was the last hand of Level 4 and we're into Level 5 now.

9:25pm: Betting big on the river is the new black
Level 4 - Blinds 200/400 (50 ante)

Martin Kozlov opened to 850 from under the gun and ensnared the two blinds in his villainous dealings. Both Ben Heath (SB) and Govert Metaal (BB) joined in.

They all checked the K♦9♦8♣ flop, then Heath bet 1,350 at the 3♦ turn. Metaal raised to 3,900 and Kozlov called. Who would have thought that three could be so interesting? Heath folded.

The 8♥ came on the river and Metaal checked. Kozlov bet 16,000 and the latest chunky river bet got the job done again.

9:20pm: Neuville does not impress Troyanovskiy
Level 4 - Blinds 200/400 (50 ante)

Action passed all the way to Pierre Neuville in the small blind and he raised to 1,100. If Vladimir Troyanovskiy was impressed with that, he decided to conceal it very well. He threw out a contemptuous call.

The flop came 2♥7♣T♥ and Neuville bet 1,325. Troyanovskiy called. That took them to the J♠ turn, which they checked, and the 3♦ river, which they also checked.

Neuville turned over 7♦5♠ and Troyanovskiy was still not impressed. But he was beaten and mucked.

9:15pm: Finger's queens are good
Level 4 - Blinds 200/400 (50 ante)

Martin Finger raised to 800 from the button and Davidi Kitai called in the big blind. It was just those two to see the flop of 3♦9♠5♠. Kitai checked and Finger bet 2,000. Kitai called, taking them to the 7♠ on the turn.

Kitai took over the betting lead and pushed 4,200 forward. Finger called, and then they saw the 9♥ on the river. Both players slowed right down and, after the double check, Kitai opened A♦8♠. Finger's Q♠Q♦ was never behind.

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Martin Finger

9:05pm: Zhang firing
Level 4 - Blinds 200/400 (50 ante)

In truth, this isn't the most fascinating update ever but it might be worth mentioning. Chi Zhang just won back-to-back pots with some aggression. The first came when he opened to 1,000 from under the gun and Jason Wheeler three-bet to 2,500 one seat along. After the rest of the table folded, Zhang four-bet to 7,800 and that got it done.

Soon after, Zhang check-raised Senh Ung on a flop of K♦6♠7♠ and that was good enough too.

8:50pm: Finger bets big
Level 4 - Blinds 200/400 (50 ante)

Three players were at a flop of A♣T♦9♦. Martin Finger, one of them, bet 3,000 and Davidi Kitai, another one of them, raised to 8,200. Brian Altman, the last of the trio, called. Finger called too. (Finger would have been in the small blind, Kitai was in mid-position and Altman was on the button.

The K♠ came on the turn and all three players checked, which took them to the 2♠ on the river. Altman stared fiercely at Finger, but he was unflustered as he bet 28,000.

Kitai was the first player to seem highly suspicious and took a long, long time before folding. Then the suspicion fell to Altman, who also took a good long while before tossing his cards away too.

8:45pm: Loosli-ing up
Level 4 - Blinds 200/400 (50 ante)

Sylvain Loosli was among a clutch of players who joined us during the break. He is now in the field with Davidi Kitai and Jean-Noel Thorel. Stephen Chidwick has become the first player to re-enter after that collision with Charlie Carrel.

Carrel, by the way, is chip leader at the moment with about 130,000. No one else even has enough chips to make a stack of 20.

8:20pm: Break time
Level 3 - Blinds 150/300 (50 ante)

And that's the end of Level 3. Players are going for a 20-minute break.

8:15pm: Change of schedule
Level 3 - Blinds 150/300 (50 ante)

The plans for this evening have changed. We're now playing only eight levels tonight and will therefore wrap at around 1am.

8pm: Carrel backs into flush to bust Chidwick
Level 3 - Blinds 150/300 (50 ante)

Stephen Chidwick's first bullet has just ricocheted into his own heart. It took a hefty deflection off his countryman Charlie Carrel along the way as the latter went runner-runner into the nuts.

Pierre Neuville started it, raising to 700 from under the gun. Vladimir Troyanovskiy, one seat to his left, called and then Carrel called in the cut off. Chidwick, in the big blind, was apparently priced in and he called too.

So, four of them looked at the flop of 7♦8♥2♠ and Chidwick, Neuville and Troyanovskiy all checked. Carrel, sensing an opportunity, bet 2,000 and only Chidwick called.

The Q♠ came on the turn and Chidwick checked again. Carrel now bet 7,000. Chidwick called.

The 3♠ came on the river and Chidwick checked. Carrel bet 28,000 and Chidwick quickly announced he was all-in. Carrel didn't wait for a count. He snap-called and turned over A♠6♠. Chidwick said, "Nice hand" and pushed his remaining chips over the line and headed out.

Neuville said that he had two spades--the J♠T♠--so he had a lucky escape.

7:50pm: Usual suspects
Level 3 - Blinds 150/300 (50 ante)

Some more familiar faces have arrived: Vladimir Troyanovskiy and Dario Sammartino have taken their seats.

7:35pm: Neuville gets some back
Level 3 - Blinds 150/300 (50 ante)

On almost the next hand after the slight aberration described below, Pierre Neuville got his chips back in a hand against Brian Altman. Neuville opened from under the gun and Altman three-bet to 1,800 from a couple of seats along. Neuville called. The flop came 8♥Q♦9♠ and Neuville check-called Altman's bet of 1,400. Then Neuville fired 4,000 at the 4♣ turn and, after asking for a count of Neuville's stack, Altman folded.

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Altman and Neuville

7:30pm: Into Level 3
Level 3 - Blinds 150/300 (50 ante)

We glide into Level 3, where blinds are now 150/300 and the ante doubles. They will take a 10-minute break at the end of this level. We've now had 31 entries.

7:25pm: Petrangelo keeps cool after ruling interrupts hand
Level 2 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

Three players were at a flop. Govert Metaal (UTG), Pierre Neuville (hijack) and Nick Petrangelo were looking at the 2♠9♦3♦. Metaal checked, then Neuville bet 375.

Petrangelo then raised to 1,025 and after a short pause, Neuville pulled back his bet and counted out a call. But the problem: it wasn't his turn to act. Metaal was still pondering his decision.

Metaal eventually called, and that did put action back on Neuville. He motioned that he might want to fold. Petrangelo, among others at the table, said he couldn't. He had intended to call before Metaal's call and was now required to follow through as Metaal had not changed the action.

"I have no choice?" Neuville wondered aloud.

"Floor!" the dealer said.

The tournament supervisor came over and listened as the dealer precisely and accurately described what had happened and confirmed that, yes, Neuville had to call. "I can't do anything else?" he said.

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Pierre Neuville: Looking for options

Petrangelo said: "You can probably call and muck", knowing full well that that was not the most attractive option.

So Neuville called and the saw the 8♥ on the turn. Metaal and Neuville both checked and Petrangelo bet 3,800. Metaal called an that allowed Neuville to get out of the way. The 8♠ came on the river.

Both players now checked and Metaal tabled T♥9♥. Petrangelo's A♣9♣ was good. Probably lucky for everyone that Neuville didn't have an eight.

7:15pm: Messrs Drinan and Wheeler
Level 2 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

Connor Drinan and Jason Wheeler are now in this event. We're up to 28 now.

7pm: Master and pupil
Level 2 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

"How funny is this?" Dan Shak said. The answer: quite funny. The seat to Shak's left on Table 1 has now been occupied by Scott Seiver, who was recently employed by Shak as an expert coach for Shak's appearance at the €1m Big One for One Drop in Monaco.

It's fair to say that they should really know one another's game--although I'm assuming Shak is going to want a refund if Seiver starts pulling some tricks this week that weren't part of the coaching package.

6:55pm: Hatzakortzian departs
Level 2 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

We have just edged into Level 2, although the blinds remain the same. Edward Hatzakortzian barely saw any of it. The first man to sit down has become the first man to hit the rail too.

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A brief stay for Edward Hatzakortzian

6:45pm: Defending champions
Level 1 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

The latest batch of newcomers includes Dan Shak, Brian Altman, Martin Kozlov and Stefan Jedlicka. Also Steve O'Dwyer, who won this equivalent event last time in Malta, is back in action. He is joined by Nick Petrangelo, who won it last time in Barcelona. They are both defending champions, in one way or another.

6:35pm: Metaal's kings prevail
Level 1 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

On the subject of big pots, Edward Hatzakortzian also isn't messing around. He was the first man to sit down today and is certainly keen to see a lot of flops for his money.

Just recently he was in a hand with Govert Metaal and the latter bet 1,200 at the flop of 8♥Q♦3♦. Hatzakortzian raised to 4,000 and Metaal called. The A♥ came on the turn and Metaal checked to the raiser. However, he called Hatzakortzian's bet of 6,000.

They both checked the 3♥ river and Metaal showed K♦K♥. Hatzakortzian's Q♥4♣ were beaten. I'm not sure of the pre-flop action, but am assuming Metaal had raised from the cutoff and Hatzakortzian called the button.

6:35pm: Big pots only
Level 1 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

"David, what's wrong?" Dietrich Fast asked of his table-mate David Yan. Yan did not understand the question, so Fast followed up. "You playing only big pots? You don't watch ESPN and see Antonio Esfandiari teaching small-ball?"

The line of questioning was not without justification. Yan just played another hand against Xixiang Luo which ended with a bet of 12,800 from Yan, leaving only 15,000 behind. The starting stack was 50,000.

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David "Big pot" Yan

I saw very few details, beyond the big bet on the river and the measly pile of blue 5,000-denomination chips still behind the line. Luo folded, so Yan gathered up a stack closer to what he started with again.

6:25pm: Past 20 players now
Level 1 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

Dietrich Fast, Charlie Carrel, Ben Heath, Adrian Mateos, Maxi Silver and Govert Metaal are now also in the field. It has swelled to 22 and more are arriving, presenting a juggling act for the tournament staff as they open new tables and balance.

6:20pm: Yan and Ung battle early
Level 1 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

Senh Ung in sat next to his friend Paul Newey, who is the only buffer between him and David Yan. Newey sat and watched along with the rest of the table as the following curious hand played out.

Ung raised to 500 from the hijack and Yan called in the big blind. They both checked the Q♦5♣T♣ flop and then Yan bet 700 after the 8♦ turn. Ung called. The 5♠ came on the river and Yan bet 5,400. At least that's what I think he bet. Although it seemed like a chunky bet for a pot that didn't even have 3,000 in it, it really did seem to be that much.

Ung wasn't scared, though. Far from it. In fact he raised to 12,000 and Yan folded after a minute or so.

6:15pm: Early action
Level 1 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

Stephen Chidwick has now duly arrived and taken his seat at the table--and he played his first two hands too. The first occurred when he called 800 from the big blind after Edward Hatzakortzian raised from the cutoff and the two saw a flop of 6♥T♦Q♠. They both checked.

The 5♦ came on the turn and Chidwick check-called a bet of what looked like about 1,700. Then Chidwick check-folded when Hatzakortzian bet 7,000 on the A♠ river.

Chidwick was in the small blind on the next hand and watched action fold to Pierre Neuville on the button. Neuville called, and then called again when Chidwick raised to 1,100. They both checked the 5♠J♣9♠ turn and, I must confess, I didn't see any of what happened after this because attention quickly switched to the other table, where the following took place...

6:02pm: Away they go
Level 1 - Blinds 100/200 (25 ante)

And they're off. It's a field probably best described as "cosy" at the moment, with nine players spread over two tables. Actually, there are now 12.

Edward Hatzakortzian was the first man to sit down, followed quickly by Patrick Leonard. Then Xixiang Luo joined them, then Senh Ung and Paul Newey, followed by Pierre Neuville.

I can now also see David Yan over there in the distance, and happen to know that Charlie Carrel, Ben Heath, Adrian Mateos, Sylvain Loosli and Stephen Chidwick are also all in Malta already. (Most of them were on the same flight from London.)

5:30pm: Hello from Malta!

Good afternoon everybody and welcome to Portomaso Casino in the heart of Malta's throbbing party district for the start of the EPT Malta festival. This is the penultimate time we will all be convening under the European Poker Tour's branding, so get yourself over here and play.

Failing that, stick with us for the coming two weeks, where we will be covering this packed and hectic tournament schedule. Satellites are actually already under way here, but the big events start imminently, kicking off with a €10,000 no limit hold'em affair.

This is not a High Roller event per se, in that the winner won't get one of the enormous trophies. But the €10,000 buy in is for real, as will be the prizepool, meaning this is possibly best referred to as a high roller, with a small "h" and "r". It starts at 6pm local time, and they will play ten 45-minute levels, with a break after three of them, then after six.

That means we'll be playing into the small hours, but with a single re-entry permitted there will likely still be the usual frantic action.

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Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour