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The Battle of Malta was conceived in 2012 and since then it has grown rapidly, breaking records and winning awards. We trace the short and very colourful history of one of the new giants of the European poker scene
It normally takes a new live tournament a few years to bed in and correct any teething problems, but the Battle of Malta has established itself as one of the biggest and best tournaments in europe in just three years. It first played out at the Portomaso Casino in 2012 and was conceived by tounament director Ivonne Montealgre, who wanted to create an event with the emphasis squarely on fun.
The name was picked to draw on the history of Malta during the Second World War and the €550 buy-in was done to strike the balance between a tournament that would be large enough to attract big players and low enough to fit the bill as the star attraction in a poker holiday.
The prize pool was guaranteed at €150,000 in the first year and this was broken when 349 players turned up boosting the money up to €174,500. the popular Kara Scott was the host and she was quick to play up the fun angle and how it sets BOM apart from other higher buy-in events on the circuit.
‘I think the really big draw for the Battle of Malta is that it’s a fun event and I think that’s really important,’ Scott said. ‘There are a lot of tournaments that are really serious, and that’s important too, but there’s a place just for enjoying yourself when you’re playing poker. that’s why a lot of players play poker.’
The small buy-in didn’t stop some of the biggest names in the world jetting in to play, with Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates bringing the star power in 2012. Jungleman didn’t cash and it turned into an all-Italian affair with Luca Capostagno, Giulio astarita and Nicodemo Piccolo battling it out for the inaugeral trophy.
When the dust settled it was retired doctor Piccolo who proved that you don’t need to be young to take on the Battle of Malta. He only discovered hold’em in 2009 but when his A-Q bested Astarita’s A-9 he got to take the first ever BOM trophy home.
It was a great start for the Battle of Malta, and with just one side event it led Montealgre to describe it as ‘small but nice.’ It was the last time the ‘s’ word would be used! In 2013 the guarantee was upped to €200,000 but almost 900 players rocked up to do battle, creating a prize pool of €440,000. Louis Cartarius was the chief beneficiary, to the tune of €68,000, and he was the second BOM winner in a row to win with A-Q – this time against Konrad Abela’s A-J.
No one expected the tournament to be as big as it was, and it created huge logistical problems at the casino, but event hosts PokerListings saw it as an opportunity to reach for the stars.
For the third Battle of Malta tournament the buy-in was kept at €550 but the guarantee was boosted to €500k. Top female pro Maria Ho replaced Kara Scott as host and four events were added to the schedule, making it a fully fledged series.
Ho went on to cash in the Main event in 110th spot, and other pros also made the money including Fabrice Soulier (103rd), Charles Chattha (38th), Andrea Dato (32nd) and Hugo Lemaire (5th). But they were all outdone by eventual winner antoan Katsarov. It was only Katsarov’s second live cash, although he won his first tournament too earlier in the year. The €122,750 he took home here though was by far his biggest cash and he’s coming back to defend his BOM title in 2015.
The Battle of Malta was nominated for Best Live event (under $2,000) at the prestigious european Poker awards earlier this year and incredibly – for a tournament that had only been running three years – it won, beating competition from the WPT and the Estrellas Poker tour.
This year the guarantee stays at €500,000 but that’s already looking conservative, with estimates of 2,000 runners and a €1,000,000 total prize pool. The only question that remains to be answered now is, how big can BOM get?
Battle of Malta Hall of Fame
- 2012: Nicodemo Piccolo, €35,000
- 2013: Louis Cartarius, €68,000
- 2014: Antoan Katsarov, €122,750
Battle of Malta in numbers
- 1,447: The record breaking field from the 2014 BOM
- €701,795: Last year’s was the biggest prize pool ever for a €550 buy-in tournament in Europe
- 8: Countries represented on last year’s final table
- 3: Start days to choose from in 2015 ￼
- 22,218%: ROI for Antoan Katsarov, last year’s winner
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