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Maria burst onto the poker scene in 2007 with a deep run in the WSOP Main Event and enjoyed her biggest cash of $540k in 2011 – meet the Battle of Malta host who knows how to play and party…
PokerPlayer: This is going to be your second year as the Battle of Malta host, how did it all come about?
Maria Ho: Well, Kara Scott was the host for the first couple of years, but she does the WSOP coverage and the Main Event final table conflicted with the Battle of Malta. Who knows what they saw in me! I enjoy having a good time and I’ve been known to host a few things in my day, and I really enjoy getting to interact with players from around the world.
Was it your first time in Malta?
Yes and I loved it. I didn’t know much about it but I’d heard it was beautiful and that the weather would be good. It’s small so you can sightsee a lot without feeling like you’re going far.
Any Maria-stamped recommendations?
There’s beach access from the Hilton so I’d definitely recommend that. SALT and Caviar & Bull are both great restaurants. Malta’s nightlife also gets a little crazy! There’s a place called Paceville with bar after bar, and people are really lively there. There’s also a place I’m stealing from Kara Scott because I loved it. It’s called Juuls and it’s a reggae bar and they make the best drinks.
What do you do as the host?
I have quite a busy schedule. Last year I was running about playing the tournament, doing interviews and hosting the parties. There’s a lot to do but it’s all fun. I was still in the tournament on the night of the Player Party and they had to come and get me on my dinner break.
BOM almost doubled in size last year. Why is it so popular?
You get the feel of what it’s like to go to an EPT for a €550 buy-in. You get the parties, you get to play against high profile players and you get to play for a substantial sum of money. That’s what players are looking for. They want the value but they also want to feel like they’re getting treated the way they see players getting treated on TV.
It does attract some really big players as well, which is rare for a €550 buy-in.
Right. Last year Johnny Lodden came down with his family and they loved it. From what I’ve heard this year both Chris Moorman and Jake Cody are going to be there.
You’re also doing Poker Night: The Tour with David Tuchman – how’s that going?
David Tuchman and me are going to be the in-studio hosts for that show, but we also have Phil Hellmuth and Jason Somerville on the floor so it should be great. We’re trying to do something a bit different with the format. We’re trying to focus on the lifestyle around poker. It’s great to have high level analysis but that only appeals to a small demographic and we want to get it out to a more mainstream audience.
Does this mean you’re playing less?
Yeah, unfortunately it does. I still love the game and that’s still my bread and butter, but I’m grateful for the other opportunities and I get to do lots of cool stuff.
Your first big cash was at the 2007 Main Event when you were the last woman standing, and you did that again in 2014. How proud are you of going so deep and how frustrating is it to go deep twice and not make the final table?
Yeah, it’s a double-edged sword for sure. When I went deep in 2007 I’d be the first to admit that I was not a great poker player. I’d only been playing for a couple of years and I felt really fortunate to get such a deep run early on in my career. In 2014 when I did it again I felt more validated. I didn’t walk away feeling that disappointed. It will be tough to get back there again but it doesn’t feel so impossible now.
You’d miss Malta though if you made the final table…
Which is hilarious as I actually have a clause in my Battle of Malta contract that says if I make it everyone will understand. I wouldn’t be so upset about missing Malta if I made the Main Event final table!
You’re obviously very adept at getting through big-field tournaments. Have you got any advice for new BOM players?
People think they have to win the tournament right away in big-field events, so they’re always pushing spots they don’t need to. I would say just play your ABC game, be patient, settle in for the first few levels and just feel out your table. You don’t actually need to push the action. There are lots of recreational players and they’ll be making a lot of mistakes. You need to try and capitalise on those mistakes.
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