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The Unrivaled Malta Poker Festival Spring Edition 2024

  • The Malta Poker Festival and the Battle of Malta will be held on the same week in October
  • Battle of Malta’s rake has increased over the years, resulting in decreased attendance
  • Malta Poker Festival has held its cost steady and has enjoyed growth
  • Jordan Dumas won the Malta Poker Festival Spring Edition 2024 Grand Event

Summoned to the office

Ivonne Montealegre is, in her own words, “a passionate woman” who pours her heart and soul into every edition of the Malta Poker Festival. She is also a formidable person who takes no prisoners, so when I was ushered into her office last Friday, it felt a bit like I was being sent to the principal.

I felt palpable relief when it turned out that I had been summoned for commendation and not condemnation. The “Chip Race” podcast ran a competition a few months ago, the first prize for which was a Malta Poker Festival Main Event seat. Ivonne was happy with how the promotion had gone and the extra bit of exposure for her event. She leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of new players and it was nice for the show to be part of her ground game.

it spoke volumes that the Malta Poker Festival was growing with every edition

On Friday afternoon, the Main Event had already smashed its €300,000 ($320,000) guarantee and seemed on course for a record-breaker. I told her that I would likely write an article (this article) about how well it had gone, accentuating the things that it does better than its direct rival, the Battle of Malta. I told her that I thought it spoke volumes that the Malta Poker Festival was growing with every edition while numbers up the road were on the decline.

I presumed that this would be music to Ivonne’s ears, but it became very clear very quickly that it was not. “Why do you write about them at all…why not just focus on what we do well?”

It was a classy response, and she had a point. Why not just give credit where it’s due and write a piece accentuating the positives of the Malta Poker Festival? Why throw shade in the direction of the Battle of Malta in the process, spotlighting the rivalry aspect?

It’s the rake, stupid!

My honest answer to this question is that I had already spent an hour researching years’ worth of statistics for some data-heavy paragraphs and I get paid by the word. I also think that it is worth highlighting (even if Ivonne would prefer I didn’t), the differences between Malta’s two flagship poker festivals, the choices that each has made, and how I believe the playing public is responding to those choices.

going head-to-head on the same week for the first time

I think that a comparative study is particularly relevant because this coming October, the Malta Poker Festival and the Battle of Malta are going head-to-head on the same week for the first time. Each brand has plenty of players who exclusively attend their event, but there is also a decent amount of overlap with lots of players who patronize both.

My hunch is that this direct clash will put the values of each brand in stark contrast. Even if you put the mistreatment of staff, the hiring of Thomas Kremser, and the topless dealers to one side (which you absolutely shouldn’t), there is one stark difference between these festivals. To paraphrase James Carville, “it’s the rake, stupid!” Ivonne might not want to frame it as a competition, but that is what it’s going to be this fall.

Rake goes up, entrants go down

In its heyday, the Battle of Malta was a power brand. When Casino Malta acquired it from the Portomaso Casino in 2018, it was ripe for expansion, enjoying tremendous name recognition and riding a wave of positivity. The €550 ($587) buy-in had become a real sweet spot for live poker and in a new larger space, 3,816 entrants broke the attendance record for the island. A year later, that record was smashed again as 4,657 entrants ponied up the €555 ($593) buy-in.

an additional €5 in effective rake

That extra €5 may have been a small rake increase, but it was a sign of things to come. After the pandemic restrictions were lifted, Spring and Autumn editions were announced in 2022, attracting 2,592 and 4,329 players, respectively, at the €500+€55 ($534+$59) price point. There was, however, a 1% increase in the amount of money removed from the prize pool for administration costs. That fee rose from 3% to 4%, representing an additional €5 in effective rake. 

In 2023, the two editions of the Battle of Malta came with a €508.80+€91.20 ($543.32+$97.39) all-in price tag, the effective rake climbing 0.7% to 17.9%. In June, there were 1,992 players and in October there were 3,432, and gross attendance fell by a whopping 31.5%. Cut to April 2024 and the powers that be at Casino Malta decided that enough was not yet enough and they increased the rake once again, this time via the administration fee, which rose to 5%. The end result was 1,814 players paying the €503.50+€96.50 ($537.66+$103.50), 9% fewer than last year coughing up 19.2% in total registration fees.

Steady growth for the Malta Poker Festival

By contrast, the Malta Poker Festival has remained steadfast at the €500 + €50 price point with one historical increase in the tournament admin fees from 3% to 4% in 2022. It has also boasted a far more generous structure and has included parties and a variety of off-the-felt player experiences to attendees.

Post lockdowns, the 2022 Spring and Autumn editions got 1,014 and 1,326 players, respectively. Those numbers grew to 1,226 and 1,444 in 2023, a 10.6% increase. Last week, they hit a new high-water mark with 1,460 entrants battling it out for a €700,800 ($748,349) prize pool. That’s up another 18.3% from spring of last year. Assuming the pattern continues, I would expect 1,700+ players next October, maybe more if the Battle of Malta faithful realize that the grass is actually greener just ten-minute walk away.

Poker players, be they recreational or professional, are pretty good at math and especially good at value hunting. Sure, they are attracted to a big prize pool, but I think enough appreciate the player experience on offer and don’t like to feel like their pocket has been pinched. You might be able to gouge a captive customer base, but can you get away with over-charging when there is a nearby alternative that also comes with a better structure and some frills?

Dumas takes down the Grand Event

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, after a long final day, the Malta Poker Festival Spring Edition 2024 crowned its Unibet Deepstack Open-sponsored Grand Event champion in Frenchman Jordan Dumas. He defeated Denmark’s Sebastian Mortensen heads-up to win the €100,900 ($107,746) first prize after a thoroughly dominating final table performance.

we always aim to provide a top-notch player experience on and off the tables“

The 18 tournaments of the festival generated combined prize pools of almost €1.5m ($1.6m), roughly half of which was the record-breaking Grand Event. Alex Henry of the Deepstack Open was delighted with the turnout saying: “The collaboration between Unibet Deepstack Open and the Malta Poker Festival is the perfect marriage. The numbers were great but most importantly, the feedback from the players who came has been fantastic. We always aim to provide a top-notch player experience on and off the tables and I think we succeeded in that goal.“

The dates for the Autumn edition are set for October 28-November 5 and one hell of a Halloween week is expected as poker players from around the world descend on the Mediterranean archipelago for two major festivals. I know which one I’ll be playing.

Ladies First Poker Tournament Spring 2024: A Celebration of Women in Poker hosted by Kerryjane Craigie

Malta, Spring 2024 – The Malta Poker Festival (MPF) has always been a beacon of inclusivity and excellence in the world of poker. This spring, the festival is set to reach new heights with the Ladies First poker tournament. At the forefront of this event is none other than Kerryjane Craigie, fondly known as Kj.

The Force Behind the Event: Kerryjane Craigie

Kj is not just any poker room manager; she is the lifeblood of The Hippodrome, one of central London’s most vibrant poker venues. Her dedication and hands-on approach in managing the poker offerings at The Hippodrome set her apart. From handling buy-ins to organizing chips, Kj is deeply involved in every aspect of the game, working closely with her team of 50 employees.

As a strong advocate for women in poker, Kj’s role extends beyond the poker room. She serves as the Raise it up Program Manager for WPA International (Women’s Poker Association), championing the cause of female poker players globally.

Kj’s involvement in the MPF as the host of the Ladies First poker tournament is a significant milestone. In her words: “The MPF is a perfect combination of expertly run Poker with fun and sun added. I am honored to be the host and invite everyone to join us for this incredible event.”

Ivonne Montealegre, Event Director of MPF, shares her excitement, stating: “We are so proud to have Kj as our Ladies First host. Her energy and knowledge are unparalleled, and we are excited to see her elevate the game at our property.”

Kj’s recent scholarship through the European Casino Association into the Executive Development Program at the University of Las Vegas, highlights her commitment to excellence and continuous learning in the field of casino and poker management.

Ladies First hosted by Kj Craigie is set to see cards in the air on Saturday 27th of April at 16:00 hrs at Portomaso casino Malta.

Celebrating Women in Poker

This edition of Ladies First is further enhanced by the partnership with LIPS (Ladies International Poker Series) celebrating its 20th anniversary. Lupe Soto will be gracing the event, adding to the allure of the Ladies First tournament.

The Women’s Poker Association (WPA) will be present as many members, including International board members have confirmed their attendance.  WPA will celebrate the ‘Final Table’ of the Ladies First Event with a purple bracelet for the nine women that make the final table.

Alexandra O’Brien the renowned author of various bestselling books on Poker, will also be attending the much-anticipated Ladies First event. As an added treat for the final table players, she will be personally autographing a total of 9 copies of her latest book “The Truth Detective” exclusively for them. This exceptional opportunity not only grants the participants a chance to showcase their skills at the table but also offers them a unique and treasured keepsake from one of the premier voices in the world of Poker literature.

The previous Spring edition of Ladies First saw almost 100 participants from across the globe, showcasing the growing popularity and importance of women in poker. This year, the event is expected to surpass these numbers, further cementing its place as a must-attend event in the poker calendar.

Expanding Reach: Satellites and Special Packages

In an exciting development, the Ladies First poker tournament is extending its reach globally. Satellites for the event are available at the Ladies Club at The Hippodrome, offering players a chance to qualify for the main event. Additionally, a special all-inclusive package will be introduced, details of which will be shared through the tournament’s social media channels. This package aims to provide participants with a comprehensive and enjoyable experience at the festival.

Moreover, the tournament’s influence stretches as far as Australia, where a live satellite tournament will be held. This inclusion highlights the international appeal of the Ladies First poker tournament and its significance in the global poker community.

The Ladies First poker tournament at the MPF is more than just a competition; it’s a celebration of the camaraderie, skill, and the spirit of women in poker. Under Kj’s leadership, the event promises to be a spectacular showcase of talent and a testament to the strides women have made in this traditionally male-dominated sport. Join us this Spring at the Malta Poker Festival for an unforgettable experience!

‘We use poker strategy to help empower women in business’

Ivonne Montealegre is the brains behind the Malta Poker Festival, which is set to see hundreds of international players descend upon the island this week. She talks strategy, sisterhood and her love of the island.

It looks set to be an exciting week for anyone into poker, as hundreds of international players descend onto Portomaso for the Malta Poker Festival, an event that makes headlines as far afield as Vegas.

The woman who makes it happen is seated before me, sipping an orange juice and talking passionately not just about poker, but also about what makes Malta special enough to attract professional players who regularly grace the table at the biggest casinos. Ivonne Montealegre is a name that’s familiar to anyone involved in the gaming scene, and with excellent reason as she pretty much single-handedly built what has become one of the world’s leading poker events over the past years.

“I settled in Malta around 2012, after a Swedish client advised me to move here. The island turned out to be the perfect location for the festival. I mean, look at all this,” – she sweeps her arms across the panoramic vista right across Portomaso Marina – players love coming to the island; for them, it’s not just a week of poker, it’s a complete holiday with the culture, the sun, the history…”

It’s easy to see how passionate Ivonne is about poker. She started playing in her twenties, when the game was very much a male-dominated arena where you’d hear things like “go back to the kitchen”. She spots the incredulous look on my face and laughs.

“Of course, men will still say that. When people are losing, it brings out the worst! You do need a super-thick skin in poker, but you learn to use it in your favour as it teaches you a lot. You learn not to take things personally, to correct your strategy and figure out your opponent. You learn to read the temperature of the room. Who will bluff, who will turn nasty, who had too much caffeine and is being reckless? These are all skills that serve women well not just in poker, but also in the business arena,” she tells me.

Which brings us neatly to the F word – feminism. Ivonne is known to be very vocal across the industry about practical matters such as equal pay, equal rights, inclusivity and empowering women and single mothers in the workplace. She runs a WhatsApp Women in Gaming networking community that has helped connect many women with potential employers. I’m a proud member and I can say that the daily tips, advice and friendly jokes have certainly added a spark to my day. This is also the sort of thing Ivonne is known for, building sisterhoods and helping them thrive.

“Unfortunately, things like Women’s Day have become a bit of a gimmick in the gaming world. While it’s nice to have pink muffins at the office, it’s not about that at all. It’s about equal pay and about equal opportunities in key positions,” she tells me, confessing that when it comes to women and respect on the workplace she can be a bit of a “hawk”.

“We need more education and outreach, especially with children. The gap between real conditions in the workplace and legislation is still too wide, and this gap is also reflected in the gaming industry. Men remain at an advantage, occupying the majority of key positions. If you look at single mothers, you will find that there aren’t many incentives or opportunities for them,” she continues.

The sisterhood is an angle that is strongly present even in the upcoming Malta Poker Festival, with as Ivonne has included a 101 Poker Crash course powered by Poker Power, aimed at beginners.  This program is aimed to leverage the connection between success, money ownership and the game of poker.

“Basically we teach women how to play Texas Hold’em, to compete and succeed in business, finance, law or any other sector they operate in. All in a fun, supportive, safe-to-fail environment, which I believe is very important,” Ivonne says. For those who feel that they have a flair for the game, the session will be followed by a Ladies First tournament hosted by Chris Reed, one of the world’s most skilled poker players. All tournaments operate under the ethos of inclusion and safety that Ivonne embraces, using the hashtag  #raiseitup to raise awareness that as soon as anyone spots something off, this should be raced up to the dealer.

“The festival is respectful and inclusive, and it has put Malta on the right foot in the poker world,” she says. It’s no wonder that she was recently promoted to Vice-President of the Women’s Poker Association in Las Vegas, an organisation that she describes as a huge, non-profit sisterhood of poker players. For context, it’s a sisterhood that counts the world’s top female poker players within its ranks.

Ivonne’s attention to detail is something I see across the event in general. Take the off-felt events, for example, where participants are hosted to other activities, such as a historical tour around Valletta. These have all been planned so as not to clash with any of the tournaments.

“At many other events, participants have to choose between playing or attending an off-felt activity. I made it a point to enable them to do both. The festival brings considerable tourist traffic to the island during low season and they all want to make the most of what Malta offers, in terms of restaurants, museums, nightlife and the like. The festival has a snowball effect on other industries, too,” Ivonne explains.

Ivonne during last year’s poker festival. Photo: Malta Poker Festival

Her pedigree in poker is unassailable. As she herself says, the Malta Poker Festival was “not built from nothing”. Before settling in Malta, Ivonne created the Punta Cana Poker Classic tournament combining poker with exotic locations like the Bahamas. Originally she is a psychologist by profession, but her heart firmly belongs to poker – “I tried doing other things, but poker keeps pulling me back”.

Meantime, things are firmly on track for the Malta Poker Festival to kick off on April 24 at the Portomaso Casino, where she expects a variety of nationalities to descend. She confides how the image of poker players has changed drastically from the ‘booze and cigars’ crowd. Today’s players are more likely to be holding vitamin water and healthy food.

“Everyone’s very focused. At the start of the tournament it’s all about having fun but at a certain point, when the grand prize is in sight, you see the switch. It’s what I love about poker,” she says with a smile.

“That, and the thrill of seeing 200 poker players waiting in a line to be served at a Paceville ice-cream place. Knowing what brought them here, that’s priceless.”

The Malta Poker Festival takes place between April 24 and May 1 at Portomaso Casino. Play responsibly. If you or anyone you know is struggling with gambling problems, organisations like the Responsible Gambling Foundation can offer support.

For more Pink magazine features, check out this new pottery collection or learn about Maise in Space, a new resource for children on the spectrum.

Malta Poker Festival – A Passion Project for Ivonne Montealegre

  • Ivonne Montealegre is building the Malta Poker Festival into one of the world’s best poker stops
  • I didn’t turn a profit at the tables, but the festival was still tons of fun
  • Much of the enjoyment of poker is being able to reunite with friends

Heck of a first impression

I’ve been to Malta several times for EPTs, the Battle of Malta, and Unibet Opens. This was, however, my first trip to the Malta Poker Festival, which everyone’s favorite passionate Latina in poker, Ivonne Montealegre, has gradually been building to what it has become and seems destined to become: not just the biggest poker festival in Malta, but one of the biggest and best in the world.

warm, friendly, and frenetic vibe where there’s always something to do or play

Boasting a packed and varied schedule for players of all bankrolls and budgets and game preferences, the festival has a warm, friendly, and frenetic vibe where there’s always something to do or play. One notable feature is the unusually high female representation, which resulted in a record ladies event of 84 runners hosted by Kerryjane Craigie, the result of Ivonne’s tireless efforts to increase female participation.

Another big success was the seniors event hosted by my Canadian friend Buddy from the Global Poker Community. Unfortunately, I missed the late reg on this one due to my continued involvement in the main event, but it’s great to see seniors events being a big hit when they’re included on the schedule (all too often, they’re not – I’ve written before that along with ladies, the older demographic is the most neglected in live poker all the often, so I’ll spare you a repetition of that rant).

My own results

I cashed the main event (on bullet three, though!) and the mystery bounty, but not enough to make the trip personally profitable. In both the main and the super high roller, I lost €20k equity pots with the best hand, but that’s poker as they say, and I’ll spare you the bad beat stories. Instead, I’ll just say that how you run in those high equity spots will determine short term profits, but it should even out in the longer term.

it didn’t seem to matter much how you ran, you’d still have a great time

At the Aussie Millions years ago, Adam Owen made the point to me that the real hallmark of the fun of the Melbourne event was the fact that it didn’t seem to matter much how you ran, you’d still have a great time and want to come back. I think the same is true of the Malta Poker Festival.

The highlights

For me, the highlights were all the great people I met and interacted with (too numerous to mention, but you know who you are). My “Chip Race” and VSO News colleague David Lappin and his lovely partner Saron very kindly hosted me, and I also got the chance to catch up with other Unibet colleagues and my old Firm mate Daragh Davey.

Alex O’Brien, Ivonne Montealegre, and Dara O’Kearney [Image: Dara O’Kearney]

A real highlight was a book signing that Ivonne arranged with me and my great friend Alex O’Brien. Alex is one of the most endearing people I’ve met in poker, and my review of her first bookThe Truth Detective, here at VSO News makes clear how highly I rate and respect her work. We had a lot of fun signing our books together and chatting to readers and having our photograph taken by the versatile Lappin.

The future

As I said, this was my first time at the Malta Poker Festival, but it won’t be my last. I intend to come back as often as I can, and the next running of the festival is in autumn in the same venue. That’ll be even bigger than this one was.

I’ll leave the final word to the inimitable indefatigable unbeatable incomparable Ivonne Montealegre:

“This is 14 years of work for me. Two of them while on the pandemic while giving birth to my 3 kids. Muy intense and no regrets.”

Malta Poker Festival Partnerships: How Multiple Organizations Join Forces to Create Something Special

In just a couple weeks, the 2024 Spring Edition of the Malta Poker Festival (MPF) is set to get underway. Thousands of hopefuls will descend upon the Portomaso Casino from April 22-29 to compete at one of Europe’s most highly anticipated poker stops and was recently nominated at the Global Poker Awards as the best standalone festival.

Part of what always makes the event so festive and popular is the fact that many partner-branded events are incorporated under the Malta Poker Festival umbrella. To get a better sense of how those partnerships come together and how the multiple organizations coalesce to create one united offering, we decided to reach out to a few longtime Malta Poker Festival partners.

These partners included Amateur Poker Association & Tour (APAT) Director Tom Brady, DeepStack Open (DSO) Founder Alex Henry, Bounty Hunter Days Founder and CEO Stephan Kubler, and Head of Partnerships at Global Poker Index/TheHendonMob (GPI/THM) Roland Boothby. Knowing that every great poker event needs a great hosting venue, we also spoke with Tumas Gaming COO Jesmond Galea and Portomaso Casino Manager Jonathan Micallef to get their input as MPF partners.

Their collective responses to my battery of questions helps paint the special picture that coalesces twice a year at the Malta Poker Festival.

How did you first come to get acquainted with MPF Founder Ivonne Montealegre and begin collaborating with her at the Malta Poker Festivals?

Alex Henry: I met Ivonne back in 2012 but it was only a couple years ago that we first teamed up, after it became clear that multiple brands working with her could all mutually benefit.

Tom Brady: I was hearing great things about Ivonne and her poker activity in Malta, and through a mutual acquaintance we connected in early 2018 to discuss the first-ever MPF and an APAT relationship.

Stephan Kubler: I met Ivonne in 2018 when I was at the Malta Poker Festival for the first time. A mutual acquaintance introduced us and so the partnership has grown over the years.

Jonathan and Jesmond: We have known Ivonne for the past 13 years, since she began running events at Portomaso Casino. Back in 2018, Malta Poker Festival was born, and our collaborative work increased drastically.

Roland Boothby: Ivonne was one the first people I came to know in the Malta poker community when I moved there at the end of 2013. A few years later, when Ivonne founded the Malta Poker Festival, it was right at a time when I was looking for ways to diversity the ways in which GPI/THM could serve the needs of our partners and was contemplating dipping our toes into live events. Coupled with the fact that Malta was the home of GPI/THM, it made perfect sense for Malta Poker Festival to be our very first live event partner and home for the inaugural Hendon Mob Championship. We’re hugely grateful for the start Malta Poker Festival gave us and will always consider it our ‘home’ event.

In what ways do your partner-branded events at the Malta Poker Festival differ and stand out versus other live events you run on your own?

Alex Henry: We run 70% of our events in France, where we completely run the event: players qualified online come from Unibet, and oversee all side events, running additional live promotions, etc. Working with Malta Poker Festival makes things a LOT easier for us. Ivonne and Portomaso Casino gather several partners, so everyone is benefiting from a successful event.

Roland Boothby: In 2024, you will find THMC events in all shapes and sizes. In fact, this year we’ll be staging a dozen events across four different continents. That said, the familiarity of the Spinola Room at Portomaso coupled with the scores upon scores of familiar faces who file into the room at the start of The Hendon Mob Championship Malta is unmatched.

From day one in any location, members of our team are always trying to acquaint ourselves with the local playing community and looking to build friendships. In Malta we are a part of that community already. The players playing the event are our friends, colleagues, people we have spent countless hours at the tables with, in the bars and around Malta. It’s totally different, in good way!

Stephan Kubler: Malta is much more international than my own Bounty Hunter Days. There are 95% players from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In Malta, there are poker players from all over Europe and beyond. That’s great!

Tom Brady: APAT has been around since 2006, as the UK’s first national poker tour, and whilst the majority of APAT events are standalone, and hosted extensively across the UK, we’ve been travelling further afield for many years throughout Europe, and also to Las Vegas. Co-hosting alongside the likes of MPF gives APAT players greater opportunities alongside our own brand and offering, most likely with higher buy-in events, big guarantees and with the same high-quality poker whilst still be centered around that APAT feeling of welcoming, social and good-natured competitiveness in professional-standard poker events.

In what ways do you feel the presence of your branded event at the Malta Poker Festival is of mutual benefit to your organizations, and to the players?

Alex Henry: DeepStack Open events have been successful for 15 seasons thanks to its structure quality and dedication to players. Partnering with MPF is a big opportunity for us to offer a large, guaranteed prize pool to our regular players and to qualifiers.

Tom Brady: Co-hosting with MPF, with the same quality tournament and social competitiveness that has been synonymous with APAT since day 1 is a win all round – APAT, players, MPF AND Portomaso – the quality of Ivonne’s Grand Event is attractive in its own right – Danilo and his team of floor staff and dealers stand out as exceptional to both players and us as hosts, and the Portomaso casino and surroundings continue to ensure a great experience for everyone.

Stephan Kubler: As a tournament organizer, I know better than anyone how important good partnerships are. Partners you can rely on, whose word is their bond. Especially in the poker scene, this is not always a given. Such partnerships, which develop over years, are worth their weight in gold. Ivonne is a very smart woman and she knows how to build and maintain such partnerships. That makes me very happy and I am convinced that we have a lot more potential for the future.

Roland Boothby: The great thing about the partnership with Malta Poker Festival is that both sides are bringing aspects to the table which complement one another. Ivonne and her team are experts in running live events and looking after players. Danilo De Berardinis and his Ludos Academy staff are some of the best in the business.

What GPI/THM brings to the table is the ability to connect live events to a global audience of poker fans. Great poker stops will inevitably grow, as players will keep coming back, and when they have a great experience, they will bring their friends. We can accelerate that process by amplifying those stories and those experiences globally. At Malta Poker Festival, you won’t just find players from Italy and Malta, but from the UK, Taiwan, Australia, USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Latin America, and beyond. A great playing experience with a global platform to amplify it is something we consider a strong formula for success.

Your organization has partnered with the Malta Poker Festival on many occasions now. Looking back on the first time you engaged in the partnership versus today, what would you say you do differently/better now than a few years ago?

Jonathan and Jesmond: We spent many months working on christening the first Malta Poker Festival back in October 2018. Since then, we have endeavored to work with Ivonne on increasing the number of partners and of course players to ensure the best poker environment.

Alex Henry: Over our last few collaborations, I introduced some specific DSO rules like the “25 bb average” starting from Day 2. From then until the final table, when the average stack is lower than 25 bb we don’t move on to the next level until a player busts.

We are always looking to try new ideas, like Ivonne is doing for this upcoming festival by having run a Day 1 flight in London. It is important to test new ideas, as poker is always evolving, and the Malta Poker Festival is a great opportunity to do that.

Stephan Kubler: In autumn of 2018, I was at the Malta Poker Festival with a group of 8 poker players. This year in spring there are over 120. A lot has changed! I was alone back then and did everything myself. Now I have partners and employees who do a lot for me. I am happy and grateful for how everything has developed. I hope to be able to travel to Malta for many years to come and I’m already looking forward to the next poker trip like a little kid.

Tom Brady: The relationship between MPF and APAT has grown into a joint-venture with the player experience front and center in all discussions – tweaks made to the APAT structure, and balancing the need for a quality APAT event with the overall schedule Ivonne has created has ensured we continue to attract great numbers to APAT at MPF. Autumn 2023 was testament that we seem to be doing something right with a post-Covid record of 460 entries in the APAT 2-day Championship.

Roland Boothby: I would say the addition of MPF Spring, which doubled the amount of THMCs we run with Malta Poker Festival annually is the biggest change we’ve seen. Our coveted THMC trophy has seen some improvements, and we are always looking to create a spectacle by having as many players as we can with bounties on their heads. We always throw a lot into the event, usually brining the whole THM team to Malta and treating it very much as a celebration of our connections to Malta.

Malta Poker Festival Partners Look Ahead to the Future

As far as additional and new ways that partners hope to try and enhance and improve for future Malta Poker Festivals, there seems to be a consensus that “there’s a lot planned”. Those efforts to continuously improve mirror Montealegre’s, as for the 2024 Spring MPF she’s also partnering with “The Poker Girls of Las Vegas” Tatiana Fox and Rebbecca Scales, who will be leading off-the-felt activities.

As Fox shared with us, “I’ve been working with Ivonne for a few years now, and she is a passionate entrepreneur. She wears many hats and not only runs the MPF but also many women business groups from Malta. I am delighted to host the MPF off felt activities and see it as a great opportunity to see the beautiful island of Malta and make new friends.  If you are travelling with a non-poker friend or partner send them our way!”

Scales concurred, saying “Ivonne’s collaborative spirit makes working with her a pleasure. Last year, she generously provided us with a platform at the Malta Poker Festival to launch WPA International. The off-the-felt activities are what make Malta a must-visit destination for poker enthusiasts. During the day, you can enjoy the island’s beautiful beaches, explore its cobblestone roads, and indulge in exotic cuisine. When the sun sets, the poker room comes alive with plenty of action.”

All the partners we spoke with confirmed that they intend to keep collaborating at the Malta Poker Festival for a long while yet. With the massive current boom in live tournament poker, it’s a no-brainer that the Malta Poker Festival will continue attracting ever more players to the island’s shores. The MPF partners all know this and intend to continue working on special promotions and ideas to keep things fresh and exciting for future festivals.

Notably, Tom Brady added that with APAT being well known as a brand favored by mixed game lovers, it might soon be time to help bring some of that mixed game love, and audience, to the MPF. In addition, he noted that APAT-backed ‘Poker Raffles’ – where players can skip the grind of the usual Satellite route to entry and win themselves into many prestigious events – are now available to MPF hopefuls wishing to win a Malta Poker Festival Seat plus £500.

Travel partners include: Pokertrip-de for DACH market, Esportami Viaggi for Italian market and Main Event Travel for UK, USA and rest of the world.

The door remains open to new partners, too. As per Jonathan and Jesmond “in order to keep building on our past success, together with Ivonne we will remain on the lookout for new sponsors and agents who would like to partner with us while keeping our focus on the poker community accordingly, which always remain at the heart of our operation.”

The 2024 Spring edition of the Malta Poker Festival will take place April 22-29, and the Autumn edition will run from the October 28-November 4, 2024.

The Real Poker Girls of Las Vegas: Hosting Off-The-Felt Activities at the Malta Poker Festival

The Malta Poker Festival (MPF) is the place to be in April. Nestled in the Mediterranean Sea, this European island boasts a rich history and culture, making it the perfect backdrop for a thrilling poker event. The Portomaso Casino, where the festival unfolds, offers stunning waterfront views, adding to the charm of the experience.

One of MPF’s main draws is the array of off-the-felt activities that cater to poker in paradise. This year’s activity hosts are Rebbecca Scales and Tatiana Fox of the famous Real Poker Girls of Las Vegas (RPGOLV).’ While Lupe Soto, the other beloved host of RPGOLV and Owner of the Ladies International Poker Series (LIPS_Tour), will be missed due to prior commitments, her presence will be felt as LIPS_Tour is powering the Ladies’ Event at MPF.

The Real Poker Girls Of Las Vegas podcast has rapidly gained popularity. It offers a unique and fresh perspective on how women navigate the game, personally and professionally. The show is filled with laughter and camaraderie that builds a bond with the audience.  Listeners have said the show makes them feel like they are having coffee with a good friend.

The RPGOLV will surely bring that same level of fun to the off-the-felt activities. The first paid event is an exclusive private catamaran adventure tour departing from Hilton and heading to St. Paul’s Bay on Thursday, the 25th. The tour starts at 10:00 AM and includes swimming in the crystal-clear sea or basking in the sun on the deck.

After returning to the Hilton, prepare for a Speak Easy night at the Quarterdeck in the Hilton at 10:00 PM. This event includes a full cash bar and is open to everyone. This is a great way to start your week, meet new people, and toast to the week ahead.

Join the ladies for a cultural adventure on Friday, April 26th! Embark on a private chartered Rooftop Bus Tour departing at 10:30 AM from the Hilton hotel. This paid event will offer a picturesque coastal journey to Valletta and Mosta, promising a unique excursion with beautiful sights, thrilling experiences, and luxurious amenities that will return in time for the tournaments.

After the tournament, join RPGOLV on the rooftop for an unforgettable night of dancing at Club Level 22. Enjoy the stunning views of Malta from the island’s premier nightclub! The MPF models will give festival attendees free club entry bracelets; other guests can gain entry by paying a small fee.

The last activity is a paid event that features a Michelin Star restaurant collaborating with MPF to offer an exclusive tasting menu designed to tantalize your taste buds with exquisite flavors. You can indulge in a luxurious lunch experience with friends at Caviar and Bull restaurant. A complimentary shuttle from the Hilton will be at noon on Saturday, April 27th.

The MPF off-the-felt activities will bring a perfect balance of poker, leisure, and luxury, promising an unforgettable experience that will leave you craving more. Space is limited, so book your travel now.

‘Ladies First’ Event In Sydney A Huge Success – WPN (

The ‘Ladies First’ poker tournament held in Sydney at the St George Leagues Club, Kings Poker Room was a huge success. The ladies came from all over Australia in hopes of winning the 1st place prize of a five-night all-inclusive Malta Poker Festival (MPF) trip to play in the ladies tournament in Malta this April at the Portamaso Casino.

“It was an intense but fun day battling on the tables,” said the 1st place winner Rebecca Kildea from Sydney. Rebecca battled heads up with Jane Howard who took second place, Erollyn Strang came in third, and fourth was Gina Vuksanovic from a field of 41 players. Tierra Fox Crystals donated a crystal necklace which was given to the bubble. All the ladies received patches and Women’s Poker Association (WPA) merchandise.

Rebecca plans to visit Malta with a friend and stop over in London to catch up with family, she is thrilled to be traveling to Malta to play in the award-winning Malta Poker Festival at Portamaso casino and thanked everyone after the event.

“I’m so excited to be traveling to Malta and I’m looking forward to playing the ‘Ladies’ First’ event, thank you for the opportunity.”

Tournament directors Di Collins & Peter Percerval were pleased with the outcome and thanked all the players, sponsors, supporters, Kings Poker Room, the WPA, St George Leagues Club, LIPS owned by Lupe Soto and MPF owned by Ivonne Montealegre.

Di Collins will be holding further tournaments to benefit women all around the world so follow her Facebook to keep up to date. Rebecca is now headed to Malta where she will collect her Woman’s Poker Association trophy presented by Ivonne Montenegro who is also the Vice President of the WPA International division.

Malta Poker Festival Announces Historic Remote Day 1 Event at London’s Iconic Hippodrome Casino

In an unprecedented move, the Malta Poker Festival (MPF) is set to captivate the poker world by hosting its first-ever Remote Day 1 event at the illustrious Hippodrome Casino in London. This innovation allows players to immerse themselves in the festival’s excitement without leaving the UK, marking a significant milestone in the event’s illustrious history.

Event Highlights:

Date: Saturday, 16th of March

Time: 15:00 hrs

Venue: Hippodrome Casino, London

The stakes are high as the chipleader of MPF Day1 London will enjoy a complimentary five-night stay at the opulent 5-star Hilton hotel, elevating the competition to new heights.

Moreover, 15% of participants will advance to Day 2, securing their spot In The Money (ITM), setting the stage for a fiercely competitive atmosphere from the start.

The poker journey doesn’t end in London; qualifiers will proceed to the picturesque island of Malta to continue their quest for the GTD 300,000 Grand Event at Portomaso Casino on the following dates:

Sunday, 28th April: Day2 at 17:00 hrs

Monday, 29th April: Day 3 at 13:00 hrs and the Final Table

This groundbreaking initiative seamlessly blends the classic British gaming experience with the Mediterranean allure of Malta, offering a unique poker adventure.

Ivonne Montealegre, Event Director of the Malta Poker Festival, shares her enthusiasm: “The MPF Day1 event in London at the prestigious Hippodrome Casino represents a significant leap forward in our mission to innovate and expand the MPF’s reach. We’re crafting an unforgettable tournament that bridges geographical divides and unites players in their love for poker.”

Adding to the excitement, Kerryjane Craigie, Director of Poker at The Hippodrome Casino, announces: “From the 14th to the 17th of March, 2024, we’re hosting a series of events culminating in the MPF Day1 and qualifiers for the Ladies First Women’s tournament. Having experienced MPF firsthand, I can vouch for its exceptional quality and professionalism. Our team is delighted to participate this Spring, bringing the Hippodrome’s and London’s best to the MPF whilst giving everyone in the UK the chance to win their way.”

The Malta Poker Festival is renowned for its world-class organization, friendly atmosphere, and ability to draw poker enthusiasts globally. Its diverse schedule appeals to a broad spectrum of players, solidifying MPF as a cornerstone event in the international poker calendar.

About the Malta Poker Festival

Recently nominated as best standalone festival by the GPI, the Malta Poker Festival has become a fixture on the global poker scene, known for its impeccable organization, welcoming environment, and magnetism for poker aficionados from across the globe. MPF is the epitome of top-tier poker competition, catering to a vast array of players.

Contact: For additional details on the Malta Poker Festival and the inaugural MPF Day1 LONDON AT THE HIPPODROME CASINO, please visit Grand Event Structure

or reach out to

KerryjaneJane Craigie is Hosting Ladies First Spring Edition 2024

Ladies First Poker Tournament Spring 2024: A Celebration of Women in Poker hosted by Kerryjane Craigie

Malta, Spring 2024 – The Malta Poker Festival (MPF) has always been a beacon of inclusivity and excellence in the world of poker. This spring, the festival is set to …

Arthur Navellou Wins MPF Autumn Edition Grand Event (€115,000)

It was the early hours of Tuesday morning when France’s Arthur Navellou etched his name in both the Malta Poker Festival and Unibet Deepstack Open (UDSO) history books at the luxurious surroundings of Portomaso Casino.

After a nearly 16-hour marathon on the third and final day, Navellou agreed to a deal with Norway’s Kjetil Hanstvedt in the 2023 MPF Autumn Edition €550 Grand Event powered by UDSO with each player collecting €115,000 while still playing for the coveted MPF winner’s trophy and the UDSO championship belt. Both players shook hands after a well-fought battle.

Kjetil Hanstvedt and Arthur Navellou win €115K each in the MPF Grand Event

For both players, the impressive six-figure haul was their largest cash by far according to The Hendon Mob. Hanstvedt did more than just take second place this year in Malta as his previous biggest win came in April during the 2023 MPF Spring Edition Grand Event where he took fifth place for €20,150. Now the bar is set even higher for Hanstvedt as he can only finish one place higher when the MPF comes back in the Spring of 2024.

The event was a huge success story as it not only shattered the lofty €500,000 guarantee but the seven opening flights from Oct. 24-29 attracted a banner field of 1,444 entries creating a huge €693,120 prize pool to establish a new gold standard for the MPF.

2023 MPF Autumn Edition Grand Event powered by UDSO Final Table Payouts

The top 159 players locked up at least a min-cash of €1,110 with the nine players at the final table locking up at least a €10,380 prize.

The winner was originally scheduled to go home with €140,000 with €90,000 slated for the runner-up. However, after facing a long and emotional battle into the wee hours of the morning, the final two players instantly agreed to even the score.

1Arthur NavellouFrance€115,000*
2Kjetil HanstvedtNorway€115,000*
3Leif HetlandNorway€54,400
4Georgios ZachmanidisGreece€40,300
5Kamil SkawinskiPoland€32,200
6Samuel BilandSwitzerland€25,100
7Robert KontkanenSweden€19,100
8William KassoufUnited Kingdom€14,530
9Nidal DawoudDenmark€10,380
* Reflects heads-up deal
2023 MPF Grand Event Autumn Edition final table

Final Day Action

The final day witnessed 49 hopefuls in the hunt for big bucks and glory playing one-hour blind levels. FLIP ambassador Ann-Roos Callens (51st – €1,790) and The Chip Race Podcast sponsored by Unibet Poker co-host David Lappin (61st – €1,650) were among the players to bail out before the final bell rung on the penultimate day.

David Lappin, Jonathan Briscoe White, & Ann-Roos Callens chilling on the bubble

Players went out at a fast and furious pace to start with players including Guts Poker’s Jonathan Briscoe White (32nd – €2,340), Soren Dalgaard (39th – €2,340), Mark Attard (41st – €2,040), and Romain Nardin (48th – €2,040) heading to the rail before the first break.

It took more than seven hours of play to reach the final table, which was a mini-marathon of its own lasting more than eight hours. It was just before the final table began that Navellou could have been on crumbs in his stack but his queens got there on the river to win a monster pot against aces to eliminate the dejected Patrick Schlindler in 12th place for €6,970.

William Kassouf also had good fortunes with ladies shortly after as his held up against ace-five to send Antonios Onoufriou (11th – €6,970) and the final table was set in a momentous fashion after Leif Hetland’s aces were good against cowboys to eliminate Paul-Vlad Craciunas.

All through the way, eventual runner-up Kjetil Hansvedt was running strong with the chip lead from 26 players down and he remained the captain of the event by the time the final table kicked off as well. Hetland wasn’t too far behind with Navellou hanging around the near the top of the pack as well. Rails began to gather with noticeably large contingents from Norway, Greece, and France rooting on their countrymates.

Greek rail supporting Georgios Zachmanidis

Fireworks instantly erupted at the final table as the Greek rail began to celebrate when Georgios Zachmanidis with jacks rivered a set to deliver a bad beat to Nidal Dawoud who had to settle for the ninth-place prize of €10,380.

Navellou then chipped up to near the chip lead when his jacks were more than good to oust Kassouf (eighth – €14,530) with fives despite Kassouf pleading for cards to keep him alive.

Robert Kontkanen (seventh – €19,100) was bleeding away chips and didn’t have much left in his stack when he lost with king-six to Hanstvedt’s ducks in what was initially a three-way pot.

The clock was shortened to 40-minute blind levels with six players remaining and moments later Samuel Biland (sixth – €25,100) unsuccessfully three-bet jammed with ace-four a 13 big blind stack into Hetland’s fives.

The table dynamic quickly changed after Navellou with queens eliminated Kamil Skawinski (fifth – €32,200) with tens as he now had the chip lead and was making life more difficult for his three opponents.

The final four players battled for more than four hours. This isn’t to say there wasn’t some excitement as the battle continued to rage. All of Navellou’s opponents were at risk at one time or another but won flip after flip to stay alive before the dams broke.

Eventually, a bad beat crushed the dreams of Zachmanidis to the dismay of the supportive Greek rail with his ace-jack not holding against Hetland’s ace-trey to hit the rail one player shy of the podium in fourth place for €40,300.

Nearly another two hours passed by with the lead passing back-and-forth between all three of the remaining players. Eventually, the blinds went up leaving Hetland with nine big blinds. He jammed them in from the small blind with jack-six and Hanstvedt began chatting with his black duck card protector. He shared that the duck wanted him to call, which he did shortly after. We learned why after the cards were turned over with Hanstvedt showing deuces and won the flip to eliminate Hetland in third place for €54,400.

Leif Hetland eliminated in third place

Navellou Offers Heads-Up Deal

Hanstvedt regained a small lead after eliminating Hetland, and Navellou, who denied any deal talk early, quickly opened the conversation about a deal before the heads-up action began.

“I am ready to make a deal if you want,” shared Navellou about evening out the payouts from €140,000 for first place and €90,000 for second place to make it €115,000 each. “You have a few more chips but we can chop it up 50/50.”

Hanstvedt snap-agreed and the clock was set at a turbo pace but not before the rails from each of the players gave their hugs and congrats.

Kjetil Hanstvedt and his late-night rail

Navellou took a substantial lead when his fives won a flip against king-nine. Shortly after, Hansvedt doubled back his stack when his king-jack was good against king-ten suited but this was short-lived as he finished one player shy of the winner’s circle after his queen-five suited didn’t get there against king-ten.

A massive congratulation to Arthur Navellou for setting history by winning the 2023 Malta Poker Festival Autumn Edition €550 Grand Event powered by the Unibet Deepstack Open.

A special thank you to MPF founder Ivonne Montealegre, the staff at Portomaso Casino under the amazing leadership of J.J. Galea and Jonathan Micallef, Alex Henry and the Unibet Deepstack Open, the technical team at Ludos Academy (too many to name, but we love you all), the photography and video team, all the sponsors, and MPF activities coordinator and Globetrotting Poker founder Maureen Bloechlinger. Of course, one final massive thank you to all of the players for making this event as special as it was. Much love to everyone and until the next time.

See you all in April for the next Malta Poker Festival at Portomaso Casino.