This may be the first time that the World Poker Tour has decided to drop its anchor in the bay of St Julian’s in Malta but it certainly won’t be the last. Day 1a of WPT Malta took place in the fabulous Portomaso Casino and it was the first ever re-entry event to be held in Europe under the WPT umbrella. It was a small field of 101 players but there will be a much bigger field for Day 1b, especially when you include all of the re-entries.
64 players won’t be paying an additional €3,300 for a re-entry because they all safely navigated their way through the thrills and spills of Day 1a. Fabien Sartoris was the chip leader after amassing 127,350 chips and just behind Sartoris at the top of the charts were Franco Guastamacchia (120,350), Christian Nitsche (112,850), Thomas Wolff (110,275) and November Niner Matt Giannetti (101,025).
Despite all of the action at the top, Day 1a was a day of notable bust outs, and maybe the allure of the re-entry caused some of the top players to play a little looser than normal. Arnaud Mattern, Fabrice Soullier, McLean Karr, Byron Kaverman making early exits before the most spectular one of them all. It is not often you see the great Phil Hellmuth on European shores and the place was buzzing with the knowledge that he may make an appearance on Day 1a. When he eventually sauntered into the room he only had two-hours of play time remaining, but that was irrelevant as he busted in the first few minutes:
There was a raise to 1,000 when Hellmuth made it 3,000 out of the small blind. The big blind folded and the original raiser called. The flop came down [Qx] [5x] [3x] and Hellmuth led for 4,000 and his opponent called. The turn was the [4x] and Hellmuth moved all-in for 18,000! His opponent made the call and when the hands were turned over Hellmuth had a stone cold bluff [Kx] [7x] and his opponent had picked him off with ace-high and an open ended straight draw. The river bricked off for our Poker Brat and he headed back to his hotel room.
Play will recommence tomorrow at 16.00 where we will conclude our combination of day ones with the introduction of Day 1b. There is sure to be a stellar turnout and who knows maybe Phil Hellmuth will arrive a little earlier and last a little longer?