Inside Scoop – What Did the Winners Have to Say at the Festival, Malta

1 year ago

The Festival Poker Tour in Malta ended up a huge success, with players taking home more than just prizes, but also great memories. It was a fun tournament where people joked, laughed, and played some fantastic poker. It was also a tournament where no-limit hold’em wasn’t necessarily the hero of the event! We sat down with some of the winners to find out what they thought of the tournament and to see where the future will take them.

Aaron Kupin – Winner of HR OFC

What did you like most about The Festival in Malta, besides placing first in the Open Face Chinese event?

I thought the casino layout was cool, tournaments spanning multiple floors and rooms. All the dealers were friendly and professional as well, and it was nice to meet people from all different backgrounds.

Did you try any other formats or tournaments, besides the OFC event?

I fired a couple in the main, and one in the 1100 NLHE HR but all were short-lived.

In your opinion, what do you think were the main factors that contributed to you placing where you finished?

I’m an OFC specialist, I’ve been playing a little almost every day since 2019 and even before, so I like my chances vs any field. With that said, obviously the blinds go up fast and I ran good when it counted.

What does this result mean to you, and how did it feel to achieve it?

It just feels really good, especially to be able to share positive results with friends and family. It’s so hard to win a poker tournament, so I’m just really grateful because it’s such a special, unique feeling. I was also really appreciative of the digital sketch trophy- I loved that.

Do you have any major plans for the prize money that you earned?

Going to Vegas to spend the summer grinding WSOP, so any extra $ helps!

Have you taken part in other tournaments held in Malta?

This was my first time on the island of Malta and first international tournament, but I loved it and I’m sure I’ll be back.

Cory Desmond – NLH High Roller Event Winner

What did you like most about The Festival in Malta, besides placing first in the NLH High Roller event?

One thing that really stood out to me was how friendly the players were. The Festival did a superb job in cultivating a fun, relaxed atmosphere and it seemed like the players had a great time as a result.

One of my favourite things about live poker specifically is the opportunity to meet new people with different backgrounds, stories, strategies etc. and I made a bunch of new friends during this series, so I’m grateful for that.

The schedule was also solid and offered a good variety of games and stake levels.

Did you try any other formats or tournaments, besides the NLH event?

I’ve been dipping my toes in the “mixed game streets” since the beginning of 2023 and gave both the HORSE and the PLO/PLO8 events a shot.

I didn’t cash either of those events, but they’re a nice respite from NLHE MTTs, which can be pretty excruciating at times. At least with HORSE it’s quite difficult (even for me) to punt off an entire stack in any one hand – and even if I do, on occasion I might get half the pot back anyway, so what’s the worst that can happen!?

Shout out to the thriving Malta mixed games community who are super friendly and helpful in the event you don’t know the rules (or make awful plays and get lucky vs. them).

– In your opinion, what do you think were the main factors that contributed to you placing where you finished?

Before registering for the High Roller at 17:00, I actually played the HORSE event from 13:00 – ~16:30. I’d like to believe that the torture of playing Limit Hold’em inspired a new creativity in my NLHE game, but the reality is that I got exceptionally lucky throughout the tournament.

I doubled up in the 3rd hand of the High Roller after calling a 3-bet HJ vs CO and check-calling down three streets with Ace high versus a very aggressive/capable player.

Not a theoretically approved call by any means, especially when we’re actually beat by some of the bluffs my opponent should have in his range – but I went with my instinct, which (as a self-diagnosed calling-station) was to click call. Fortunately we found the small part of his range that we beat and I got a well-needed confidence boost.

Another hand that stands out is on the Final Table with 9 players remaining, I raise-called A9o for 10bbs vs an aggressive opponent (who eventually came 2nd in the Main Event – congrats!) who had AQs and I rivered a straight. Possibly (very likely*) an ICM disaster on my part, however at this point I had been playing for ~13 hours, so was certainly not playing my A-game, and the payout structure was very top-heavy (which should mitigate some of the ICM pressure and allow me to justify my poor play).

Still, very likely a huge punt – but as someone who plays poker recreationally and not as my full-time job, I try not to be too hard on myself with these errors. MTT poker is such a complex game, my focus is on limiting and learning from the number of mistakes I make, not completely eliminating them as that just isn’t a realistic expectation.

What does this result mean to you, and how did it feel to achieve it?

Winning tournaments always feels nice, and it’s certainly not something I take for granted. One of the difficulties of playing MTT’s is that you have to accept that you will not win very often – even when you get a great result like 2nd place, you might leave the tournament feeling frustrated.

This makes it even more important to celebrate and feel gratitude for the occasions in which you do win – which is something I’m actively trying to do.

Do you have any major plans for the prize money which you earned?

A boring answer, but not really. In reality, I profited just over 15 buy-ins, which might objectively be a lot of money, however relatively speaking, won’t change my financial position, investment strategy, or the stakes I play etc. I certainly won’t complain about a bankroll buffer though.

I took my girlfriend out for a nice meal to thank her for all of her support as she has always been incredibly supportive and open-minded when it comes to poker, which certainly isn’t something I take for granted.

What’s next for you? Do you have any other tournaments coming up?

I’ll play the upcoming Battle of Malta, but past that I haven’t set out a plan for events. I have a pretty demanding full-time job, so travelling and playing events can be difficult, but Bratislava with The Festival towards the end of the year is tempting.

I’d like to squeeze an EPT stop in at some point – we shall see.

Have you taken part in other tournaments held in Malta?

Malta actually rekindled my love for the game of poker. Before moving here from Wales I hadn’t played live in ~6 years. The North Wales poker scene isn’t as bustling as you might think

Since I moved to Malta 4.5 years ago I’ve played a few live events with good results. I came 3rd in the UDSO & 4th in the Poker One, both in 2019. I also (after COVID!) had some deep runs in 2022 in the Battle of Malta (20th) and the PartyPoker Championship (16th) but was sadly unable to convert either to a podium finish, which is where the money is at in these large-field tournaments.

It’s a nice confidence boost to win a tournament, but navigating a field of 70 players is very different to navigating a field of 1000’s (largely because you need to win more flips!).

My eyes are still firmly set on finalling one of the bigger series events here and I’ll continue firing bullets with that goal in mind.

Have you participated in any tournaments internationally?

Over a decade ago I played some UKIPT stops throughout the UK and Ireland which was always a great laugh. Also went to Lima, Peru to play an LAPT when I was 19 after winning a Pokerstars satellite – also a really incredible experience. I went to an event in Croatia back then around the same time which was beautiful.

More recently, Bratislava for the Polish Poker Open a couple of years ago and Vegas for the WSOP last summer. I fired the Main Event and some side events/daily MTTs without much luck, unfortunately, but I see it as an investment in myself and the experience earned will hopefully pay dividends in the future.

Plus, an item to tick off the expanding bucket list!

Matthew Micallef – 7th Place in Main Event

What did you like most about The Festival in Malta, besides placing so well?

The structure of the main event was perfect considering the starting stack. Also, I liked the fact that day 1 finished early rather than having long breaks and ending up finishing at 1am. I also liked the vibe that there was throughout the week; everyone was there with a friendly attitude to enjoy the game.

Did you try any other formats or tournaments, besides the main event?

I would have liked to try other side events but unfortunately did not have the time to do so. There were some cool innovative side events which I’ll try my luck in the future when the Festival series returns.

In your opinion, what do you think were the main factors that contributed to you placing where you finished?

Well, lately I have been spending a lot of time reading and studying poker strategies online in order to improve my game. Apart from that, patience and knowing when the time is right to push was the key, I believe.

What does this result mean to you, and how did it feel to achieve it?

Placing 7th is a great achievement; obviously when I made the final table my aim was to win it but unfortunately came up a bit short but this will give me some confidence and a boost for the upcoming events.

Do you have any major plans for the prize money which you earned?

My aim with the prize money is to re-invest all of it in future tournaments.

What’s next for you? Do you have any other tournaments coming up?

Well, there are some upcoming events in Malta. In a month or so there are 3 upcoming events; the Battle of Malta, the Poker One, and the Summer Festival by Pokerstars. My aim is to perform well in all 3 of them.

Have you taken part in other tournaments held locally?

Yes, I have. I also played the Malta Poker Festival which I made to day 2 but did not make the money and a side event in the MPF – the Hendon Mob which I placed.

Have you participated in any tournaments internationally?

Regarding international tournaments – I basically started playing poker last summer and luckily enough played 2 tournaments abroad. 1 in Bratislava which was the Hendon Mob which I placed in the money and was lucky enough to win a package for the EPT in Paris online for the main event where I also placed in the top 10% of the field.

Øystein Brenden – Winner of Main Event

What did you like most about The Festival in Malta, besides placing first in the main event?

Meet people I only meet on poker trips. Play with new opponents, professional or hobby players.

A lot of tournaments, I especially like mixed games.

And the warm weather.

Did you try any other formats or tournaments, besides the main event?

I played Sviten and came 4th.

HORSE – no cash

8-game – no cash

PLO madness – no cash

In your opinion, what do you think were the main factors that contributed to you placing where you finished?

I made good decisions (choices).

Had 2 flips going my way. If I lose them I bust.

Pick up better cards 3 times at FT when people went all in. 70/30 in my favour.

I was patient.

Day 1 – I was down 6k but BB was 200 so I built up to second chippie at the end.

What does this result mean to you, and how did it feel to achieve it?

Always good to win big prizes or titles.

It makes it possible to travel more for playing poker (but not in summertime because of my job)

And pay down the loan on my house and cars.

Do you have any major plans for the prize money that you earned?

No big plans. Renovating a house so some money goes there.

What’s next for you? Do you have any other tournaments coming up?

Next big event is the Norwegian championship in October, this time in Norway.

Last last year I came 3rd in the main event with above 1800 players (freeze out).

Have you taken part in other tournaments held locally?

Malta Poker Festival

Battle of Malta

IPC

Have you participated in any tournaments internationally?

Nottingham in February – First in PLO8

Rest only some cashes.

We hope this inspires you to get out there and play some poker. Remember, you can’t win unless you play!

For more poker news, strategy and insight, remember to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Images courtesy of thefestival.com

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