About five minutes before the break at the end of Level 12, Malta’s hope of crowning its first EPT champion evaporated when Alan Brincat was sent to the rail.
Brincat, the only one of five Maltese players who made it to Day 2, started today with 34,000 chips and earned an early double up. But after moving tables he grew card dead and was polished off by Georgios Karakousis, whose ace-queen stayed good against Brincat’s K♣10♣.
So ended what would have been a fairly unlikely fairy tale. Poker is only just getting established on the Maltese islands, and the fact that five players joined the fray actually surpassed the expectations of the country’s Poker Mama, Jackie Cachia, who thought only about three players would be able to find the funds to play.
Local legislation means that Maltese players need to be 25 before entering a casino, which doesn’t help the development of young players. Some of the best young talents are only able to ply their trade online.
It will be interesting, however, to chart the gradual progress of poker in this region, especially because we are starting with such a low bar. If the European Poker Tour returns to Malta for Season 12 (and there doesn’t seem to be any reason why not), I’m going to estimate there will be at least double the number of Maltese players in action this time next year. We can subsequently see if the snowball gathers pace and, if this becomes a fixture on the calendar, the growth will likely be exponential.
Soon enough those young talents, presently under 25, will come of age, while the mainstream media reporting on this event will also encourage others to learn the game. There will likely be more live satellites throughout the year in the island’s three casinos (with other due to open soon) and numbers will only increase as a result.
And, rest assured, mainstream media is indeed interested in poker on the island. When Brincat came second in the Battle of Malta poker tournament, hosted here in November, Malta Today ran a full interview with him about the achievement. That was a €500 buy in tournament, which attracted close to 1,500 players, and Brincat became the second Maltese player to make the final table in as many years. It was his debut in a major event, but he predicted rapid improvement.
“Some of the players based here are foreign, but the Maltese people are catching up now,” he told Malta Today. “I think I’m a good example of that. I think we have some good players over here, that’s for sure. And playing against these foreign pros is an opportunity for us to learn, and know that we can give them a good fight.”
Brincat’s only recorded cash was enough to take him to the top of the all time Malta money list. But it will be a battle to keep hold of that top spot as poker gradually catches on in the country.
Follow all the action from EPT Malta on the main EPT Malta page. There’s action from the Main Event on the Main Event page, and information from the Italian Poker Tour event on the IPT page. It’s also about time you downloaded the EPT App, available on both Android or IOS.