The PokerListings Battle of Malta event contributes towards 12% of the Maltese nations GDP according to Chief Operating Officer of the Malta Tourism Authority Paul Bugeja.
When I first saw the headline that PokerListing’s Battle of Malta (BOM) was a ‘significant part of the Maltese national GDP’ I had to check it wasn’t April. That surprising declaration came from Paul Bugeja, Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the Malta Tourism Authority speaking at a press conference held on Fri Oct 16.
“It accounts for 12% of the GDP and growing. It is second only to tourism.” Said Bugeja.
Joining Bugeja in that press conference was Ivonne Montealegre, BOM Project Director, Martin Carlesund, Chief Executive Office (CEO) Highlight Media Group Ltd, and Eros Ganzina, General Manager of the Portomaso Casino.
Carlesund told the press that they were expecting 2,000 runners when the fourth iteration of the event is held Nov 4-9 at the Portomaso Casino in St Julians. An incredible expectation considering the first event, held in 2012, only attracted 349 players.
The BOM has become an important tournament for the poker community. It shows the European Poker Tour (EPT), World Poker Tour (WPT) and World Series of Poker (WSOP) that there is room for a smaller independent tournament organiser.
The WPT has held events at the Portomaso, and the EPT is currently enjoying their second spell at the venue, and neither of them has been able to pull in a field like the BOM did last year.
PokerListings first organised the event in 2012. The first two seasons saw Kara Scott acting as host, creating an early creditability that was vital for the tournament’s growth. A retired doctor from Italy, Nicodemo Piccolo, won the first event. He earned €35,000 after outlasting a field of 349 entrants.
2013 saw the field increase by 154% to 888 participants. This time Louis Cartarius, an online player from Frankfurt, walked away with the title and €68,000 in prize money.
Then the year that put BOM on the map.
In 2014, the field grew another 64% when 1,447 entrants created a prize pool of €701,795. It was the first time the organisers felt brave enough to put their money on the line with a €500,000 guarantee, and Maria Ho replaced Kara Scott as the host of the event.
The first prize of €122,750 went to Bulgarian Antoan Katsarov, who became the first BOM winner, who didn’t even have to win the final hand. In a bizarre set of circumstances, the casino had to close at a particular time, and Katsarov was awarded the title because he had more chips than his opponent at that time.
The 2014 event was recognised by poker’s elite when they were awarded the Global Poker Index European Poker Award for Event of the Year (Under $2k Buy-in).
The past three seasons has seen the Italians dominate the final table berths with six. Sweden and Malta are the second most populous nations with three final table appearances a piece.
Maria Ho will once again host the 2015 event. They are expecting over 2,000 runners and have extended the starting flights to three to prepare for that influx.
“Every year it’s getting bigger and better. If you don’t come out this year, you will be missing out.” said Maria Ho.