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Bigger, Better, Richer: 2015 Battle of Malta Sets New Bar for 2016
When France's Nicolas Proust raised the signature trophy that marked his win in the 2015 Battle of Malta Main Event, it was already Monday evening.
A day later than expected, thanks to the prodigious turnout from days prior, host Maria Ho handed Proust the statue in the corner of the Portomaso Casino instead of the Grand Master ballroom where the rest of the tournament had played out.
Much like the Battle of Malta's history, though, the unexpected location and up-and-down journey to the title ended up as just the right ending to a tournament that's now the benchmark for low buy-in poker in Europe.
It wasn't exactly how it was planned, but everybody had a great time getting there.
The atmosphere was electric, the spirit of poker alive and well and, after a three-way deal ensured each of the final 3 players over €100,000, the conclusion left all involved more than satisfied.
With 1,804 entries the 2015 Battle of Malta main event smashed its own record for the largest tournament on the island, ever. But that's just one measure of how big the BOM has become.
A Final Table from All Walks
Thanks to the astronomical turnout the prize pool of this year’s Battle of Malta was almost €900,000 with €165,000 earmarked for the winner.
After former chip leader Uri Gilboa busted in fourth place, though, the remaining players -- Proust, Henrik Jacobsen and Hendrik Koops -- struck a deal that left all three with six-figure payouts.
A first for the Battle of Malta, the three €100k payouts are a phenomenal number for a tournament with just a €550 buy-in.
In fact big stack Koops, who was the first of these three to bust out, ended up with the biggest prize money at €125,000.
He left with a smile and said “I’m really happy I made a deal.”
Champion Proust, who entered the final table ninth in chips, completed his journey from small stack to winner and cashed out €110,000 and Jacobsen left with €102,000 - exactly what second place was scheduled to pay.
Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Bulgaria and Israel all had seats at the final table to make it another multinational affair and for the first time a female player made the final table in Anne Meri from Finland.
There were three players who play poker professionally but also an architect, a football coach, a former tennis coach, a pub owner, a lawyer, a student and an affiliate of Betsafe in the final, showing that the Battle of Malta is still a battle of the people and recreational players from all walks of life.
“It’s incredible," said Proust after the win. “I never went so deep in a large tournament.”
Full-Fledged Poker Festival
The Battle of Malta has evolved from a weekend event into a fully grown six-day poker festival. More side events have been added every year and attendance for all have skyrocketed.
In 2015 the Second Chance Siege of Malta was back, as was the PLO Knight’s Crusade and the Grandmaster High Roller. Joining the schedule were a NLHE Turbo Deepstack and the brand new Win the Button tournament.
The High Roller Event turned out to be the biggest success if you compare numbers from last year with an 80-player tournament that lasted deep into the morning hours of its final day.
You can find all the winners, prize pools and payouts here on our Battle of Malta results page.
Celebs Out In Force
Apart from Maria Ho, who returned to BOM for the second time as host, there were several professional players and international celebrities who also wanted to be part of the best low buy-in tournament in Europe.
Fatima de Melo couldn’t make it to the first edition of the Battle but made up for that this year when she actually reached the penultimate day and finally busted in 49th place. Her boyfriend, former professional tennis pro Raemon Sluiter, also played and cashed in 180th spot.
Former PokerStars team pro Humberto Brenes got so excited after his visit that he suggested a “Battle of Costa Rica” in his home country.
Sofia Lövgren, now with 888poker, has become a regular at the BOM, as has Luca Moschitta and the Norwegians with Andreas Hoivold, Thor “The Godfather” Hansen and WSOP runner-up Felix Stephensen, who went on to win the Norwegian Championship two weeks later.
We even had American Idol legend William Hung, who battled at the felt and with Maria on Karaoke night. The opinions on who won the sing-off were divided, to say the least.
Everest poker pro Fabrice Soulier, Norwegian TV star Tone Damli, Italian reality star Sabina Hiatullah and Finnish singer and model Kim Herold were just a few more of the stars to join us.
Charity Partner MOAS Joins Ranks, Spreads Awareness
Another important step the Battle of Malta made this year was beginning a partnership with local Maltese charity organization MOAS, or Migrant Offshore Aid Station.
Started by a local family just over two years ago the organization refurbished an old ship to become a mobile refugee rescue vessel to provide emergency assistance to those making the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean in search of a safer home.
Already assisting over 12,000 at-risk refugees at sea via their dedicated crews, specialized search-and-rescue equipment and coordination with official maritime rescue centers MOAS has proven itself to be an essential service on the tiny island.
Host Maria Ho and several poker players pledged a portion of their winnings to MOAS and PokerListings topped up all donations received on site with its own donation.
More importantly awareness was raised among thousands of poker players to this tremendous cause and we expect even more generosity next year. PokerListings spoke with fundraising coordinator Christina Lejman about MOAS' heroic efforts:
Brenes, Filatov and Carrel Claim Spirit of Poker Awards
For the third time PokerListings also presented awards to three players who have proven themselves to be extraordinary assets to the poker community.
Charlie Carrel, the English wonder kid with a weakness for psychedelic clothing and high buy-ins, won the Rising Star Award by a small margin over Fedor Holz and Dzmitry Urbanovich.
In what many see as the main category, Most Inspiring Player, it was Russian Anatoly Filatov who collected by far the most votes.
And in the category where players probably deserve the most respect – the Living Legends – Humberto “The Chark” Brenes was named the player who really lives up to this category’s title.
More on the winners and nominees of the 2015 Spirit of Poker Voting here.
Play hard but party harder must have been the motto of some of the players at the BOM this year, and that’s no surprise as there was a party every night of the event.
From the stylish cocktail reception to the crazy Karaoke contest to the stunning views at Club Level 22 to the wild night at the Sky Club with thousands of people – every night offered something special to everyone who was there.
Can BOM 2016 Top BOM 2015?
With 1804 entries the Battle of Malta once again bested its record-setting total from the year before.
BOM attendance figures now read read 349 – 888 – 1,447 – 1,804 with 2,000 entrants obviously the next benchmark to surpass.
At 1,804 entrants the BOM easily became the biggest standalone tournament in Europe for the year before the Norwegian Championships beat it with 1,974 players earlier this month.
But it sure was the greatest Battle yet with more money to win, more players, more parties and more side events than ever before.
The cash-game tables buzzed 24/7. There was a high-roller black jack event. A plane was chartered to fly in 150 players from Israel. You could play FIFA for free all night long.
There was even a stand where you could buy underwear.
Can the 2016 Battle of Malta top that? We're excited to try on behalf of the recreational poker player and our extraordinary sponsors in 888poker, Betsson, Betsafe, RedBet, NordicBet, Betting Connections and more.
Stay tuned for info on the 2016 Battle of Malta coming soon!