Swedish best friends Robert Berglund and Rasmus Eriksson came to the 2016 Battle of Malta with the dream of making the final table together.
They accomplished that and so much more Monday night.
Berglund beat Irishman John Finnighan Linkins heads-up to take home €160,000, which was the single biggest payout in Battle of Malta history.
In addition Eriksson incredibly finished third for €67,000. Together the pair will take home €227k back to their hometown of Falun, Sweden.
Scandis Dominate Crazy Final Table
The Battle of Malta has always had a large Nordic presence but this is the first year the event featured a Scandinavian winner.
Not only did Sweden’s Berglund and Eriksson finish top 3 but Norway’s Robert Sverre Eik put up a good fight from the short stack to finish seventh for €29,000.
The other Swede at the final table, Jonas Hähnert, finished ninth to add €14,540 to the Scandinavian haul.
It wasn’t all about the Swedes at the final table as Ireland’s John Finnighan Linkins put in a strong performance that eventually earned him €110k for second place.
American student Lawrence Brandt, who was a long way from his home of Tempe, Arizona, also played very well to take 5th for €46,500.
Here’s a complete look at the final table payouts:
1. Robert Berglund, Sweden - €160.000
2. John Finnighan Linkins, Ireland - €110.000
3. Rasmus Eriksson, Sweden - €67.000
4. Gonzalo Pro Fernandez, Spain - €56.000
5. Lawrence Brandt, USA - €46.500
6. Flaviano Cammisuli, Italian - €37.500
7. Robert Sverre Eik, Norwegian - €29.000
8. Giorgio Ligasacchi, Italian - €21.400
9. Jonas Hähnert, Sweden - €14.540
Bonkers Three-Way All-In Chop
The final table was a rollercoaster for Spain's Gonzalo Pro Fernández who went from short stack to chip leader to out of the tournament in a series of incredible events.
Nothing was more spectacular than a three-way all-in that went south for Fernández.
Fernández was all-in with A♦ A♥ against American Lawrence Brandt with 8♣ 8♥ and Rasmus Eriksson with 9♣ 9♦.
The Spaniard had a very good chance to knock out both players and take an overwhelming lead in the tournament.
Instead the board ran out 5♣ 4♦ 3♥ 2♠ 6♠ to put a straight on the board and provide an unlikely chop and deny Fernández what could have been a tournament-defining hand.
Fernández ended up finishing in fourth place to take home €56,000.
Live Stream Brings Final Table to Life
It was another record-breaking year for the Battle of Malta with 1,813 entries to create a nearly €900,000 prize pool.
One of the many new additions this year was the final table live stream sponsored by Betsson, Betsafe and NordicBet.
The GPL’s Roland Boothby got in the booth with a rotating list of hosts to provide real-time coverage of the final table.
It turned out to be a spectacular final table to watch with the chip lead trading back and forth numerous times and intense action all around.
Hundreds tuned in on Twitch to watch the final table play out.
There was even a free roll on Betsson/Betsafe/NordicBet in conjunction with live stream that gave away a package to the 2017 Battle of Malta.
Watch Final Table Highlight Video
Today's final table was the most exciting in Battle of Malta history and you can experience it for yourself in just three minutes.
Check out the highlights below and check back tomorrow for a full recap of the 2016 Battle of Malta.
Swedish Best Friends Make Battle of Malta Final 9 Together
Rasmus Eriksson and Robert Berglund already loved the Battle of Malta. Now they have two more very big reasons to.
For the part three years Eriksson, Berglund and a third friend have traveled from Sweden to Malta to play in the BOM.
The best finish they've had previously is Rasmus' 135th-place finish last year for €1,250. This year, they both made the final table of nine.
"This is my best friend from back in Sweden," Rasmus told us after the final table was set. "Robert was the first friend I started to play poker with I think five or six years ago.
"Three years ago was the first time we came to the Battle of Malta and we loved it so much we've come back every year.
"It's been a tradition for us," added Robert. "We hadn't had much success so far but this year we both made the final table."
Last-Longer Added Motivation
As a bit of an added incentive, as if they need it now that there's a €160,000 first-place prize on the table, they also have a last longer bet for a free dinner. They say they're both still very motivated to win it.
"Me and Robert have a last-longer bet," Rasmus says "and I want to take him down so I will do what I can to finish him off."
Rasmus plays poker for fun while Robert has been trying to make a living off poker for the last year. Adds Rasmus:
"The money means a lot for me. I have a normal job back in Sweden so even to make the min-cash at the final table is pretty huge.
"But I will try to play my best and not think of the money but the place of €160,000 is really huge and I want it so I will go for it."
“We are over the moon. “We’ve been speaking about how cool it would be to play heads-up for the title, but of course we weren’t serious.”
“Now we move on to Day 4 and it’s actually still possible.”
They were sitting at the same table today, but now that’s unavoidable. With 8,795,000 chips to Robert's 2,895,000, Rasmus also seems to have the upper hand. Or does he?
“I think that Robert is the best player at the table," Rasmus says, "so why would I try to target him? I think it’s better for me to target other players. He might come for me, though.”
Stakes Are Even Higher
Between the two of them and their unnamed friend, there is also an agreement that if one of them made the final table, the other two have to get a tattoo.
What exactly is that tattoo of? A very famous Swedish symbol, particularly prominent in their hometown of Falun: the Dalahäst, or Swedish horse.
But now that two of them have made it there, does that mean their friend has to get two tattoos?
Rasmus and Robert can easily agree on an answer here: “Yes, I guess.”
"Our friend wants us to get the tattoos, too," Rasmus says. "Since I made the final table, Robert has to do it and since he made it, I do too.
The two friends return at 3 pm to play the Battle of Malta main event final table, which you can watch right here on live stream with commentary.
You can follow along in the live updates as well right here.
Robert + Rasmus: "We Haven't Celebrated in a Proper Way Yet"
The 2016 Battle of Malta was a memorable event in a few regards.
The main event beat its own record once again. The side events grew exponentially. And for the first time ever we saw a Swedish winner.
The most unique story, however, was two best friends making the final table.
Sweden's Robert Berglund and Rasmus Eriksson finished 1st and 3rd in the main event. How everything ended is now history – Robert claimed the title for €160,000 while Rasmus got a solid consolation prize of €67,000.
Together with a third friend, Johan Hinders, they all had a piece of the action. A few weeks after the somewhat improbable result we spoke to the 25-year old duo from Dalarna (north of Sweden) about their success. They were two humble winners.
PokerListings: A big congratulations on your 1st and 3rd! What have you been up to since? How did you celebrate it all?
Robert/Rasmus: Thanks a lot! We stayed in Malta a couple of days and just enjoyed the moment.
We haven't actually celebrated it in a proper way yet. We were so tired the days after so we just relaxed, ate and drank well.
PL: You had a last longer bet where the winner got a free dinner, did you receive that one around the same time?
Robert: Haha yes I got it immediately. We ate at a steakhouse in the harbour, it was really good.
PL: During the tournament you mentioned that you started playing poker together 5-6 years ago. How did it all start?
Rasmus: My older brother was Robert's friend and one evening he asked me if I wanted to come along and play.
I don't remember exactly what we played but probably some small Sit & Go or some really small cash game. It was also at this time we started to hang out with each other.
After this we had more poker nights and eventually we started to play online.
PL: Was Johan with you during those nights?
Robert: Not from the start. We first met him a few years later in Riga during our first live event.
PL: So you have an established poker community in Dalarna?
Robert: No, we're just a few friends that enjoy playing together. We mostly play online nowadays.
PL: Since you started to play together around the same time you must have developed some similarities in your game. How did your strategy look before the tournament? Did you have the same approach or do you have very different styles?
Rasmus: I think we play kinda similar. Battle of Malta has such a good structure so it was all pretty basic.
You get a nice amount of space to take it easy in the beginning and then it of course becomes more and more aggressive the further the tournament goes.
PL: Do you agree, Robert?
Robert: Yes. It was a really calm first day. Even the second day was kinda calm the first hours. You just had to relax and find some good spots.
PL: The night before the final table you were 6th in chips Robert and you were 2nd Rasmus. How did you prepare? Was it on your own or did you hang out together as usual?
Rasmus: We sat down and talked about how we thought the opponents played, but not much more than that. We took a fairly early breakfast and then we hang out by the pool for a few hours before we went to the casino.
PL: Were you nervous or was it just happy feelings?
Robert: Of course you were a little bit nervous, but as soon as you sat down by the table it all disappeared.
PL: Did you discuss any deal that night?
Robert: Not really; we had such different chipstacks. But we changed a few more percent so neither one would cry a river if the other one went all the way.
All three of us already had a fair amount in each other before the tournament so everyone got a good profit in the end.
PL: How did you feel when you knocked out Rasmus?
Robert: I would rather have knocked out the Irish guy (Finnighan) but it felt OK. I pushed with 9-7 and Rasmus called me with king high. He found a good spot as a marginal favorite and I sucked out.
Rasmus: Yeah I guess you could say that.
PL: Is it usually Robert that wins those hands when you play?
Rasmus: That guy always wears his running shoes!
PL: Robert, in a shorter interview during the Battle of Malta you said that you were trying to become a professional. How has that worked out for you?
Robert: It’s been going good. I have been playing poker full time for about a year now.
I mostly play cash games during the weekdays, everything from €0.5/€1 and up, and on Sundays I grind tournaments.
PL: What did you do before?
Robert: I worked as a care assistant.
PL: Have you noticed any differences in your results since you started playing poker full time and do you have any goals poker-wise for the future?
Robert: Yes, the results are much better now. It's fun to see. I can put so much more time into it which makes a big difference.
At the moment I don’t have any specific goals, I just take it as it comes. The only thing I have scheduled is Eureka in Prague. I might also play some side events in the EPT that runs along with it.
PL: You stayed in the same hotel room in Malta; do you live together in Sweden as well?
Rasmus: No we don’t, I just moved to Falun (another town in Dalarna). My girlfriend lives here so that’s why. Robert is still in Mora so we live about 100 km from each other.
PL: Do you work there? Or do you have any plans like Robert and turn professional?
Rasmus: Of course I thought about it a couple of times but I don’t have the passion to put the time in you're required to as a professional. I’m currently working at a remediation firm and I’m very happy there so I have no plans to stop.
My colleagues are great, even if they have to accept that I take some more time off than usual this year to go to Prague with Robert.
But they've handled it well -- some of them even want to buy a percentage in the action (Laughs).
PL: You had a pretty strange bet before Battle of Malta. If any of you reached the final table the other guys had to get a tattoo of a “Dalahäst” (A wooden horse from Dalarna). Have any of you done it yet?
Rasmus: Haha not yet. We actually haven’t spent any time together since we came back to Sweden.
But it is the Swedish championships of online poker this weekend and I will go to Mora to play. Get back to us after the weekend and we will have solved it!
PL: Are you going to have a lockdown?
Robert: Yes a few friends are coming over to my place. Both Rasmus and Johan are coming, also a few others. It will be at least five of us. We will grind tournaments.
PL: Might it not be difficult to find time for tattoos then?
Rasmus: Haha yes but we have to solve it! All details are not finished yet since two of us reached the final table.
As it looks in the current situation Johan must do two because both me and Robert managed to get there. And since I made it Robert has to do one; the same goes for me.
PL: Have you had any other crazy prop bets before?
Rasmus: Hmm, we have one that is still active with a third friend that uses way too much “Snus” (A Swedish tobacco). It is also about a final table - this time about the Sunday Million.
If he reaches it first we have to start with snus, but if one of us makes it first he has to stop for one year.
PL: Do you have any time limit for that one?
Robert: No, it's a standing bet. Because of that reason we play the Sunday Million every week. It is not about the money; we just want to win the bet.
It was a bit nervous once when he finished around 70th but it hasn't happened much since.
PL: Will you come back to Malta next year?
Robert: Yes, I am almost convinced we will.
Rasmus: Without a doubt! It's almost forbidden to schedule something else in November.