Ivonne Montealegre is a Founder & Event Director within the poker industry and a well-known personality in the Maltese online gaming industry and beyond. Being the founder of The Malta Poker Festival and having it organized over the past years, it must be said that mostly thanks to her passion, commitment, and endless effort to listen to players, she has, once again, built an amazing concept. She is breathing poker inside out and is a true continuous asset and a big reason why the Maltese poker industry has become to what it is today.
How history is being made
Her original profession was being a psychologist, with a special degree in neuro psychotherapy, Ivonne started off working in her home country Costa Rica. By the time she did not enjoy it as it’s a real tough and not fun job to have, as we can all imagine. She then rolled into the gaming industry and started to be part of events at sportsbook.com. This evolved in affiliate events eventually. At some point there was a possibility to work in the poker industry and she took the bull by its horns from the start. Even though she did not know anything about the game itself, she fell in love with it and right after one of her colleagues taught her everyone about poker, which made the love for our game even bigger.
Her first real self-made concept arrived in 2009 with the Punta Cana Poker Classic. This event stood out because it combined poker tournaments with exotic destinations around Latin America and was mostly created for recreational players. Started off with prize pools reaching the $200K mark, it soon followed to be a guaranteed prize pool of $500K.
Her passion for building an event from scratch has had become a success and it seems she just loves to start a brand from zero. She told us – ‘’Even buying the url is a great feeling to have’’.
Not too long after, she got introduced to the Maltese poker industry. An industry which was at that point by far not what it is today. The biggest events were totally isolated from the rest of the world. After grabbing her together, she put her soul into it and helped to convince others to release their uncertainties about going big with an event. And this is exactly what happened with Battle of Malta, an iconic event series which turned into a monster. Players could only adore the passion and commitment which was put in such events, and everyone helped it to become an event of such. PokerListings also contributed to its success by providing a platform to introduce the concept to the world wide web.
Ivonne Montealegre is also a big fan of playing poker herself. So, poker does not only flow through her veins in terms of her profession, but she also competes a lot at the live- and online tables. When living in Malta myself, I had the privilege of playing in the same tournament as her, and I can confirm she is a real pleasure to sit at the tables with. So not only does she organize tournaments, but she also brings joy to the tables by competing herself at live poker events. Somewhat which is so important to build communities.
A couple years back, when the pandemic hit us all, she took this as an opportunity to hit the online poker felts as well. All with the intention to keep the focus, and obviously to keep a healthy bankroll and the likes of competition. When we spoke to her, she was very outspoken about it; ‘’It was a very entertaining period at the online tables, to keep your mind at ease, playing for real money or even just freerolls, that time was very good for it. It keeps your head sharp and keeps you healthy.’’
For an Event Director it must be said that when she does visit other poker events, she can see more things into detail. Something which she also brings back to her own stable, the experience. When asking her what the key aspects for her are to go on a poker trip – ‘’I might be a bit fishy here and there, but I love to play and to have a lot of fun at the tables, loving the community feeling in general as well. The destination really depends on the city, it must be a fun and attracting location. I don’t like when it’s just a casino, and everything is just about the casino. I want to make it a complete experience, with good restaurants around, and to be able to spend time with good friends. The event itself needs to be a fantastic run poker event. Those are my main criteria.’’
Why do we think she deserves a spot in our Women in Poker Series?
- Ivonne Montealegre is not only one of the best and well-known Event Directors in Europe and beyond, but she also has a very warm personality with her heart on the right place.
- Building any community, and a poker community in specific, is her real passion. For the poker industry she is a true gem, in which she is not ready yet in regards of completing her mission of making poker as great as it can be.
- The events she has built in the past, and with the Malta Poker Festival nowadays, she has proven to be able of providing a battlefield for poker players, with an elegant twist.
- The way Ivonne Montealegre is presenting herself to the wide world, with her dedication, commitment and the strive for success, she rightfully deserves one of the top spots of our tribute to women in poker.
Malta Poker Festival
The MPF Spring Edition is coming soon, being held from 24th of April up until 1st of May at the Portomaso Casino in St. Julians, Malta. We got told the schedule will be introduced very soon and it would be full of epic, well-structured tournaments, with €300,000 GTD in prize money. A week of great vibes, being after the pandemic saga, providing cool games, there is much to look forward to. We asked Ivonne to give us a view out of her own kitchen in regards of this extremely friendly and perfect organized live tournament series:
‘’My days during the MPF are quite crazy, to say the least. A full day of being there for clients, listening to all players, networking, receiving feedback, that is so key to such grand event. Players always come back with the best feedback, and this we use for future perspectives. I don’t get much sleep throughout the week, but it’s all definitely worth it to be there for the people during the event. When the event is finished, I can focus on partners for example and listen to their feedback. But also, from other events around us. The beauty about poker is that it is so ever evolving.
Before such an event I need to make sure I am healthy and have the right mindset preparation. My workouts are just a ’maintenance’ workout. But I believe in good food, and I love to cook my own food all the time. I love to know what I am eating, and the food from Latin America is just delicious. I always try to eat with my partner and kids, it is fundamental. I just enjoy and love cooking, and enjoy it to see their faces when eating, and then say its delicious. When my two-year-old puts a thumbs up, amazing feeling. ‘’
Are you curious how the last event of Malta Poker Festival ended? PokerListings was capturing all the action throughout the week, and you can read and see everything back through our liveblog from the event.
What could change the poker industry?
‘’I would not punish so much the recreational players by some poker rules. Checking the nuts for example, obviously a rooky mistake. Once I was punished a whole orbit when I checked the nuts. There was no reason I was colluding. Clearly a mistake. It was so hard on me as it was evidence to the poker table that I was the fish. It is too excessive. Once it happens the floor manager is being called, I hope they will be more open minded. Rules tend to punish the rookies and I am bit opposed to that. All recreational players, or minorities, are a fantastic part of our eco system, let’s keep it comfortable at the tables. Not only for the professionals and sharks.
Furthermore, it is incredible to say the least that in 2023 we still have cases where men are berating women, or other minorities such as the LGBTQ community, at the poker tables. Casino’s look away often when it’s a high rolling player for example, while everybody just should be treated equally. There is no room for showing disrespect for any kind of minority.
Creating awareness is key, it is important that people feel comfortable and keep it all healthy and fun. It can be improved if we stick together and make such rules that it doesn’t happen any longer. Such berating behavior should be punished more then what it is now, it is unacceptable. Everybody should be treated in the same way.’’
The love for Ladies events speaks by itself when looking at what Ivonne Montealegre has already done for it in Malta for example. Opinions are divided about such events still, as poker is a level game, why would we need Ladies Events?
Ivonne is clear about it by saying – ‘’Some women never have played poker, if they need to step into the game while being in big tournament fields it might feel quite uncomfortable. As an organizer, want to provide a nice and safe environment so that they can get used to it.’’
Last December, the World Poker Tour had organized one of world’s greatest Ladies Championship Events ever held and Ivonne joined this event to see it with her own eyes. ‘’I need to give a shout out to WPT for such a beautiful event. It was so much fun, so beautiful location. There were screens everywhere, incredible. As an organizer I know they spend more money than they could make out of it. It really is about investing in the future, you could tell. I admire them, the space to develop, and above all, top executives. It is impressive to follow their journeys.’’
WPT Global is a well-known brand in the poker industry. They offer online games as well. Fancy a decent welcome bonus and lots of fun at the tables? Do not hesitate and create your account now:
Do you want to be aware of all the news for the upcoming Malta Poker Festival Spring Event? Check out their website and be sure you won’t miss out on anything:
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