Malta was the second last stop on my latest Euro trip. It came after Paris and before Copenhagen. I was thrilled to be back in jacket-ess weather for the first time since PCA! The island was warm and inviting in both climate and hospitality. The first thing I noticed at the airport, however, was the interesting dialect that was spoken – a fusion of Afro-Asiatic influences. I was amused that so many X’s were used and giggled to myself while trying to pronounce various words.
During check-in at the boutique Hotel Juliani we were introduced to a refreshing and exotic beverage, a locally-made soft drink called Kinnie. It is made with bitter oranges and tastes like a hybrid between root beer and orange soda. I’m not really a pop drinker, but this stuff is legit. We even saw tourists taking back 24 packs of the stuff on the flight out of the country.
Anyhow after a quick nap and confirming the length of late-registration I quickly made my way over to the Casino Portomaso for a satellite to the main event. The value was too great to be missed as anyone who has ever played an IPT will understand what I mean. The turbo didn’t last long and I went home with one of six discounted seats. I also got a chance to shoot the shit with Claudio Pagano (no, he’s not related to Luca), whom I played with throughout the IPT San Remo 1k event. He is quite the popular guy amongst the Italians due to his always playful and friendly nature. That night Claudio and his friends told me about this 24 hour joint on the island, which would set a precedent as the spot to for every proceeding night.
The next day was the ladies event – a tournament I almost never sell action for and always skip off to with pretty high hopes but finish with my tail between my legs. I thought my luck was finally going to change near the end of this one. I had a quarter of the chips in play when we were 9-handed and 6 paid. Buuut I got ahead of myself and during dinner break I was peer-pressured to reg in the FTOPS 10-game with a lot of action bought. Yes, I would be playing this final table and a 1k mixed game event at the same time. WTF was I thinking?! It didn’t seem so bad at the time, since the ladies event was a turbo and I’d be 1-tabling anyway, but it got super tricky when 1) the floor guy changed his mind about me being allowed to multi-table, and 2) there was no Wifi connection from my new seat, so I had to run back and forth for a bit to another table. What a disaster. Long story short, I ended seeing about 20 hands total in the FTOPS and mis-read my all-in Badugi hand while in a live one, then busting the ladies event at the feature table without even cashing when this one lady (who was maliciously making fun of me in Italian the whole time) decided to snap-call an all-in pot-size bet on the turn with J9o on a K97Tr board vs. my AA. I proceed to lose two more flips after the Q came and abruptly ended off the stage with empty pockets. Big sigh. At least this one camera guy on contract was kind and patient enough to interview me for some stuff he was shooting. It made me feel special but inadequate at the same time, since I have yet to win or even cash in a ladies event since WSOP last year and I’ve been playing my share.
Day 1 of the main was pretty awesome. I started off at a table sitting beside Marvin Rettenmaier and I think I rubbed off a bit of his run-good. He did say in Venice that if I taught him how to play mixed games he would teach me how to hit stuff. I ended the day 5th in chips and was excited and eager to have an equally amazing day 2. I woke up early enough to have breakfast, get pumped, and pick out an outfit for the tables (yes, this is part of the battle for a female player). As I’m in the shower, Dom pounds on my door and I wonder, “wtf, I haven’t taken that long…”, only to hear once I got out that we were getting kicked out of our very comfortable hotel. Apparently Dom thought he had booked for four nights and overlooked that they were completely booked for that final day, so we had to check out asap. I had not anticipated booking, packing, cabbing, and checking into another hotel to be part of my Day 2 prep. Boy was I peeeeeeeeved. Once we got into our room at the Hilton I was in a much better mood. What an amazing view overlooking the flawless sky and rich navy blue water. There was even a full moon that night which made the scene completely majestic and surreal. If I was still in my artsy phase I would’ve snap-painted a picture.
Ok, so there was an interesting situation about me showing my cards in the main. Most of day two was smooth-sailing. I was transferred to a different table near the bubble when I lose a massive 3b multi-way pot on the flop with a set vs. flush draw. I rebuild a bit and then this hand happens: Seat 9, an old man who seems friendly but perhaps a little on the senile side opens his hand on the river when his opponent is tanking on the turn to his AI donkbet on an AKQJ board. His hand is A4 & the floor comes over and his defense is that he heard his opponent say fold, and the other guy is obviously pissed because if he’s tanking on that board he has A4 beat, but is now unable to call because the old man already showed his hand. I didn’t hear anything from the other guy but there were a bunch of reporters around as we were down to just a few tables and there was a lot of Italian being spoken. I couldn’t be sure and was otherwise uninvolved.
This is my hand: same guy, who’s overall very nitty (but then does stuff like the A4 donk-shove hand) opens, I flat with JTs from lp. Flop is JT2 gin. He checks, I bet 2/3, he flats with a pot-sized bet behind. Turn 2, he checks and I decided to check. Given stack sizes I am never folding if I check. I started the hand with about twice his stack and average in chips. River is a 4 and he snap-shoves into me. I am giggly/a little confused and flip over my hand in a playful (not slow-roll) way before I said call. It wasn’t meant to be ill-natured, I really was rather amused and wanted to demonstrate this by adding more character and plot to the already dramatic table and giving the guy an opportunity to muck after I call. I thought I was being fun. Right when I flipped over my hand, he started to flip over his. I quickly put my hand and yelled/signalled “stop”, so he asked, “do you fold?” and I exclaimed “NO!” He then turned over his AK LOL!
So I announce the call again, but by this time the floor is called over and we wait for a lengthy decision. The floor finally decided that I could have the pot in the middle but he would keep his remaining stack. I was also given my first poker penalty of a one round timeout. You should understand that I’m used to cash games where flipping over your hand when completing the action is acceptable. I didn’t realize this was a big no-no, especially after the ruling in villain’s previous hand. It wasn’t the same scenario, but no one ever stated that an exposed hand was dead since he just got away with it! I was pretty tilted that he could pull the same sort of shenanigans twice, but more so because I took my eyes off the prize in a tournament I should be taking more seriously.
This fiasco cost me much more than his remaining chips. The actual bubble was super long – two and a half hours. I doubled up a shorty to became one myself, and no amount of shoving could get me back the stack I once had and put me in contention for good money again. If I had just plainly called he would’ve been out, the bubble would have busted earlier, and I would be in a good spot to go much deeper in that tournament. At least I got my Malta flag with the min-cash.
Whew, got a little tilted at myself after talking about that one again. For a change of topic, Malta is also the place I met my first Scots, David “Harry Potter” Vamplew and Andrew “Some Guy” Ferguson. I knew the British had a special knack for being marathon drinkers, but these fellas don’t mess around. Actually the first time I heard about them was when my roommate Dom drunk-texted me while he was still in Venice after his high-roller final table (a very prestigious two-table sit-n-go), and let me know how much I was missing out by leaving early – he had just met two of the top-earning/only Scottish poker players and they’re paying random Venetians to jump into the water for 200 euros a head. I wish I had extra bills lying around to wipe my ass with. It was a good thing the reputations that preceded them were pretty misleading. I mean, sure Some Guy can be a complete jackass at times (especially before he starts drinking), but overall his head and heart are in the right place (you should see how he talks about his girlfriend Claire), and Vampy is even more agreeable than the real Harry Potter.
Our last night in Malta was definitely not my classiest. To celebrate our various triumphs, we all decided to skip the FTOPS main and have some real fun. We first met up with the Scots at a fake Scottish karaoke bar. We left soon after to a Texan-style steak house. I don’t eat slabs of meat very often, but this was probably the best slab of meat I’d ever eaten. Gracefully, it would not stay in my stomach for long. After food we went to the bar district, “the intersection with all the red dots”. The street might have been a tad shady with a ton of open-concept hookah bars, strip joints, cops in street fights, and drunk people looking off balconies. We managed to pop into a bar with the cheapest bottles I’d ever seen – it was a measly 40e for a bottle of Absolut with 6 red bulls. Unfortunately here was too much blood in the washroom so we had to leave. We hopped to a place a few blocks down with a guy in a horse head. The Mojitos took awhile to arrive but I enjoyed the music and watching the horse go nuts dancing and humping random things.
After this place closed down we bumped into this Swedish guy who was at my last table. He took a nice pot off me and told me to work on his name when I couldn’t say it properly. I asked him to spell it but his Swedish accent was so exotic I couldn’t understand the letters either. After getting some vodka in my system “Jaokim” isn’t so tough. We went back to the 24 hour place and had a hoot after bumping into two other groups there. The super friendly IPT staff and Claudio with his Italian friends including Luca Moschitta, a well-mannered PokerStars pro I played with at my second table of the day. Dom felt obligated to yell out, “HAHA, I took all your chips” to him as they walked in because hanging out with classy people is what I’m about. I only remember buying one round but somehow the night did not end until 7 a.m. You know they’re a good friend when they help hold your hair back. The Swedes were lucky enough to go to the airport straight from the bar with their early flight. Heading to Copenhagen at noon was one of the most difficult journeys of my life. I left a gross vodka puddle at the airport as a souvenir.
I would consider moving to Malta one day. It’s quite the destination for expats – I met a very nice Swedish poker-playing lady, Anna. She was super supportive during the main, and I always feel warm and fuzzy to be rooted on by people I’ve just met, especially women. Too many of them can be unnecessarily catty. I also met a Canadian expat whose girlfriend plays online, which was pretty cool. The weather there is generally nice, the food is reasonably priced, the people pleasant, poker is legal, it’s close to Italy, it’s a great place to sail (something I intend on doing a lot of when the time is right), and it’s tax-free!