For the second year in a row, the World Poker Tour will return to the Casino at Portomaso in Malta. From Sept. 16 to 20, 2012, the WPT will host a €3,300 reentry Main Event that will feature two starting flights capped at 300 players each. A number of pros are expected to play the event including Phil Hellmuth, Tony G, Vanessa Selbst, Jason Mercier, Marvin Rettenmaier and Jonathan Duhamel.
Whether you’re planning on making the trek to Malta or sweating the action from the comfort of your home, we're here to bring you details on what to expect from the event, as well as fun things to do and see in the area. First, here are some general facts you should know about Malta:
- The Republic of Malta, in the Mediterranean, is 50 miles South of Sicily.
- Gained independence from the United Kingdom on Sept. 21, 1964; became a Republic on Dec. 13, 1974.
- Estimated population: 425,515
- Official Language(s): Maltese, English
- Currency: euro
- Average yearly temperature is 22–23 °C (72–73 °F) during the day and 15 °C (59 °F) at night.
Getting There & Around
If you’re headed to Malta, you’re no doubt flying into the Malta International Airport, the only airport serving the Maltese Islands. Once there, you’ll have no trouble hailing a cab, but if you prefer, you can take advantage of the Arriva Malta bus service that was restructured and revitalized in July 2011. The buses operate at a frequency of between 10 and 30 minutes, so it shouldn’t take long to catch a ride. Finally, if you’re lucky enough to have a car, expect to see traffic move on the left just like the United Kingdom.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking for proximity and convenience, look no further than the Hilton Hotel Malta next to the Portomaso Casino. The hotel is largely considered the best in Malta, with many rooms offering a balcony view of the sea. In addition, the Hilton houses an indoor and plunge pool, four outdoor pools, sauna and steam room, racquet and squash courts, five restaurants, three bars, and a fitness center. What’s more, the location is pristine as it is near the heritage city of Valletta and minutes away from the top entertainment centers. Of course there are other hotel options in Malta, all of which can be found with a quick Google search, but none will prove more convenient than the Hilton.
Things to Do
Malta attracts 1.2 million tourists every year, so to say there are plenty of things to do would be an understatement. You can visit the Mosta Church, known for having one of the largest domes in the world; swim at Golden Bay; check out local delicacies at Gozo’s Victoria Market; and visit the temples, which hare believed to be the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
Another popular tourist attraction is swimming in the Blue Lagoon in nearby Comino, the northern island in the Maltese archipelago. The tranquil and isolated island has been featured in such films as Troy, Swept Away and the Count of Monte Cristo, but while it’s a popular location for filmmakers, it’s even more popular with tourist who frequent the clear waters of the Blue Lagoon, a truly picturesque, white, sandy beach. It’ll take some time and effort to get from the WPT Malta venue to the Blue Lagoon, but if you’re interested in snorkeling, swimming, and marine life, it’s a must.
If you want to stay a little closer to the WPT Malta in Portomaso, there is plenty of nightlife to be had. Here’s what Malta.com has to say about two of Portomaso’s hottest nightspots:
Level 22: “Level 22 is a very stylish and exclusive wine lounge and club situated on the 22nd floor of the Portomaso Business Tower in St. Julian's, offering fantastic panoramic views of Malta. At Level 22, you can have a glass of good wine in comfort and style, enjoying the amazing views during weekdays or choose to have a few drinks and dance the night away to house music during the weekends. A snack menu is available for those who wish. The decor is modern and the crowd is older and smartly dressed being served by professional staff. Booking a table is recommended for groups.”
Quarterdeck Cocktail & Wine Bar: “A stylish and smart bar with a nautical theme and a large terrace overlooking the Portomaso Yacht Marina. The Quarterdeck Cocktail & Wine bar is situated within the Hilton Malta in the heart of St. Julian’s and offers nicely prepared platters, dips and other snacks as well as a large variety of good wines and cocktails. Visiting this cocktail and wine bar in the Hilton Malta you can be sure to sit back and relax with a good drink and something tasty to eat in a relaxed and stylish surrounding.”
Want even more options? Here’s a look at the top 10 things to do while in Malta according to MercurcyDirect:
- Mdina, The Silent City
- Paceville, St Julians
- Megalithic Temples
- Party at the Isle of MTV
- Ride of a Maltese Karozzin
- Visit the Blue Lagoon
- Explore the streets of Valletta
- Experience Maltese Cuisine
- Discover the Knights of St. John
Building a Strong Tournament Foundation
Malta has long been a safe haven for online poker sites, but now it’s quickly becoming a hotbed for live poker. The stop was introduced to the WPT schedule in Season X when 240 players created a €698,400 prize pool and battled it out for a €200,000 first-place prize. American and then-November Niner Matt Giannetti won the event by defeating a final table that included two Frenchmen (Fabien Sartoris, sixth and Tristan Clemencon, fifth), two Italians (Filippo Bianchini, third and Cecilia Pescaglini, second) and an Englishman (Simon Trumper, fourth). Giannetti’s win brought some far-reaching exposure to the event, so it’s no surprise that this year’s event is expected to be even bigger and better.
Season X WPT Malta Final Table
|3rd||Filippo Bianchini||€ 76,820|
Some Things to Expect in Season XI
This year the field is expected to be larger and sprinkled with some of the most notable players in the game. Phil Hellmuth and Tony G, two men with a long history, are both expected to be in the field, but off the felt they’ve already scheduled a “friendly triathlon” competition. According to the PartyPoker Blog, the two men will compete over the course of the week in “swimming, bike-riding and three-point basketball shooting.”
I am going to destroy @phil_hellmuth in a special triathlon @WorldPokerTour #wptmalta http://t.co/EjkJWHrBFollow @TonyGuoga
“I suggested these three disciplines and am surprised Phil accepted them,” Tony G told the PartyPoker Blog. “It’s not as if I have been at the Olympics with the Lithuanian National basketball team is it? I have the edge in basketball. He may have a chance at the bike riding though because he is sent on his bike frequently. As for swimming, unless he is attached to the backside of Michael Phelps like he usually is, I feel I am favorite.”
Not surprisingly, Hellmuth fired back: "Swimming, bike-riding and three-point shooting sound good to me, although I’m pretty rusty. I loved Malta last year and am looking forward to going back again especially as we are doing some cool stuff like a triathlon!”
The side action surrounding the triathlon, which is sponsored by WPTPoker.com, will be settled at the venue, but in the meantime you can expect the smack talking to continue, as evidenced Kristy Arnett’s interview with Tony G from the WPT Paris:
As if Tony G didn’t make enough headlines with the triathlon challenge, he is also responsible for getting Andras Fekete into the tournament. The Hungarian ex-basketball pro living in Malta submitted a unique video featuring himself shooting Hellmuth with water pistols, and it impressed Tony G enough for him to get PartyPoker to buy Fekete into the tournament. You can read more about Fekete, as well as watch his entertaining video, simply by clicking here.
Of course PokerNews will be on hand all week bringing you the latest and greatest from the WPT Malta, so be sure to visit our Live Reporting Section to follow the action.