It was a busy day in the event center of the five-star Intercontinental Hotel in St. Julians as poker enthusiasts from near and far entered the poker action during the 2022 Unibet Open Malta festival. While the cash games were running in the Casino Malta at the same venue, the return of the popular mid-stakes live poker after a hiatus of more than two and a half years set a new attendance record for the brand in the fifth visit to the Mediterranean island.
Thanks to 152 entries on Day 1b, the tournament was on track to potentially beat the 327 entries of the last edition back in 2019. In the turbo heat 1c, another 87 players took advantage of the single re-entry option after they had been eliminated in either of the previous flights. That boosted the overall field in the 2022 Unibet Open Malta €1,100 Main Event to 359 entries and created a prize pool of €359,000.
With 47 and 39 players respectively punching their ticket for Day 2, there will be 119 contenders to join the list of Unibet Open champions here on Malta. A new overall chip leader was also crowned as local resident Oliver Said stormed to the top of the leaderboard with 288,000 in chips on Day 1b. That was well ahead of French Unibet ambassador Arnaud Enselme, who advanced with a very healthy 212,500, followed by Sweden's Filip Holmqvist (200,000).
Another three players turned their starting stack of 30,000 into at least six times as many chips including Hasmukh Khodiyara (183,000), Lukasz Sadlon (181,500), and Dylan Kirstein (180,500). Day 1c was topped by Finland's Julius Kettunen (162,000) as nearly half of the field made it through in the turbo heat which featured a level duration of 20 minutes each.
Said was among the players showcasing their talents on the live-stream table with cards-up coverage and commentary available on the Unibet Poker Twitch stream. However, he really hit the ground running in the final two levels of the night in which the Malta resident climbed to the top of the leaderboard. Enselme followed the same path and won a large flip to bust Kevin Frame. As far as Holmkvist was concerned, he came out on top of a three-way all-in showdown thanks to making quads as one of the most spectacular hands at the tables.
Besides Enselme, another Unibet ambassador advanced from Day 1b and that happened to be Dara O'Kearney. The Irishman nursed a shorter stack for most of the day and claimed 24,500 to his name.
Notable casualties in the second flight included the likes of Joni Liimatta, Konrad Abela, Aurelie Reard, Angela Jordison, Daniel Stacey, Alex Hendriks, Martin Paap and Sergio Benso. Unibet ambassador Alexandre Reard and two-time Unibet Open champion Mateusz Moolhuizen were unable to advance from Day 1c and Monica Vaka suffered the same fate after she successfully defended her QUEENRULES Ladies Event title.
Unibet Open Malta Stops at a Glance
|Year||Entries||Prize Pool||Winner||Country||Top Prize|
|2016||292||€292,000||Martin Soukup||Czech Republic||€65,000|
|2019||327||€327,000||Alan Carr||United Kingdom||€53,400|
All 119 Day 1 survivors will return at noon local time for level 12, which features blinds of 1,000-2,500 and a big blind ante of 2,500. With an average of more than 90,000, it is expected that the money bubble will burst within the first four levels. The penultimate tournament day is scheduled to try and play down to the nine-handed final table.
Stay tuned right here on PokerNews to find out who makes it one step further to become the next Unibet Open Main Event champion.