Julien Stropoli has won the MPN Poker Tour @ Battle of Malta trophy, €168,500* and the plaudits and respect that are due for defeating a 3,816-strong field.

“It feels totally amazing to win, I really wanted that trophy! It’s a fantastic event – a beautiful venue,” gushed Stropoli, almost breathless after his dramatic win. It was an amazing tournament – we can’t blame him.

Eventual runner-up Maxime Canevet was a powerful, dangerous player throughout.

The MPN Poker Tour at the battle of Malta always threatened to create a huge field but no one predicted that we’d see roughly double the number of runners compared to last year’s 2,074. Hordes of players descended on the casino to take their shot and the Intercontinental staff were run off their feet keeping on top of registrations for the Main and the various side events.

The buzz throughout has been infectious, the poker compelling – it’s been a fantastic festival showcasing the best of poker in many regards.

The early stages saw Maxime Canevet dominate – his big stack just growing bigger as he applied pressure to the other players, including cracking Andy Hill’s Queens along the way. The first player to fall was Jerry Magnum, the shortstacked American’s desperate jam picked off by Mantas Urbonas’ A-J. His journey finished in 9th – good for €23,000.

UCOP league winner Moolhuizen makes another MPNPT final table.

Next to fall was a surprise – the talented Mateusz Moolhuizen had been picked as a potential winner by many – but variance wasn’t kind to him – and when he made a move with Q-9 he ran into Canevet’s dominating A-9 and failed to turn the equity tables. Moolhuizen adds another €30,000 score to his already bulging poker chest – we’ll see lots more of the Dutchman in the years to come.

Gustav Vadenbring wasn’t able to get any traction in the final and was next to fall – no shame in finishing 7th place for €41,000. A huge score and a memorable tournament – well played Gustav!

Meanwhile Andy Hills and Erik Ostergaard were having their own mini-war. First off Andy Hills got a stroke of luck – his A-K besting Ostergaard’s pocket kings for a double-up. Ostergaard had the last laugh however – making a flush with a suited ace to bad beat Hills’ jacks. There were a few moments of confusion following the hand, but once Ostergaard’s flush was confirmed he wheeled comically round the table like an aeroplane as a contrastingly disappointed Hills headed to the cash desk to collect his €53,000 for a highly creditable 6th place finish.

With Hills eliminated, the players cut a deal to flatten the structure as follows: Julien Stropoli – €118,500; Maxime Canevet – €169,000; Fakhreddine Abdallah – €108,500; Erik Ostergaard – €139,500 and Mantas Urbonas – €121,500. They would play on for €73,000 – €50k for first and the trophy – €23k for second.

Abdallah Fakhreddine fell soon afterward – collecting €108,500* for his 5th place finish after losing a big flip to Canevet. Fakhreddine explained this was his first tournament – an incredible achievement to have run so deep. Hopefully this will light a fire in Fakhreddine to play more poker in the future. We’d love to see him again on the MPN Poker Tour.

Urbonas showed how talented he is once again.

Mantas Urbonas was composed and serene throughout – his exit hand unavoidable as he found the perfect hand to re-shove with [Ac][Qh] over the unpredictable Ostergaard. This time, however Ostergaard had it – pocket aces – and they held to consign the Lithuanian to the rail in 4th place for €121,500*. Urbonas is a star, he’s shown his talent again and when he makes his next final table, none of us will be surprised.

Three-handed was interesting…but ended once Ostergaard pushed his luck one too many times, jamming T-J and running into Stropoli’s J-Q. The dominant hand won and Ostergaard’s entertaining tilt was over in 3rd for €139,500*.

That left the two Frenchman heads-up – Julien Stropli versus Maxime Canevet. Stropoli’s chip lead proved too much for Canevet to overcome – eventually seeing his kings cracked by Stropoli’s turned two pair. As the river bricked, Stropoli launched himself with gusto at the trophy and lifted it aloft – the Battle of Malta Champion crowned! Canevet meanwhile had to console himself with the €192,000* combined payout he received.

Stropoli – Battle of Malta Champion!

Well done Julien Stropoli – the Frenchman has won the biggest €500 event in European poker. We saw historic numbers and a tournament that exceeded all expectation and has set a very high benchmark for the future. Malta – we’ve loved you and we hate to leave you but that is it for this leg.

If watching this frenzy of poker has whetted your appetite, next stop on the MPNPT is Tallinn, January 2019. Start planning now – Tallinn is beautiful and the tournament will be amazing. We’ll be there from 24th Jan to 27th Jan 2019.We’d love to see you join us. For now though – thanks for following!

*Following the deal cut 5 handed.

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