Players at The Battle of Malta Are Frogs in Boiling Water

  • The Battle of Malta and Malta Poker Festival both do wonders for Malta
  • But, The Battle of Malta keeps raising fees, this year reaching 19.2%
  • Malta Poker Festival fees have remained the same, at 14.4% since 2019
  • The Battle of Malta would do well to listen to complaints before it’s too late
Cooking pot
The Battle of Malta keeps increasing its fees each year, and it is starting to reach boiling point for dissaproving players. [Image:]

Boiled to Death

If you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will frantically try to clamber out. However, if you place it gently into a pot of lukewarm water, it will float there peacefully. In Daniel Quinn’s version of this famous apologue in ‘The Story Of B,’ he says:

“As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.”

This story is often used as a metaphor for the insouciance or unwillingness of people to properly respond to a creeping danger, to react to something harmful that is gradual rather than sudden. The term ‘boiling frog syndrome’ describes the failure to act against a problematic situation which will continue to increase in its severity until reaching catastrophic proportions. 

A tale of two festivals  

Last week’s Battle of Malta drew a huge crowd as it usually does for its Autumn edition. The €1.5m ($1.6m) Main Event got a massive €1,728,012 ($1,821,618) in the prizepool and was won by Gabriele Re who outlasted 3,431 other entrants to scoop the €209,500 ($220,820) top prize.

This week’s €500,000 ($527,018) guaranteed Malta Poker Festival Main Event is underway and while it will ultimately attract a smaller number of participants, for a younger, less established brand, those numbers will still be impressive. The Battle of Malta has been around since 2012 whereas the Malta Poker Festival came into existence in 2018.

they bring thousands of poker players to the island four times a year

Running poker festivals at this scale is no mean feat and both sets of organizers deserve a lot of credit for deploying impressive grassroots games while also executing effective marketing campaigns. Between them, they bring thousands of poker players to the island four times a year, which has a positive knock-on effect on the local economy.

It therefore might seem churlish to leverage criticism at an operator but I have to say that, as a player, there is a noticeable and growing difference between the player experiences at both events. To put it simply, I’m getting really fed up with the rising and ever more egregious fees being added to the Battle of Malta tournaments.

Teddy Roosevelt said ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ so please indulge me as I joylessly contrast these two Maltese poker festivals.

The price keeps going up

The Battle of Malta has courted controversy down the years. In 2019, there was the infamous topless dealers scandal. In 2022, the sticky-fingered Thomas Kremser presided over the Autumn edition as tournament director. The other major issue has been the registration fees and administration fees at the festival increasing year-on-year. 

In 2017, the last year that the event was hosted by the Portomaso Casino, the Main Event was €485+€65 ($512+$69), representing 13.4% in fees. In 2018, the first year that the event was at Casino Malta, the Main Event remained at €485+€65. Then in 2019, the Main Event became €485+€70 ($512+$74) representing 14.4% in fees. That was a palatable increase but when the series returned for Spring and Autumn editions in 2022, there was a further increase with the tournament becoming a €480+€75 ($506+$79) or 15.6% in fees. Frankly, this felt a little bit steep but what’s another 1% for a frog, right? 

Side events at the Battle Of Malta featured similarly egregious fees

This year, however, there was a noticeable temperature rise in the pot as for both the Summer and Autumn editions, the Main Event was transformed into a €503.50+€96.50 ($531+$102), representing 19.2% in fees. Local players have been voicing their concerns about this trend, some going as far as to boycott the festival. Side events at the Battle Of Malta featured similarly egregious fees with 15-20 minute turbo tournaments (with levels removed) charging anything from 18.6% to 25.3% in fees. 

More for less

By comparison, just 550 meters away at the Portomaso Casino, the Main Event of the Malta Poker Festival began in 2018 as a €485+€65 ($512+69), or 13.4% in fees Grand Event. In 2019, that fee remained the same but in 2022, it went up to €480+€70 ($506+$74) representing 14.4% in fees. There it has remained. Also, the 20-25 minute turbo side events registration fees range from 15.3% to 21.7%, a little bit too much at the higher end in my opinion but certainly more reasonable. 

It’s also worth pointing out what you get for those fees. In the case of Battle Of Malta, you get a 25,000 starting stack, 40-minute levels on Day 1 and 60-minute levels thereafter. In the Malta Poker Festival, you get a 50,000 starting stack, 50-minute levels throughout and there is a buffet dinner included. 

In the Battle of Malta, the bubble is reached after approximately ten hours of play. In the Malta Poker Festival, the bubble is reached after approximately 13.5 hours of play. The player experience is also nicer at the Portomaso Casino with better dealers, free coffee and soft drinks, a more pleasant ambient temperature in the room, and two player parties. 

Players will only tolerate so much

It’s only right, at this point that I declare my conflicts of interest with both casinos. I am a brand ambassador for Unibet Poker and this year’s Malta Poker Festival Main event in the Portomaso Casino is sponsored by Unibet Deepstack Open. However, it is also the case that Unibet has partnered with Casino Malta for several Unibet Opens.

I say all of this only out of concern that they are in danger of spoiling a good thing

I have no vendetta with Battle of Malta. Quite the contrary, I only wish them well as they continue to grow the game and contribute to Malta’s place as one of Europe’s great poker hubs. I am a poker player living just a mile from the venue so it stands to reason that I want it to prosper. I have had many great experiences in Casino Malta over the years and I say all of this only out of concern that they are in danger of spoiling a good thing. 

I appreciate that it will be hard for a power brand like The Battle of Malta to be less greedy going forward given how the players just came in their droves. I would, however, implore them to consider reducing their fees because having spoken to plenty of players this week, this is a widely shared sentiment.

According to modern biologists, the premise that a frog placed in boiling water will jump out is actually false. It will die immediately, whereas a frog placed in slowly boiling water will actually recognize what is happening and jump out.

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