Malta Poker Festival – A Passion Project for Ivonne Montealegre

  • Ivonne Montealegre is building the Malta Poker Festival into one of the world’s best poker stops
  • I didn’t turn a profit at the tables, but the festival was still tons of fun
  • Much of the enjoyment of poker is being able to reunite with friends
Alex O'Brien and Dara O'Kearney
The Malta Poker Festival was a great time to be had by one and all. You could also pick up a good book. [Image: Dara O’Kearney]

Heck of a first impression

I’ve been to Malta several times for EPTs, the Battle of Malta, and Unibet Opens. This was, however, my first trip to the Malta Poker Festival, which everyone’s favorite passionate Latina in poker, Ivonne Montealegre, has gradually been building to what it has become and seems destined to become: not just the biggest poker festival in Malta, but one of the biggest and best in the world.

warm, friendly, and frenetic vibe where there’s always something to do or play

Boasting a packed and varied schedule for players of all bankrolls and budgets and game preferences, the festival has a warm, friendly, and frenetic vibe where there’s always something to do or play. One notable feature is the unusually high female representation, which resulted in a record ladies event of 84 runners hosted by Kerryjane Craigie, the result of Ivonne’s tireless efforts to increase female participation.

Another big success was the seniors event hosted by my Canadian friend Buddy from the Global Poker Community. Unfortunately, I missed the late reg on this one due to my continued involvement in the main event, but it’s great to see seniors events being a big hit when they’re included on the schedule (all too often, they’re not – I’ve written before that along with ladies, the older demographic is the most neglected in live poker all the often, so I’ll spare you a repetition of that rant).

My own results

I cashed the main event (on bullet three, though!) and the mystery bounty, but not enough to make the trip personally profitable. In both the main and the super high roller, I lost €20k equity pots with the best hand, but that’s poker as they say, and I’ll spare you the bad beat stories. Instead, I’ll just say that how you run in those high equity spots will determine short term profits, but it should even out in the longer term.

it didn’t seem to matter much how you ran, you’d still have a great time

At the Aussie Millions years ago, Adam Owen made the point to me that the real hallmark of the fun of the Melbourne event was the fact that it didn’t seem to matter much how you ran, you’d still have a great time and want to come back. I think the same is true of the Malta Poker Festival.

The highlights

For me, the highlights were all the great people I met and interacted with (too numerous to mention, but you know who you are). My “Chip Race” and VSO News colleague David Lappin and his lovely partner Saron very kindly hosted me, and I also got the chance to catch up with other Unibet colleagues and my old Firm mate Daragh Davey.

Alex O’Brien, Ivonne Montealegre, and Dara O’Kearney [Image: Dara O’Kearney]

A real highlight was a book signing that Ivonne arranged with me and my great friend Alex O’Brien. Alex is one of the most endearing people I’ve met in poker, and my review of her first book, The Truth Detective, here at VSO News makes clear how highly I rate and respect her work. We had a lot of fun signing our books together and chatting to readers and having our photograph taken by the versatile Lappin.

The future

As I said, this was my first time at the Malta Poker Festival, but it won’t be my last. I intend to come back as often as I can, and the next running of the festival is in autumn in the same venue. That’ll be even bigger than this one was.

I’ll leave the final word to the inimitable indefatigable unbeatable incomparable Ivonne Montealegre:

“This is 14 years of work for me. Two of them while on the pandemic while giving birth to my 3 kids. Muy intense and no regrets.”

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