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Casino Malta raise awareness of mental health issues with unique invite

Casino Malta has extended a unique invitation to Norwegian couple Anders Ryli and Aina Gilje to compete in this year’s event after their son Jakob tragically committed suicide earlier this year. 

Caring Dad Anders had submitted an entry to MPNPT’s Battle of Malta facebook video competition highlighting the story of his poker-loving son. Teenager Jakob, who was also keen on sports and playing the guitar, had been undergoing treatment for drug abuse and mental health issues for nearly three years. By the start of this year, he seemed to be in full recovery however things suddenly took a downward turn and his depression and anxiety resumed. In March – out of the blue – he tragically committed suicide just a few months before his 21st birthday. In the video, Anders said that he and Aina wanted to compete at Battle of Malta as a tribute to their son as well as giving themselves the opportunity to spend some much-needed time together after seven months of painful grieving.   

After seeing the couple’s entry to the MPNPT competition, Casino Malta immediately stepped in and offered the couple flights, accommodation and Battle of Malta Main Event buy-ins. They have also named Jakob as a special “Battle of Malta Ambassador” for 2019 – to raise awareness of mental health issues. World Mental Health Day is on 10 October, just a few days before the start of this year’s Battle of Malta. This year’s theme – set by the World Federation for Mental Health – is suicide prevention.

Anders said: “We wanted to honour Jakob’s memory. He loved poker so much and we had plans to play in the Norwegian Championships this year. Sadly, this never happened. We are so looking forward to coming to Malta and incredibly grateful to Casino Malta for making this possible. We are determined to enjoy our time in Malta, and, in Jakob’s memory, we will be donating 50% of anything we win to Norwegian charities.”  

Battle of Malta Event Director Diane Fenech said: “We were very moved when we saw Anders’ entry into the MPNPT competition. We very much hope to raise awareness of mental health issues in the poker-playing community – as well as give Anders and Aina a wonderful holiday.”

This year’s Battle of Malta – which takes place October 15-22 at the InterContinental Conference Centre – is set to be the biggest yet. In addition to the flagship €1,000,000 guarantee Main Event, this year’s schedule includes a new €5,300 buy-in Mega High Stack tournament as well as a €1,320 High Roller, €110 Ladies event, the €88 + €8 “Crazy 888s Battle”, the €150 “MPNPT Battle” and €300 IPC Turbo Deepstack plus many more side events. There were 3,816 entries in 2018 making it the largest poker tournament ever held in Malta. 

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