Seat 1: Flavio Laudani, 34, Catania, Italy – 4,825,000
Laudani, who hails from Catania but now lives in Rome, is a recreational poker player who juggles his love for the game with running his own Sicilian patisserie in the Italian capital. This is his second visit to compete in the Battle of Malta.
Seat 2: Shaun De Cesare, 28, Malta -7,200,000
If anyone is comfortable in Casino Malta, it’s Shaun De Cesare, 28, whose father Kevin owns not just this business, but the Eden Leisure Group here. Though he’s currently working in eSports, De Cesare has been fascinated by poker since he was 15 and being hustled by his brother (who’s now on the rail supporting him). “Poker’s been my passion ever since I can remember,” he said, “When I was 20, I wanted to play – the age requirement in Malta is 25 – and the second I turned 25 I did. I saw a Maltese player come second [in the BOM] and thought, ‘I’m going to be that guy some day.” De Cesare’s final table appearance guarantees him his biggest live cash (he splits his time between medium stakes tournaments and online tournaments) and he is cheerful at the prospect: “I have the home advantage!”
Seat 3: Steven van Zadelhoff, 40, Netherlands – 25,325,000
Malta-based Dutch pro Van Zadelhoff is arguably the best-known player at the Battle of Malta 2019 final table. The 40-year-old, who’s lived in Malta ten years, first started playing poker online in 2000 while working as a Rolls Royce and Bentley car mechanic. With his very first big online deposit, he won a $300 tournament on Paradise Poker for $25k and has never looked back. He is now a huge success both online and live. He won the World Championship of Online Poker Main Event in 2017, beating a field of 2,183 entries for $1.6m. Live, he’s won over $2.2m, is ranked 8th on Dutch all time money list and this summer finished fifth in the EPT Barcelona High Roller for a best live cash of $209,090. Aside from poker, his passion now is mindset, nutrition and fitness which he’s covering on his new YouTube channel Vikingspiration.
Seat 4: Josef Guláš, 50, Czech Republic – 25,600,000
Gulas has been in and out of the chip lead for much of the late stages of the BOM Main Event, describing his experience so far as a “good run.” Gulas, 50, plays live hold’em exclusively in his home country of Czech Republic (mainly in Rozvadov and Prague) but despite favouring cash games to tournaments has racked up nearly half a million dollars in live winnings. This is not his first time on a televised table and he is comfortable putting pressure on the shorter stacks. “Every player needs some good luck,” he said, recalling that he won two flips with ace-king vs. queens to stay alive earlier in the tournament.
Colum Higgins is not regretting his very recent decision to go pro at the game of poker, having previously worked in the gaming industry. Straight off the bat, he’s made the final table of the biggest €555 Main Event in Europe, and guaranteed the biggest live cash of his career. Higgins mostly prefers live cash games around his home town of Dublin. He came to the Battle of Malta with friends, all having booked 4pm flights on the final day. When he made the last 11, he had only six big blinds; all of the promises they’d made to rail him if he made the final evaporated – but he doesn’t blame them. “I ran pretty good,” said Higgins of his experience so far, recalling a big flip late on Day 2 that sent his supporters crazy. “When that ace came on the river…” “I’m already freerolling,” he said of the final. “First hand of the day, I looked down at pocket kings and thought, ‘I’ll catch my flight!’ but here I am.”
Higgins qualified for the BOM Main Event on 32Red and, as the longest-lasting MPN qualifier, has won a €1,500 package to MPNPT Madrid.
Seat 6: Serghei Lisii, 25, Moldova – 14,425,000
Serghei has been playing poker since 2012 and moved to Sochi last year to focus on playing tournaments there. This is his first visit to Malta and he’s competing thanks to qualifying online with 32Red. Online his best result to date was winning a tourney for $25k; live he won a similar amount after finishing seventh in the WSOP-E Little One for One Drop in Sochi two years ago. He now competes in most of the major tournaments held in Sochi.
Seat 7: Rune Moerk, 52,Norway – 5,200,000
Moerk is a 52-year-old Norwegian player who works in IT. “I’m very happy to have made the final.” He’s been playing poker for 30 years, with a preference for live MTTs, although he sometimes also plays cash online. His best finish is eighth place in the Norwegian championships in 2016 although he is set to smash this here, with a minimum cash of €24,620 on the final table. Rune has really enjoyed the event : “It has a lovely structure,” he told us. Going into the final, Moerk told us his strategy will vary heavily depending on his position and although he comes into the final as the second shortest stack if he finds an opportunity to outplay people post-flop, he will be aiming to do so.
Seat 8: Leo Worthington-Leese, 27, Brighton – 11,150,000
Worthington-Leese is today making his third live final table appearance in the space of two months, which includes an eighth-place finish in the WPT UK Main Event for $46,000. The London/Brighton-based 27-year-old has been playing poker for over ten years, but has spent the past three years playing professionally and has over $640,000 in combined live and online cashes, as well as capturing his first WSOP Circuit Ring in 2018 during a trip to Las Vegas.
The former ski instructor has made the final table on his third BOM bullet and was one of the chip leaders at the end of Day 1b.
Seat 9: Bruno Massimo, 50, Foggia, Italy – 7,900,00
50-year-old businessman Bruno Massimo is no stranger to poker on the island of Malta and is now poised for a major score here at the Battle of Malta Main Event.
“I play casually in Malta in small tournaments, you know, daily tournaments at local casinos, but the Battle of Malta is special.” This is his third year playing in the event, but it’s the first time he’s made it to second day. And not only that, he’s now made the third and the fourth day. “I spend half the year in Malta and half in Italy,” said Massimo, who is married with three children. “It’s very emotional.”