World Poker Tour Malta Day 1a: Casper Toft Leads; Phil Hellmuth Advances to Day 2

Phil Hellmuth and Spider-Man!

Just hours after Matt Salsberg won the World Poker Tour Grand Prix de Paris, the Main Event at WPT Malta kicked off at the beautiful Casino at Portomaso in St. Julien's. Day 1a of the €3,300 buy-in tournament attracted 64 players, but only 34 made it through to Tuesday’s Day 2. Casper Toft of Denmark finished Day 1a on top of the chip counts with 123,600.

Part of Toft's stack is made up of the last remaining chips from European Poker Tour Snowfest champion Vladimir Geshkenbein, who Toft eliminated with pocket eights against Geshkenbein's ten-nine.

Although Day 1a's field size was slightly less than anticipated, mainly due to how close this particular tournament is to Grand Prix de Paris and the fact there are some major WCOOP events taking place online, there were still plenty of familiar faces in the crowd; none more recognizable than that of Phil Hellmuth.

The 12-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner bought in right at the end of Level 6, the latest permitted, and he took his seat on Table 1. As is usually the case when Hellmuth plays in a major live event, the eyes of the other players and those of the media focused on him. Hellmuth looked happy, was sporting a wide smile and talking to his opponents until Spider-Man made an appearance!

In this very tournament last year, Andras Fekete, a Hungarian who lives in Malta, was responsible for eliminating Hellmuth. During Season X's edition of WPT Malta, Hellmuth was bitten by what he thought was a spider and the bite gave him some discomfort. Fekete then produced a video of himself blasting cardboard figures of Hellmuth, vowing to bust him out again! Tony G loved the idea and decided to buy Fekete into this year's tournament in exchange for performing some tasks for him.

One such task was dressing up as Spider-Man and trying to put Hellmuth on tilt! To be fair Hellmuth took it all in great spirits, though did not seem too pleased when Spider-Man called the clock on him! Hellmuth made it through to Day 2 and will start with 48,600 chips.

Joining Hellmuth and Toft are WPT Venice Grand Prix third-place finisher, Andrea Dato (106,300); the sixth-place finisher at the recent WPT Merit Cyprus Classic Kiryl Radzivonau (94,800); Dominik Nitsche (91,400), Jeffrey Rossiter (82,400), Casey Kastle (43,900), Jonathan Duhamel (40,900), Dan O'Brien (36,900), Arnaud Mattern (13,900) and Ozzy Sheikh (13,400), among others.

Some of the players who will have to reenter on Day 1b if they want to progress to the latter stages of this tournament because they busted out during Day 1a include Cecilia Pescaglini (who finished second here last year), Erik Cajelais, WPT Champions Club member Sean Jazayeri and Marvin Rettenmaier who could become the first player to bust out twice and still go on to win a WPT title after he busted out, reentered, and busted out again all during the eight 60-minute levels!

Day 1b will commence at 1300 CET (0400 PDT) and continue until eight 60-minute levels have been completed. Join the PokerNews Live Reporting team on Monday for all of the action from the WPT Malta main event at the Casino at Portomaso.

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