It was the early hours of Tuesday morning when France’s Arthur Navellou etched his name in both the Malta Poker Festival and Unibet Deepstack Open (UDSO) history books at the luxurious surroundings of Portomaso Casino.
After a nearly 16-hour marathon on the third and final day, Navellou agreed to a deal with Norway’s Kjetil Hanstvedt in the 2023 MPF Autumn Edition €550 Grand Event powered by UDSO with each player collecting €115,000 while still playing for the coveted MPF winner’s trophy and the UDSO championship belt. Both players shook hands after a well-fought battle.
For both players, the impressive six-figure haul was their largest cash by far according to The Hendon Mob. Hanstvedt did more than just take second place this year in Malta as his previous biggest win came in April during the 2023 MPF Spring Edition Grand Event where he took fifth place for €20,150. Now the bar is set even higher for Hanstvedt as he can only finish one place higher when the MPF comes back in the Spring of 2024.
The event was a huge success story as it not only shattered the lofty €500,000 guarantee but the seven opening flights from Oct. 24-29 attracted a banner field of 1,444 entries creating a huge €693,120 prize pool to establish a new gold standard for the MPF.
2023 MPF Autumn Edition Grand Event powered by UDSO Final Table Payouts
The top 159 players locked up at least a min-cash of €1,110 with the nine players at the final table locking up at least a €10,380 prize.
The winner was originally scheduled to go home with €140,000 with €90,000 slated for the runner-up. However, after facing a long and emotional battle into the wee hours of the morning, the final two players instantly agreed to even the score.
Final Day Action
The final day witnessed 49 hopefuls in the hunt for big bucks and glory playing one-hour blind levels. FLIP ambassador Ann-Roos Callens (51st – €1,790) and The Chip Race Podcast sponsored by Unibet Poker co-host David Lappin (61st – €1,650) were among the players to bail out before the final bell rung on the penultimate day.
Players went out at a fast and furious pace to start with players including Guts Poker’s Jonathan Briscoe White (32nd – €2,340), Soren Dalgaard (39th – €2,340), Mark Attard (41st – €2,040), and Romain Nardin (48th – €2,040) heading to the rail before the first break.
It took more than seven hours of play to reach the final table, which was a mini-marathon of its own lasting more than eight hours. It was just before the final table began that Navellou could have been on crumbs in his stack but his queens got there on the river to win a monster pot against aces to eliminate the dejected Patrick Schlindler in 12th place for €6,970.
William Kassouf also had good fortunes with ladies shortly after as his held up against ace-five to send Antonios Onoufriou (11th – €6,970) and the final table was set in a momentous fashion after Leif Hetland’s aces were good against cowboys to eliminate Paul-Vlad Craciunas.
All through the way, eventual runner-up Kjetil Hansvedt was running strong with the chip lead from 26 players down and he remained the captain of the event by the time the final table kicked off as well. Hetland wasn’t too far behind with Navellou hanging around the near the top of the pack as well. Rails began to gather with noticeably large contingents from Norway, Greece, and France rooting on their countrymates.
Fireworks instantly erupted at the final table as the Greek rail began to celebrate when Georgios Zachmanidis with jacks rivered a set to deliver a bad beat to Nidal Dawoud who had to settle for the ninth-place prize of €10,380.
Navellou then chipped up to near the chip lead when his jacks were more than good to oust Kassouf (eighth – €14,530) with fives despite Kassouf pleading for cards to keep him alive.
Robert Kontkanen (seventh – €19,100) was bleeding away chips and didn’t have much left in his stack when he lost with king-six to Hanstvedt’s ducks in what was initially a three-way pot.
The clock was shortened to 40-minute blind levels with six players remaining and moments later Samuel Biland (sixth – €25,100) unsuccessfully three-bet jammed with ace-four a 13 big blind stack into Hetland’s fives.
The table dynamic quickly changed after Navellou with queens eliminated Kamil Skawinski (fifth – €32,200) with tens as he now had the chip lead and was making life more difficult for his three opponents.
The final four players battled for more than four hours. This isn’t to say there wasn’t some excitement as the battle continued to rage. All of Navellou’s opponents were at risk at one time or another but won flip after flip to stay alive before the dams broke.
Eventually, a bad beat crushed the dreams of Zachmanidis to the dismay of the supportive Greek rail with his ace-jack not holding against Hetland’s ace-trey to hit the rail one player shy of the podium in fourth place for €40,300.
Nearly another two hours passed by with the lead passing back-and-forth between all three of the remaining players. Eventually, the blinds went up leaving Hetland with nine big blinds. He jammed them in from the small blind with jack-six and Hanstvedt began chatting with his black duck card protector. He shared that the duck wanted him to call, which he did shortly after. We learned why after the cards were turned over with Hanstvedt showing deuces and won the flip to eliminate Hetland in third place for €54,400.
Navellou Offers Heads-Up Deal
Hanstvedt regained a small lead after eliminating Hetland, and Navellou, who denied any deal talk early, quickly opened the conversation about a deal before the heads-up action began.
“I am ready to make a deal if you want,” shared Navellou about evening out the payouts from €140,000 for first place and €90,000 for second place to make it €115,000 each. “You have a few more chips but we can chop it up 50/50.”
Hanstvedt snap-agreed and the clock was set at a turbo pace but not before the rails from each of the players gave their hugs and congrats.
Navellou took a substantial lead when his fives won a flip against king-nine. Shortly after, Hansvedt doubled back his stack when his king-jack was good against king-ten suited but this was short-lived as he finished one player shy of the winner’s circle after his queen-five suited didn’t get there against king-ten.
A massive congratulation to Arthur Navellou for setting history by winning the 2023 Malta Poker Festival Autumn Edition €550 Grand Event powered by the Unibet Deepstack Open.
A special thank you to MPF founder Ivonne Montealegre, the staff at Portomaso Casino under the amazing leadership of J.J. Galea and Jonathan Micallef, Alex Henry and the Unibet Deepstack Open, the technical team at Ludos Academy (too many to name, but we love you all), the photography and video team, all the sponsors, and MPF activities coordinator and Globetrotting Poker founder Maureen Bloechlinger. Of course, one final massive thank you to all of the players for making this event as special as it was. Much love to everyone and until the next time.
See you all in April for the next Malta Poker Festival at Portomaso Casino.