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Poker Dealers Paid €50 to Go Topless in Malta Tourney

Dude, WTF?

Organizers of the Battle of Malta poker festival have found themselves under fire after it was revealed that the dealers in the Ladies Event on Sunday, Oct. 20 were paid to appear topless. Almost all runners in the event during the Battle of Malta found themselves offended by the appearance of the half-naked dealers, bringing negative attention towards the Ladies Event from both players and spectators.

Topless Dealers at Battle of Malta

Twitters Users Voice Their Disapproval

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The scandal was revealed on Twitter by several players at the Ladies Event with photos of dealers backing up their words. Events that are focused on female players at the Battle of Malta are supposed to be safe spaces for women to enjoy poker around other like-minded ladies. However, after topless dealers were found at every single tourney table within the InterContinental Arena Conference Centre in the seaside town of St. Julians, the €100 + €10 NLHE Ladies Event became much more of a debacle than something positive.

Over 90 runners participated in the event, and one of the very first to share negative thoughts on the topless dealer situation was Daiva Byrne. Posting comments and a photo on her Twitter feed, she questioned how casino management could think that topless dealers were acceptable for the Ladies Event. She went on to state that the gimmick was demeaning for both the players at the tables and the dealers themselves.

Tweet About Battle of Malta Ladies Event

After the post by Byrne, the news spread like wildfire through the Twitter universe. Over 100 comments were posted under her photo, with the vast majority of tweets clearly showing how offended most people were with the gimmick. Included in the comments were multiple responses from professional poker players, such as those voiced by Kara Scott of 888 Poker. She went on to say, “I’ve not been legitimately surprised like this in a while. This was a very poor decision on so many levels.”

The “Baltic Blonde” and Her Hopes for More Women in Poker

Ms. Byrne, who usually goes by the username of “Baltic Blonde” when playing at online poker sites, has seen herself become quite the semi-famous figure within the industry already. The Lithuanian-born player has managed to rake in live earnings of over $185,000 during her poker career, which has seen her ascend to the 32nd position on the Lithuania All Time Money List.

Daiva ByrneDaiva Byrne Tweeted About the Situation at the Battle of Malta Ladies Event

She participated in the Ladies Event of the Battle of Malta last year as well where she stood as a Unibet ambassador, trying to get more women involved in poker. It was also last year that she visited Gibraltar to run a poker workshop for employees of the betting giant Kindred. Due to these events and more, Ms. Byrne has managed to garner a strong following of over 4,000 people on Twitter and frequently works toward a poker industry with more women involved in the game.

Dealers Paid Extra €50 to Appear Topless

Reports on the Battle of Malta suggest that the dealers for the Ladies Event were offered an extra €50 on top of their standard pay in order to appear at the tables without their shirts. As well as this, an additional €50 was offered up to them if they would perform a dance routine prior to the tournament starting. This made for quite the embarrassing situation, with both players and dealers feeling uncomfortable with the proceedings.

Details of the occurrence spread quickly thanks to multiple social media posts, which forced the hosts of the Battle of Malta to publicly address the situation. A written apology was made public, which stated:

Our intention at the Battle of Malta is to create a fun and welcoming atmosphere for everyone at all times during the festival.

We respect all our players and staff and certainly had no intention of upsetting anyone or making anyone feel uncomfortable. We sincerely apologise if this was the case at any time.

We take great pride in our events and are fully committed to our inclusivity policy.

Organizers Donate to Pink October Malta

In a bid to make up for their own wrongdoings, the promoters of the Ladies Event have taken the decision to donate all of the registration fees from it to Pink October Malta. The charity aims to raise awareness about breast cancer prevention and research and equipment in order to help improve the quality of life for cancer patients. Alongside this gesture, the organizers announced that next year’s Ladies Event will feature a guaranteed prize pool of €25,000, up from this year's €10,000.

While it’s wonderful that the organizers of the tournament have taken full responsibility for what happened, it does beg the question of why it ever occurred in the first place. With the recent Me Too movement, which granted is a much more extreme case, one would think that organizers of such large-scale events would place more of a focus on safeguarding women’s events.

Monica Poggi Scoops €3K in Ladies Event Finish

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Despite the controversial happenings in the Ladies Event, there were still 135 participants vying for the first-place finish. Ultimately, the event was won by Monica Poggi from Italy, who scooped up €3,145 ($3,489) alongside her result. This win has helped push Poggi’s all-time total live earnings up to $34,269. Her best live tournament result was an $8,300 cash last year.

The Main Event of the whole series witnessed 4,657 entries, which incorporated 2,691 unique players and took place over five starting flights. These figures outdid all previous records for the event – even last year’s figure of 3,816 entrants. The €1,000,000 guarantee was well and truly smashed because of this, coming in at more than double this amount and being shared by 688 players altogether.

This year’s Main Event was won by Moldova’s Serghei Lisii, who took home €247,167 ($274,237) in winnings. He went face to face with Holland’s Steven van Zadelhoff in the final showdown.

Struggles of Female Poker Players Documented in “Cracking Aces”

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It seems as though this episode at the Battle of Malta isn’t the first time that women have had struggles within the poker world. With it being a male-dominated environment, women have had to suffer through various issues, which have been documented in a video that has now been made available for public viewing.

The documentary, which has the title “Cracking Aces: A Woman’s Place at the Table,” was officially released in 2018, and it received numerous positive reviews at film festivals. Coming in at 53 minutes long, the documentary can be found on a variety of online services both as a rental and a full purchase.

Tracy HalcombTracy Halcomb, Producer of “Cracking Aces”

Produced by Tracy Halcomb and directed by H. James Gilmore, “Cracking Aces” features many of the poker world’s well-known female figures, all of whom share their own stories of how they managed to involve themselves in the industry despite the huge barrier of sexism that was frequently present. Speaking of the documentary last year at a film festival in Florida, Halcomb said:

There are still some short-sighted men who would prefer that women simply polish the glass ceiling instead of break it. But I’d like to believe that the number of men who think that way is dwindling, and it’s movies like Cracking Aces that will shine a light on the issue even more.

Number of Female Poker Players on the Up

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Despite all the obstacles that women in poker have had to face over the decades, the number of females involved in the industry has increased in recent years. For a game that was once considered to be a male-orientated pastime, women have certainly been making vast strides and putting their mark on the industry.

You only need to take a look at 2018 as an example of this, which was quite the wonderful year for female poker players.

Many online poker rooms now place a focus on providing women with their own events and tournaments to participate in. PokerStars has its own Sunday events dedicated to women, while has an annual Women’s Poker Open, featuring prize money of more than $100,000.

Online Play Levels the Field


Many of the obstacles confronting women in poker, like boorish antics from male opponents and harebrained promotional stunts from clueless tournament directors, are either not possible in online poker or are much less bothersome. In case any female player encounters harassment online, there are full chat logs to document what happened, and the offender cannot physically intimidate her, which may not be true in a live setting. Poker over the internet thus provides a level playing field for all.

If you're interested in reputable, offshore poker destinations for Americans, check out our guide to USA online poker, which contains info on the leading sites that welcome residents of the United States.