Sam Panzica did the unthinkable last night, capturing his second World Poker Tour title in just five months for his first seven-figure payout worth $1,373,000. The 24-year old Michigan native battled his way through 173 hands to capture the trophy, the massive first-place prize, and a seat into the $15,000 Tournament of Champions, ultimately defeating Anthony Spinella heads up.
Comparing this victory to his first WPT in Jacksonville last October Panzica told the WPT, “This one is definitely better. First place is four times as much as Jacksonville. But Jacksonville was cool though since it was my first one.”
The Hublot WPT Player of the Year race long seemed spoken for – as Ben Zamani has notched up two second-place finishes and a fifth to take a big lead – but after last night Panzica’s just one min cash away from taking the lead.
“Now that I got a shot, it is kind of cool to think about,” Panzica told the WPT after being told he’s now ins strong contention for POY. While Panzica’s on his way to Sacramento to play in the Thunder Valley event, we’ll look back on his road to the trophy.
The final day started with six finalists, Rainer Kempe being the sole Shooting Star left in the field. Chino Rheem captured the last remaining bounty for $2,500, as the Super High Roller Bowl champion was eliminated in sixth place. Kempe’s elimination came on the 37th hand of play, when he shoved ace-nine over Rheem’s raise, only to run into pocket kings.
Kempe collected $188,460 for his deep run, and after his elimination, five Americans were left to battle it out. Rheem held a commanding chip lead at this point, sitting on 13.5 million of the 24.2 chips in play, but the three-time champ never managed to push his stack beyond the 14-million mark.
After doubling up both Paul Volpe and Anthony Spinella, Rheem recouped some chips when he busted Dennis Stevermer in fifth place. Stevermer came into the final day with just shy of 10 big blinds, but he managed to outlast Kempe for a $243,090 payday. Stevermer busted when his ace-eight of diamonds failed to hold up versus Rheem’s king-nine.
On the 84th hand of play Rheem finally relinquished his chip lead, as Spinella chipped up to 12.5 million. Panzica was the distant short stack with shy of 2 million chips, but his luck soon changed.
Paul Volpe – who held the overnight chip lead after Day 2 – fell short in fourth in yet another attempt to capture his first WPT title. Volpe now has a second, third and fourth place finish in WPT events. Volpe was eliminated by Rheem and took home $349,610.
During the three-handed battle Rheem and Spinella traded blows for the chip lead, but slowly but surely it was Panzica who made up ground. It took until the 151st hand when Panzica found aces, and with the stacks getting shallower he doubled through Rheem’s queen-jack of hearts.
Panzica dominated from this point forward, taking a huge chunk out of Rheem’s stack with ace-king followed by lots of aggression on the short stacks of both his opponents. Spinella then doubled through Rheem and knocked him out on the hand that followed. Rheem’s quest for poker history ended in third place, and he cashed for $521,660.
The heads-up portion of the tournament lasted just five hands, despite Spinella doubling up on the third hand. Spinella flopped a full house with king-jack versus Panzica’s sevens, but the WSOP bracelet winner was barely done stacking his newly won chips when he was knocked out three hands later.
Spinella raised called all-in for 7 million chips when Panzica shoved after his initial raise, and the eventual winner showed ace-ten versus the ace-eight suited of his opponent. The board ran dry, and Spinella was left to collect $786,610 for second place, while Panzica collected $1,373,000 for his epic victory.
1st: Sam Panzica – $1,373,000*
2nd: Anthony Spinella – $786,610
3rd: Chino Rheem – $521,660
4th: Paul Volpe – $349,610
5th: Dennis Stevermer – $243,090
6th: Rainer Kempe – $188,460
*Because Panzica already won a seat into the Tournament of Champions, the $15,000 seat will instead be given to him as cash