Sam Panzica Earns Second WPT Title in Winning 2017 Bay 101 Shooting Star
Although it appeared at the beginning that start of day chip leader chip leader David ‘Chino’ Rheem would be the one making history, it was Sam Panzica who would etch his name in the World Poker Tour record books after winning the 2017 Bay 101 Shooting Star championship early Saturday morning.
Rheem came into the action on Friday with a massive chip lead over the field. His 10.65 million chips dominated the second-place stack of Rainer Kempe (3.705 million), who could have been more concerned with fending off Panzica (3.215 million) and Paul Volpe (3.005 million) than mounting an attack. Anthony Spinella (2.635 million) also bore watching as, with a singular double up, he would push his name into the second-place slot. Only Dennis Stevermer, the short stack on the table with less than a million chips (980,000), was the only player who those in the Bay 101 tournament arena thought would have no shot at the title.
Surprisingly (considering he only held 12 big blinds entering the action), Stevermer wasn’t the first departure from the final table. He got a key double through Kempe to crack the 1.5 million chip mark, then started using the “all in” move to further increase his stack. In a span of ten hands, Stevermer would move all in four times – and not be called – and win one pot outright with a pre-flop raise to get over the two million chip mark. This aggression allowed him to be able to witness the first elimination of the day – and it wasn’t him.
After Rheem popped the pot out of the cutoff on Hand 37, Kempe (the final Shooting Star left in the tournament) moved all in out of the small blind in an attempt to push the chip leader off his hand. Instead, given the opportunity to knock out a dangerous opponent, Rheem quickly made the call. It didn’t hurt that Rheem also had pocket Kings, a definitive favorite against Kempe’s A-9 off suit. Kempe would get no help from the eight-high board and not only left the tournament in sixth place but also had to hand his Shooting Star medallion and a signed t-shirt to Rheem, who was more interested perhaps in the $2500 that came along with the bounty knockout.
Rheem’s dominance was only enhanced with the Kempe elimination as he now held more chips (13.485 million) than the other four men did combined (10.705 million). Volpe put a dent in it by doubling through Rheem on the next hand after Kempe’s departure, but this status quo would stay in place for some time. In fact, it would be almost 30 hands before a significant change would occur in the standings.
On Hand 65, Spinella put in a raise to 250K and Rheem defended his big blind to see a monochrome K♥ 9♥ 2♥ flop. Rheem checked his option and, after Spinella put in another 250K bet, Rheem fired all in over Spinella’s bet. Stunningly Spinella immediately called, showing a J♥ 3♥ for a flopped flush, while Rheem held the A♥ (along with an off suit eight) for the redraw to the nut flush. Unfortunately for Rheem, a black nine and a black Jack finished off the board, doubling up Spinella to 7.74 million chips (and second place) and knocking Rheem under an eight-figure stack for the first time at the final table.
Rheem would rectify that situation in eliminating Stevermer only seven hands later. The chips went all in pre-flop and Stevermer had the edge with his A-8 over Rheem’s K-9. The flop was a tantalizing one, coming 9-7-6 to give Rheem the tentative lead with his pair of nines but giving Stevermer an open ended straight draw. That draw wouldn’t come home, however, as Stevermer, who many thought was dead meat on arrival at the final table, lasted 72 hands before departing in fifth place.
Back over 11 million in chips, Rheem tried to put the foot back on the gas pedal and win what would be his record fourth WPT title, but Spinella would once again be a thorn in his side. On Hand 84, Rheem lost the chip lead for the first time when, after a J-5-2 flop, Rheem let Spinella have a 4.1 million pot to fall back to second place by only 25,000 chips. Spinella and Rheem would clash again on the next hand and the endgame would be the same, except this time Spinella rivered a deuce after turning an Ace for two pair against Rheem’s flopped pair of Kings to win the hand. With that win, Spinella was now the dominant chip leader, moving past 12 million in chips as Rheem slipped back to 6.675 million.
This only served to light a fire under Rheem, who would take down Volpe a few hands later. On Hand 90, Rheem pushed the action to 375K and Volpe, in the big blind, defended to see an 8♦ 7♠ 4♠ flop. This seemingly innocuous flop instead seemed to light the fireworks as, after Rheem sent another 375K to the pot, Volpe check-raised his remaining three million chips. Rheem immediately called, showing pocket Kings, while Volpe was quite live with his Q♠ J♠ for the flush draw. The turn and river were black, but they were clubs, sending Volpe home in fourth place while pushing Rheem into a solid second behind Spinella.
At this point, Panzica was in no position to even posit winning the tournament. With slightly more than three million in chips, Panzica’s stack was three time smaller than Rheem’s and almost four times smaller than Spinella’s. The longest journeys take a singular step, as the saying goes, and Panzica’s journey was an audacious one.
The threesome played 18 hands before Panzica took over second place, but Rheem still was exercising his dominance. Another 30 hands would see Rheem reestablish his edge with 13.25 million chips, while Panzica and Spinella fought over the scraps. On Hand 151, however, Panzica and Rheem would enter a hand that would change the course of the tournament.
Panzica raised the button and Spinella made the call from the small blind, but Rheem was having none of it. He moved all in out of the big blind and Panzica was more than happy to dance, pushing his stack to the center. A cautious Spinella got out of the way and it proved to be the right move; Panzica’s pocket Aces dominated Rheem’s Q-J and, after the ten-high flop came down, the double for Panzica put him neck and neck with Rheem for the chip lead.
Panzica would take over at this point and never look back. The very next hand after doubling through Rheem, Panzica seized the chip lead after butting heads with Rheem again and stretched it out over the next five hands. In taking another big pot against Rheem – this one worth 8.3 million chips – Panzica would put Rheem on the short stack. The end was on the horizon, but the final chapter remained to be written.
On Hand 167, Spinella doubled through Rheem to drop the former chip leader to only two big blinds and would eliminate him on the very next hand. Spinella now was sitting with a nice 5.75 million stack, but it dwindled in the face of the monstrous 18.475 million chip mountain sitting in front of Panzica. Although he earned one double to pull closer, Spinella never saw the chip lead in heads up play.
On the final hand, Spinella pushed out a raise only to see Panzica power over the top of him all in. Spinella called and tabled an A-8, normally good in a heads up setting, but Panzica had a couple of pips on him in tabling A-10. The Jack high flop (J-5-3-4-5) didn’t change anything, sending Panzica to his second WPT championship in winning the Shooting Star.
1. Sam Panzica, $1,373,000
2. Anthony Spinella, $786,610
3. David ‘Chino’ Rheem, $521,660
4. Paul Volpe, $349,610
5. Dennis Stevermer, $243,090
6. Rainer Kempe, $188,460
There’s no rest for these men as, for Rheem, Kempe and Volpe at the minimum, the final leg of the WPT California Swing starts today. The WPT Rolling Thunder at the Thunder Valley Casino near Sacramento begins on Saturday and it is the final chance for players to earn points toward that title (Mike Sexton currently leads those standings). Panzica will also probably head to Thunder Valley also, but not until he’s finished celebrating his second WPT title.
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