Sam Panzica claimed his second World Poker Tour title of the season and seven figures in prize money after winning WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star $7,500 Main Event in a record field of 806 players.
Panzica won an officially reported $1,373,000, although both he and second-place finisher Anthony Spinella said via Twitter they agreed to a deal heads up.
Just a few months ago, Panzica erased a huge deficit heads up to win WPT bestbet Bounty Scramble for $354,335 and his first WPT title. He's now almost neck-and-neck with Benjamin Zamani in the WPT Player of the Year race with just three events left to accrue points.
Official Final Table Results
*Does not reflect heads-up deal
WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star, which featured $2,500 bounties on specially tabbed "shooting stars," paid 81 places. Former champ Taylor Paur, Tom Marchese, Koray Aldemir, Bryan Piccioli, Charlie Carrel, Jason Les, Mike Sexton, David Williams and Sergio Aido were some of the players who made the money. Sexton, a Poker Hall of Famer and lead WPT commentator, booked his third cash in recent WPT events after making two final tables since November, including his win at WPT Montreal.
The stacked final table kicked off with everyone looking way, way up at three-time WPT champ Chino Rheem, who had 133 blinds for nearly a 3-1 lead over second-place Rainer Kempe, according to the live updates. Rheem was seeking to set a new record with four WPT titles.
Kempe was the last remaining shooting star in the event and went down in sixth despite his solid stack to start the final table. After Dennis Stevermer doubled through him early on with ace-king against , Kempe's bounty went to Rheem. Kempe three-bet shoved just under 22 big blinds over Rheem's open, and the Californian snapped it off with . The German high roller held and found no help on the runout.
Rheem continued to increase his stack, holding more than half of the chips five-handed at a couple of junctures. He ended the Cinderella run of Minnesota amateur Stevermer in fifth place when the latter shoved just under 10 big blinds over a Rheem open with . Rheem called with and managed to hold on after a flop gave Stevermer a straight draw and an overcard to draw to.
Spinella took down a four-bet pot against Rheem and then made aces up against Rheem's flopped top pair for a huge pot to move into pole position, but Rheem got back on track against Paul Volpe. Volpe grinded a short stack for much of the final table and then saw a flop of after defending his big blind from a Rheem open. Volpe check-shoved for 20 big blinds with but his overcards were no good as Rheem held red kings once again. A couple of harmless clubs later, Volpe was out in fourth.
While Rheem and Spinella were each north of 10 million three-handed at 75,000/150,000/25,000, Panzica had work to do with just over 3 million. Panzica slowly chipped his way up and looked primed to go heads up with Rheem carrying a healthy stack, but Spinella three-outed him with against .
That put Panzica back down to 20 big blinds, but he picked up aces on the button a short time later and opened for a min-raise. Spinella called, and Rheem shoved all in to cover both opponents. Panzica called and held easily against Rheem's , moving into the lead shortly thereafter.
Panzica rolled further in front when Rheem paid off three streets on an board and Panzica showed him .
Rheem's fall continued when Spinella outdrew his all in preflop with , leaving him with crumbs and a third-place finish in short order.
Spinella secured an early double with that same against Panzica's sevens to close what had been a 3-1 gap. However, he lost much of that ground in the very next pot. The two saw a flop for a single raise, and Panzica checked. Spinella bet 550,000, and Panzica made it 1,400,000. Spinella came back with 2,400,000, and Panzica jammed. Spinella folded to leave himself just over 20 big blinds.
Two hands later, the short heads-up match ended. Spinella raised and then called off his remaining chips with and was dominated by Panzica's . When neither player improved and the board let Panzica's kicker play, he secured his second WPT title inside of five months.
Photo courtesy of WPT
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