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Paul Petraglia Defeats Sam Panzica, Darren Elias for First WPT Title

Paul Petraglia Defeats Sam Panzica, Darren Elias for First WPT Title 0001
  • Local Jacksonville pilot Paul Petraglia defeated top pros to win first WPT Title in bestbet Bounty Scramble

  • Three-time WPT champ @DarrenElias took 3rd, @bestindabiz51 narrowly missed title defense with 2nd-place finish

The two big stories coming into the final table of the WPT bestbet Bounty Scramble Jacksonville on Wednesday were three-time WPT title winner Darren Elias, who could best the record for WPT titles with a win, and two-time WPT title champion Sam Panzica, who had the rare opportunity to not only become the first to win multiple titles at the same property, but also to do it in back-to-back years to defend the title.

The $5,000 buy-in Main Event attracted 323 entries and 41 players made the money. Some notables to cash in the event but fall short of the final table included Ian O'Hara (35th), Dean Baranowski (33rd), Matt Affleck (25th), Sean Winter (24th), Barry Hutter (18th), Sam Soverel (12th), Jessica Dawley (11th) and Alex Rocha (ninth). Also making that list were WPT champions club members Anthony Zinno (31st), Zachary Smiley (16th), Tyler Patterson (14th) and Daniel Weinman (13th).

According to WPT, this ninth WPT final table for Elias tied the record for most WPT Main Tour final tables held by the legendary Poker Hall of Famer Phil Ivey. A win though would be even more monumental as it would give Elias the outright record for most WPT titles. To do so would mean breaking away from the elite group of three-time WPT title-holders that includes Carlos Mortensen, Gus Hansen, Chino Rheem and Anthony Zinno.

Final Table Action Begins

According to the WPT Live Updates, Elias looked poised and ready to claim number four, entering final-table play with a sizeable chip lead with 3,547,000 chips for 148 big blinds. John Esposito and Paul Petraglia followed with 93 and 71 big blinds respectively, while Shankar Pillai started six-handed play as the short stack with 14 big blinds.

It took 24 hands before the first casualty would fall. After coming in as the short stack and bleeding off some chips, Pillai moved his last 150,000 chips in from middle position with {a-}{q-Spades} and was called by both Elias in the cutoff and Petraglia from the small blind.

The two involved in the side pot checked to the river on {q-Hearts}{j-Hearts}{8-Hearts}{9-Spades}{8-Spades}, where Petraglia bet 200,000. Elias was out of the way and Pillai, despite making queens up with the ace kicker, was second-best to Petraglia’s {q-Diamonds}{q-Clubs} for queens full. Pillai took $55,191 for fifth.

Gaurav Raina was out a little while later after getting his aces cracked by Panzica. Raina shoved for 355,000 from the cutoff with {a-Diamonds}{a-Clubs} and was up against the {10-Spades}{10-Hearts} of Panzica, who made the call in the big blind.

Raina was ready to collect a well-needed double up, but instead got an unfortunate flop of {10-Diamonds}{8-Spades}{4-Spades} to give Panzica a set of tens to take the lead. The {k-Diamonds} turn and the {8-Clubs} river changed nothing and Raina had to settle for fourth place and $66,674.

Four-Handed Play

With Raina’s elimination, they were down to four with stack sizes starting to even out. Esposito took the chip lead from Elias for several hands, but Elias was back on top in due time. Elias then started distancing himself from the pack after winning a big pot with pocket aces against the {a-Spades}{10-Clubs} of Panzica in a three-bet pot on a board of {k-Clubs}{10-Hearts}{6-Hearts}{5-Spades}{k-Hearts}.

From there, Elias continued to build until he eventually had half the chips in play, covering his three opponents. Panzica then knocked Esposito into the short-stacked position when he doubled through him with {a-Diamonds}{4-Hearts} against Esposito’s {a-Hearts}{10-Hearts}, finding a pair of fours on {j-Spades}{9-Hearts}{4-Diamonds}{q-Spades}{9-Clubs} and holding.

Despite getting a double up and building back, Esposito was the next player out after he ran his {3-Hearts}{3-Diamonds} in the small blind into the {10-Hearts}{10-Spades} of Elias in the big blind, all in preflop for 1.155 million. Esposito would need help to stay alive, but he did not find it on the {8-Diamonds}{8-Clubs}{4-Spades}{4-Hearts}{5-Clubs} board, and he was the fourth-place finisher, taking home $86,440 for his efforts.

Elias: Big Stack to Bust

Down to three-handed, Elias had an overwhelming chip lead over his other two opponents with more than 60 percent of the chips in play, but that would not last.

The tides changed, beginning with a Panzica double-up at the expense of Elias. Elias had Panzica on the ropes with {a-Spades}{j-Clubs}, ahead of Panzica’s {a-Diamonds}{7-Hearts}. Panzica was still behind on the {j-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}{9-Hearts} flop that gave him a gutshot straight draw, and he picked up flush outs on the {5-Diamonds} turn. The {6-Diamonds} river completed the runner-runner flush for Panzica, and he doubled through.

Panzica doubled through Elias again later, again coming from behind with {10-Spades}{10-Clubs} against {q-Spades}{q-Diamonds} to flop and river a ten for quads to double through Elias – again. Amazingly, Elias still had the chip lead by more than one million chips with Petraglia next-biggest.

The largest momentum shift occurred when Petraglia doubled through Elias for a very large pot. With blinds at 30,000/60,000/10,000, Petraglia raised to 125,000 on the button, Elias three-bet to 400,000, and Petraglia got in his stack of 2.8 million. Elias called with {a-Spades}{q-Clubs} and was ahead of Petraglia’s {a-Clubs}{10-Diamonds}.

The board ran out {k-Hearts}{j-Clubs}{9-Hearts}{q-Hearts}{5-Spades}, giving Petraglia Broadway on the turn to double up, take the chip lead and leave Elias as the short stack for the first time during the final table.

A couple hands later, Elias was out. Panzica raised to 125,000 on the button and Elias moved all in for 1.435 million from the big blind with {7-Spades}{7-Clubs}. After getting an exact count, Panzica called with {a-Diamonds}{9-Spades} and Elias was at risk.

The board ran out {a-Clubs}{j-Clubs}{3-Hearts}{6-Spades}{4-Diamonds}, giving Panzica a pair of aces to win the coin flip and eliminate the three-time WPT champion. Elias earned $135,548 for his third-place finish, and would remain tied with four others for most WPT titles.

Paul Petraglia Defeats Sam Panzica, Darren Elias for First WPT Title 101
Three-time WPT champion Darren Elias

Heads-Up Battle

Petraglia went into the heads-up with a marginal chip lead with 92 big blinds to Panzica’s 70 big blind-stack. Petraglia got off to a good start in that match, extending his lead over the first several hands of the match.

Eventually, Panzica chipped away and took a two-to-one chip lead. After several more hands, the momentum swung back to Petraglia, who regained the lead and grew it to around three-to-one in his favor.

In the final hand, Petraglia raised to 350,000 on the button and Panzica defended his big blind. On the {8-Hearts}{6-Hearts}{5-Diamonds} flop, Panzica checked, Petraglia bet 400,000, and Panzica check-raised all in for 2,350,000. Petraglia snap-called with {9-Spades}{7-Spades} for the nuts, but Panzica’s {j-Hearts}{3-Hearts} for a flush draw was live.

Petraglia asked for his “one time,” and he got it with a runout of {8-Clubs} and {2-Clubs}. Panzica couldn’t find a heart, and he fell just short of defending his title in Jacksonville, taking second place for $210,783.

Paul Petraglia Defeats Sam Panzica, Darren Elias for First WPT Title 102
Runner-up finisher and two-time WPT champion Sam Panzica

Petraglia, the local corporate pilot, was the only player at the final table who was not a professional poker player. The recreational player multiplied his total live tournament earnings of $21,781 by more than 15 with his WPT bestbet Bounty Scramble win in Jacksonville for $315,732, which includes a $15,000 seat into the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions.

We will have to wait and see if Petraglia starts expanding his flight schedule to add more WPT stops after making his first WPT cash a win for six-figures. After all, the first televised WPT event in South America — WPT Uruguay — is coming up soon.

Photos courtesy of WPT

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