Sam Panzica’s mom flew into San Jose to watch her son play at the final table of the Bay 101 Shooting Star, and he didn’t disappoint. The 24-year-old Florida native captured his second World Poker Tour title of Season XV and collected $1,373,000.

The five-day event began on March 6 with the first of two starting flights and drew a field of 806 players, the largest in the tournament’s history. The prize pool of more than $5.7 million was given out to the final 81 players, including 2015 Bay 101 champ Taylor Paur (76th) and defending champion Stefan Schillhabel (47th). Other past WPT champs to cash were Noah Schwartz (61st), Mike Sexton (22nd), Ravi Raghavan (21st), Brian Altman (19th) and David Williams (16th).

The popular feature at Bay 101 are the bounties placed on notable players. Someone who eliminates one of these players collects a $2,500 bounty and a personalized t-shirt. This year there were 83 bounties, and four players managed to collect three apiece.

At the end of day 3 the final table of six was reached, and a familiar name sat atop the leaderboard. David “Chino” Rheem is one of five players to win three WPT titles and was looking for his record fourth. He was well-positioned to make history, holding a massive chip lead over the other five players. The chip counts at the beginning of the final table were:

  1. David “Chino” Rheem- 10,650,000
  2. Rainer Kempe- 3,705,000
  3. Sam Panzica- 3,215,000
  4. Paul Volpe- 3,005,000
  5. Anthony Spinella- 2,635,000
  6. Dennis Stevermer- 980,000

German pro Rainer Kempe was the last remaining Shooting Star in the field. Since the tournament was added to the WPT 14 years ago, no bounty has ever won the event. That trend would continue, as Kempe was the first to fall at the final table. After doubling up short-stack Dennis Stevermer, on hand #37 Kempe three-bet shoved for 2.19 million with As-9c and Rheem called with pocket kings. The board provided no relief, and Kempe was sent home in sixth place.

The knockout sent Rheem over 13 million chips and gave him nearly ten million more than his nearest competitor. On the very next hand, however, Rheem would double-up Paul Volpe (who also final tabled this event in 2013) when his As-Qc could not improve against Volpe’s pocket aces. Rheem would suffer another hit on hand #65. After calling a raise from Anthony Spinella in the big blind with Ah-8c, Rheem jammed over Spinella’s continuation bet on a board of Kh-9h-2h. Spinella snap-called for 3.67 million with Jc-3c for a flopped flush and needed to avoid another heart. The turn and river were safe for Spinella and he doubled up to 7.7 million, significantly closing the gap on Rheem.

Rheem would collect the next knockout at the final table on hand #72 to climb back up over 11 million. Stevermer, the lone amateur left in the field, three-bet shoved for 1.4 million with Ad-8d and Rheem called with Ks-9h. Rheem made a pair of nines on the flop and Stevermer could not improve, eliminating him in fifth place for $243,090.

The big stacks of Rheem and Spinella continued to clash, and on hand #84 it resulted in Spinella taking the chip lead off Rheem for the first time all day. After he raised to 300,000, Rheem three-bet to 700,000. Spinella came back with a four-bet to 1,950,000, which Rheem called. On the flop of Jd-5s-2h, Spinella continued with a bet of 775,000 which caused Rheem to fold, sending the four million chip pot to Spinella to increase his stack to 9.5 million. On the very next hand Spinella would win another huge pot off Rheem, rivering two pair with Ad-2d to beat Rheem’s pair of kings for a pot of 5.7 million.

That hand knocked Rheem all the way down to six million, but he would quickly rebuild his stack on hand #90 by knocking out his third player. On a board of 8d-7s-4s Rheem bet 375,000 then snap-called when Volpe shoved for nearly three million. Rheem held pocket kings, while Volpe held Qs-Js for a flush draw. Volpe could not catch on the turn and river and he was knocked out in fourth place, collecting $349,610.

Nearly 80 hands would be played between the final three players before the next elimination. Rheem and Spinella would keep exchanging the chip lead until hand #118, when Panzica won a 2.5 million chip pot to pass Spinella for second on the leaderboard. On hand #145, however, Spinella would double-up through Panzica with the help of a lucky river card. After Spinella went all-in with Ah-6h, Panzica called the shove with pocket sevens. Panzica remained in the lead until the river, when Spinella hit the ace for the unlikely double. Panzica would not remain the short-stack for long, however. A few hands later he found himself all-in holding pocket aces to Rheem’s Qh-Jh, and when Rheem failed to improve Panzica climbed to over nine million and within striking distance of Rheem. He would take the chip lead on the following hand and extend his lead with a huge call. On a board of 7s-6s-5h-2h-9s, Panzica bet 550,000 only to have Spinella raise to 1,850,000, Panzica considered the decision for nearly a minute before calling with two pair, which was good against Spinella’s pair of sixes.

Panzica would continue his tear by winning a more than eight million chip pot off Rheem. He raised with Ad-Kd and saw a flop of As-3c-2c after Rheem called from the big blind. Panzica continued for 500,000 and Rheem stuck around to see the Ks turn. Panzica had turned top two pair and bet another 950,000, which Rheem again called. On the Qs river Panzica would put in a bet of 2.1 million, which Rheem considered for more than a minute before calling. Rheem could not beat Panzica’s two pair, and Panzica now had a chip stack of 18.3 million while Rheem had three million and Spinella 2.8 million. On hand #167, Spinella would double-up through Rheem after turning a pair of kings with Ks-Jc to beat Rheem’s Ad-Qs, leaving the former overwhelming chip leader with just two big blinds. Rheem would be knocked out in third place on the following hand, denying his chance at making history with his fourth WPT title.

Entering heads-up Panzica held a chip lead over Spinella with 18,475,000 to 5,725,000. Spinella would double-up on the second hand, flopping a full house with Ks-Jc to beat Panzica’s pocket sevens. But just three hands later, Spinella called all-in for seven million with Ac-8c, which was behind Panzica’s Ah-10s. No help came for Spinella on the board of Jh-5h-3d-4d-5c, and Panzica won the pot and the tournament with his ten kicker.

Panzica added his name to the WPT Champions Cup for the second time, joining his victory at the bestbet Bounty Scramble back in October. With the win he moves into second place on the WPT player of the year leaderboard, just 50 points behind leader Benjamin Zamani.

The WPT continues on March 11 with the WPT Rolling Thunder event, the final leg of the California Swing before moving to the Seminole Hard Rock in Florida to conclude the tour’s fifteenth season.

Final Results:

  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
  1. Sergio Aido- $144,760
  2. Igor Yaroshevskyy- $106,520
  3. Stephen Graner- $74,290
  4. Kevin MacPhee- $53,530
  5. Huihan Wu- $53,530
  6. Neil Blumenfield- $53,530
  7. Greg Himmelbrand- $42,610
  8. Tuan Mai- $42,610
  9. Alan Bittikofer- $42,610
  10. David Williams- $36,050
  11. Matt Affleck- $36,050
  12. Xinyu Zhao- $36,050
  13. Brian Altman- $30,590
  14. Ryan Murphy- $30,590
  15. Ravi Raghavan- $30,590
  16. Mike Sexton- $30,590
  17. Garrett Greer- $30,590
  18. Shahin Shojaeyan- $30,590
  19. Tom West- $30,590
  20. Cody Wiegmann- $30,590
  21. Joe Elpayaa- $30,590
  22. Bob Mather- $26,220
  23. Dan O’Brien- $26,220
  24. Mike McClain- $26,220
  25. Jason Les- $26,220
  26. Charlie Carrel- $26,220
  27. Derek Wolters- $26,220
  28. Christian Harder- $26,220
  29. Pratyush Buddiga- $26,220
  30. Eduards Kudrjavcevs- $26,220
  31. Gene Davenport- $21,850
  32. Lander Lijo- $21,850
  33. Bernard Lee- $21,850
  34. Jim Collopy- $21,850
  35. Mike Jacob- $21,850
  36. Eddy Sabat- $21,850
  37. Jeremy Joseph- $21,850
  38. Dinakar Veeramaneni- $21,850
  39. Sinisa Zimek- $21,850
  40. Sam Phillips- $19,120
  41. Stefan Schillhabel- $19,120
  42. Zach Hyman- $19,120
  43. Sorel Mizzi- $19,120
  44. Darren Rabinowitz- $19,120
  45. Osmin Dardon- $19,120
  46. David Tuchman- $19,120
  47. Bryan Piccioli- $19,120
  48. Kevin Andriamahefa- $19,120
  49. Jasthi Kumar- $16,930
  50. Paul Tedeschi- $16,930
  51. Chance Kornuth- $16,930
  52. Jon Turner- $16,930
  53. Evan Krentzman- $16,930
  54. Gary Sewell- $16,930
  55. Noah Schwartz- $16,930
  56. Chris Conrad- $16,930
  57. Gal Yifrach- $16,930
  58. Salomon Ponte- $15,300
  59. Andy Philachack- $15,300
  60. Daniel Aran- $15,300
  61. Blake Bohn- $15,300
  62. Joe Serock- $15,300
  63. Koray Aldemir- $15,300
  64. Steven Tabb- $15,300
  65. Martin Ryan- $15,300
  66. Tom Marchese- $15,300
  67. Sergi Reixach- $13,660
  68. John Cynn- $13,660
  69. Artem Metalidi- $13,660
  70. Taylor Paur- $13,660
  71. Karthik Sundaram- $13,660
  72. Craig Mason- $13,660
  73. Jeff Gross- $13,660
  74. Colin York- $13,660
  75. Matt Stout- $13,660
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