EPT10 Deauville: Dominik Panka shuffles to the centre of attention

One month ago, not many people outside of Poland knew very much about Dominik Panka. When he arrived to Paradise Island in the Bahamas at the beginning of January, he was just another face in the crowd, a qualifier with a ticket to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event and an online game good enough to win that ticket. Nobody could deduce much more about him, and nobody had any real reason to try.

However after he put on one of the most dominant final table performances in recent memory to win the $1.4m first prize--beating the likes of Isaac Baron and Mike McDonald--Panka's was suddenly the name on everybody's lips. Not many people knew much more about him still, but everybody was trying to find out.


Dominik Panka: eyes right

Tom Hall and Ike Haxton, in the live stream commentary booth, for example, starting a guessing game as to his online identity, while his profile page suddenly dramatically appeared at the top of the "most viewed" chart on the well-known poker databases. Polish newspapers followed online poker sites in bellowing the glad tidings from their pages, a move that is all the more remarkable given poker's uncertain legal standing in the country.

Panka's new-found celebrity also meant that his appearance on Day 1A of EPT Deauville encouraged a handful of reporters to hover around his table, trying to figure out how he plays the early stages of a tournament. The answer: relatively calmly. He was reading a book, not entering many pots, and taking things slowly.

"I am crazy," said Joseph Carlino, one seat to Panka's left, who was not reading a book, entering a lot of pots, and taking things speedily. However, he was also attempting to persuade his table that he is not just playing without caution. "I am a joker, but €1m to win? This is the EPT, €5,000. It is expensive."

He turned to Panka and said, "You read a book, good."
"I try to look smart," Panka dead-panned. (It's a book by Lee Child. You decide.)


Dominik Panka: Eyes left

Panka spent his first break swallowed up by a television crew, no doubt interested to know what it means to be a PCA champion. (Pretty good is my guess.) And by the second break, he was out. The EPT makes no special concessions to its former champions. It's how come we've never had a double winner.

Most of Panka's stack vanished when Carlino flopped a set of eights to crack the PCA champion's aces and seize about 20,000 chips (see the live coverage on the top of the main EPT Deauville page). After that, he flopped top pair and lost to a rivered two-pair. C'est la vie.

One of the downsides of having won a seven-figure score in a poker tournament is that no one will ever offer any sympathy for a bad beat ever again.

On the up side, Panka was here on the cheap yet again, having won a PokerStars Player's Choice satellite to book his passage here. He won the ticket late last year and is able to cash it in for any EPT -- that's where the "choice" bit comes in in the "Player's Choice" -- and opted to play the rush.

It didn't work, but he'll be back.

Follow our coverage from EPT Deauville by heading to the main EPT Deauville page. There's hand-by-hand action and latest chip counts in the top panel and colour pieces below.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour