Dominik Panka’s Entry into Professional Poker

April 28, 2014

There is a new kid on the poker block and his name is Dominik Panka. Panka created quite a stir in the poker world when he won the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) in January 2014, beating known favorite, Mike “Timex” McDonald.

Panka came from nowhere to dazzle the poker world. From earning only US $ 981 in October 2013, to earning a total of US $ $1,843,934 through 2014, Panka is a new poker superstar. Also, Panka’s poker victory at the PCA is no flash in the pan. About three weeks after winning the PCA, Panka won the EPT Deauville High Roller poker tournament, defeating 96 contestants for a prize money of US $ $371,498.

Panka won his way into the PCA through a Sunday qualifier on PokerStars. The latter has offered to sponsor Panka through Season 10 of the EPT. Panka is grateful for this sponsorship, and feels that this will help poker players in his home country, Poland, to identify with the game and encourage others like him to enter the poker fray.

Panka has continued to travel the EPT, with a stop in Vienna in March 2014. When asked whether he plans to play the World Series of Poker to be held in Las Vegas, USA, this summer, Panka said he would prefer to concentrate on European tournaments. He said that the distance and the US tax laws were deterrents.

An early start

Dominik Panka has had an early start to his poker career. Hailing from Brześć Kujawski, a small town in Central Poland, Panka began creating a platform for poker as a child, when he developed a deep interest in logic and mind games. Upon completing primary school, Panka attended a boarding school in Torun. After this, he headed to Szkoła Główna Handlowa for a Bachelor of Arts degree. However, before he could earn his Master’s degree he left to pursue – of course, poker!

Panka reminisces that while he had heard about poker in high school, he began playing poker while in his second year at University with his friend. Panka decided to give online poker a shot and was quite successful at it. This encouraged him to become a professional poker player.

While Panka has been an online poker player for many years, he decided to enter live poker tournaments only in 2012. Panka is the ninth player from Poland to make it to the EPT final table, but no Pole has ever won this title.

After his win at the PCA, Panka is keen to prove himself as a true champion and not a one-tournament wonder. He proved this by clinching a win at the EPT tournament, wherein he wrapped up a victory in about six hours. Most players who played the PCA were admiring of Panka, including McDonald, who was slated to win the tournament a second time. Panka admitted that he was calm and icy cool during the PCA and EPT tournaments. Most veteran players admit that the world of poker will see a lot more of Panka in the time to come.

A bright career

With such a brilliant early start at such a young age, Panka has a bright career ahead of him. However, the humble Panka does not intend to upgrade his lifestyle significantly. While this magnitude of success could go to any player’s head, this is the not the case with the down-to-earth Panka. He just wants to continue to do what he has always been doing, which is play poker.

Panka reveals that while he wants to make it to as many final tables as possible, his main focus would be to improve his skills. Panka also says that while he would love to win the triple crown or to win the EPT twice, for now, he simply wants to play better and improve as a player and as a person.

Panka’s career has taken off to a blistering start. After winning the PCA, he placed eighth in the €2,000 Eureka High Roller for €20,150. He also placed fifth in the €2,000 No-Limit Hold’em 8-Handed Deepstack for €13,400.

Panka is part of the Elite group of players. The Elite buy-in level includes the biggest events on all major tours. These buy-in levels range from US $ 5000 to US $ 24,999. The most successful player in the Elite group is none other than Dominik Panka.

Panka will be a guest on an episode of The Rundown, and Panka has won US $ 10,000 at the PCA this year. After winning this event, Panka won the €10,000 High Roller at the EPT Deauville. The wins in these tournaments have put Panka ahead of McDonald in the POY race.

All of this is testimony to the fact that Dominik Panka has a bright poker career ahead of him. And so, in the world of poker, a star is born!

Using the Over-bet to Win Poker Games

March 18, 2013

If you looking for ways to improve your chances of winning poker games, you should concentrate on the over-bet feature of the game a bit more seriously. In simple words, an over-bet is all about betting a large amount of money in comparison to the pot size of the game. Many people use the over-bet to make their opponents fold their cards, and these bets are usually used in deep-stacked games. Some players like to use this technique in all forms of poker, but they make this bet only while playing on the river. Read more

Please: Spare me the small talk

July 19, 2009

On a recent trip to the Texas Hold ‘Em poker tables at a Seminole casino, something dawned on me. Not only do I hate people in general, but I especially hate interacting with them at and around the tables. The answer is simple, their unbearable small talk. It’s unnecessary, it’s annoying and it stems from transparent, depressing insecurity and the need to fill dead air with something other than the soft volume of a TV playing women’s golf (that’s another complaint, but we’ll stay on track for this week.)

I’ll start off with an example. Last week, I believe, I wrote about winning a hand on the river, making three of a kind. It was a nice hand, I was lucky but proud of my play at the same time. I didn’t get bullied early and played smart risk/return for the low limit game I was at. All right, enough tooting my own horn. Here’s the aftermath I didn’t get to last time. As soon as it was common knowledge that I had won the hand, somebody else at the table (not the dealer and not the gentleman I’d beaten after he went all-in) started singing some weird tune that had the words “the River” in it. This went on for a good 10 seconds, and eventually the dealer joined in, so it couldn’t have been that obscure. The guy was probably 60 or older, which apparently gives him full authority to call me “young man,” even though I’m over 30 now. Whatever, that’s no big deal. But the fact that he feels he has to talk to me between shuffles is what gets my going.

“So, young man, you got the lucky river card. You ever heard that song, The River?”

“No, but I’ve heard the song, “The River Runs Red with Your Annoying Blood.”

Yeah, yeah, but I should’ve said that. Would’ve taught him to small talk me.

So that’s just one example. But the nasty habit of blabbering to your tablemates simply because they’re the ones sitting next to you is an archaic need for some type of feedback. And let’s be straight about something, I have a fairly decent judge of people and have at least the basic skills of reading somebody, within or outside of the poker setting, and these people have no ulterior motive. They aren’t trying to learn something about you or your emotions. They’re not trying to get you snap or reveal something about your character. Not at a $2-$4 low-limit table. Sorry, it ain’t happening. It’s hard enough to even see these people’s faces through the dense fog of smoke. If the background on my cards weren’t white I have to squint to make out what the hell they were in the first place.

I also can’t stand the story guys in the middle of a hand. In the middle of the damn hand they’ll see a combination of cards or someone makes a call that “reminds them of a time.” Like they’re a retired player with a purple heart telling me war stories of the summer of 1947 when he almost hit that Royal Flush but didn’t want to…blah, blah, blah. Please just stop. It’s bad enough I have to hear this story when I’m trying to concentrate on my hand, the community cards and the other player’s bets, but usually this joker will inevitably hold up the game in the process.

I’m sure I sound bitter here, but it’s one of my worst pet peeves. Worse than the women who thinks she can use her feminist charm to dupe players into believing she’s a helpless newbie, worse than the table bully who keeps betting himself into the red even when it stops working after the first three hands, worse than the guy who thinks he can shuffle cards himself and then ends up bending half the deck on his bridge attempt. You ever get a call from somebody who you just couldn’t get off the phone? They keep talking and talking, and you’re just waiting for that half-a-second where you can slide in with “Well, let me let you go here…”

Well, that’s what small talk is like to me. Except I can’t hang up.

Back in the swing of things

July 12, 2009

 I recently had the opportunity to play at a casino I’ve never been into before, which was the Seminole Hard Rock just outside of Tampa, Fla. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve been in any professional casino setting. Not that a whole lot has changed, though. The floor was still infested with hundreds of different types of slot machines (I played a few video poker only, winning a staggering $6). I was pleased to see, though, that off in the corner was a sizable poker room.

I wasn’t planning on playing much money here. We were really only there as a time-killer, so I cashed in $50 and went to sit $2-$4 low-limit Hold ‘Em.

It was a full table when I sat down, all nine seats taken. It took me a minute to adjust to the pace, as the dealer was throwing the cards out like they were on-fire, and the players were making decisions like their comp depended on it. Of course, what’s nice about Hold ‘Em at a full table is that you essentially get to play 7 out of every 9 hands for free, so if you’re not feeling it, you can dump and get settled, and wait for the next one.

It just so happened that I got caught up in the first hand quickly. I had J, 8 clubs, and called the blind. Both blinds and two other players stayed in beside me, making for five players before the flop. Nobody raised, so there was a decent pot but nothing to write home about.

The flop was 8, Q, 4, no club in the bunch. I was sitting second to last at the table, and not having played a single hand before this, had no feel for how everyone else was betting, or whether there was a bluffer at the table, etc… I was just going off odds and my position at this point – not the best place to be in, but I felt I had to run with my options.

Three checks before my play. I bet $2. I had a pair, but it wasn’t top pair, I thought the minimum bet would give me a good chance to see if anyone was trying to coast on a high card. The next player raised to $6. The other three players folded in order, and I quickly while staring at the felt, raised back to $10.

It’s not often you see the all-in in low-limit games, but this guy threw in the remaining $4 he had left. After I called, he tossed up Q, J. I showed my hand, and realized I was in serious trouble. In fact, there was only one more card that could’ve saved me now, since both of us had the Jack and he had the higher pair.

The turn was no help to either of us, and he wasn’t threatening a straight or flush, either.

The river, ah the sweet river, was the 8 of diamonds. Welcome home big pot. I caught a lucky card on the river on my first hand, forced the competitor to buy in with more chips, and started stacking $5 chips like I was riding a bicycle. A thing of beauty. I kept the sly grin to myself and played tight the rest of the time. It paid off, too, as I walked away a winner on my terms, something I’ll get into more in a future article.

After the hand, one of the other players, not the one I beat, starting singing “On the river.” I couldn’t tell if he was making it up as he went along, but then the dealer started joining in, too. It was a surreal moment I’m sure I wouldn’t have even noticed if I were as drunk as some of the people there. Oh, did I mention this was midday? Yeah, around 2 p.m. Of course, inside the casino, in the back where the poker room is, gated off and secluded from the rest of the quarter sliders in the joint, it’s so dark and musky you wouldn’t know what time of day it was anyway.

Anyhow, it was proud win for me. I’ve always felt better winning in a casino than in an online game. You can see the expressions on everyone’s faces, and you can stack your own chips right in front of you. I love that.

The tells are evil

July 5, 2009

Well, it finally happened. The tells betrayed me. That’s right, I’ve been playing with a few regular people on and off since I’ve been living in Florida, and a couple people for almost a year now. These are casual, mostly friendly games, but you still use them to hone your skills and pratice strategy on your opponents, even if the payoffs aren’t even in the hundreds of dollars. One of those strategies is learning tells. Everyone outside of Ferguson and a few others is going to have them, so they’re there for anyone willing to take the time and put in the effort to study and learn.

And I thought I had a few pinpointed perfectly. A month or so ago, a game was going on with me, some others and Player A. Well, Player A holds a pack of chips engulfed in a close fist before his turn to bet when he has something worth betting. You see those types of tells quite a bit, they’re not that difficult to spot if you know what you’re looking for. I call them “anticipation tells.” Some people get a flared nose, some people jump the gun and bet before their turn, while others show signs of impatience and ask who has the bet various times during the round. That last one can be a dead giveaway for a power hand. Nobody with garbage is pressing the table to get on with it. Even a bluffer is playing it cool, biding his time until it’s his turn to bet. They’re focus, if they know what’s good for them, is on making sure they’re not giving off any tells – which, again if you’re paying close enough attention – is a tell in and of itself.

Anyway, the lesson I want to share is that regardless of how coy you think you’re being, you think you’ve uncovered the holy grail of tells, the human response is a tricky beast to master. It’s so random and shifty, even if you’re a pro, you can never be 100% certain what another player is thinking or feeling.

My assumption to the contrary cost me a bunch. I had a moderate two-pair but folded to Player A’s bet, about three times the blind. Player B called, so I was afforded the opportunity to see the hands at the end of the round. Player A had a mid-pair hidden that never received any help from the community, and lost to Player B’s pair of Queens. So the gripped chips didn’t necessarily mean Player A had a spectacular hand…a mid pair certainly doesn’t qualify there. Perhaps it meant he thought he had a great hand. And if that’s the case, there’s a silver lining to the lesson after all. I should end up across the table all the time from players who bet strong on a mid-pair pre-flop. Those opportunities you have to seize before they get wise to their error, because no matter how dumb a player may be, you’d think he’d catch on to that after a while. Even a rhino stops attacking an electric fence in the same spot if he gets electrocuted enough times.

So the tells beat me. Turns out I’m not Matt Damon spotting Teddy KGB’s Oreo tell in underground New York City poker games. (That was cool, though, right?). I won’t abandon my quest to learn others tells and use them in my decision-making process during a hand, but I won’t rely solely on them ever again, either. A gut instinct is a wonderful thing to have, but it must be used in combination with your brain, and even then only after making the correct calculations.

On another but related note, I think I’m slipping with some of my guarding of tells in my own right. Sometimes when you get so wrapped up in improving one strategy, you let something else relax and it hurts your overall game. Another lesson learned, I can’t be too obsessed with watering the trees while the rest of the forest dries up and dies.

Noted. All of it. A good player in any game who wants to learn and improve doesn’t take these as failures, just learning opportunities. You always want to say you’ll make a better call next time.

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