When Panka qualified for this year’s PCA – and then won it for $1,423,096 – he was totally uknown on the live circuit. However his composure and studied determination impressed every one who saw it and when he beat EPT veteran and Dortmund champion Mike McDonald heads-up (a player with far more live tournament experience), no one saw it as anything other than a well-deserved victory.
Panka hails from the tiny town of Brześć Kujawski in Poland and before the PCA only had $8,092 in live tournament cashes to his name, the majority of that from a 42nd place finish in the EPT 10 Barcelona Estrellas €2k High Roller. After his PCA victory, Panka said: “I’m an internet player and I haven’t played many live tournaments. I only started playing live last year and I expected my first big cash to be a tenth of this! It’s weird because I didn’t feel too much pressure on the final table. I concentrated on being a rock, a statue, and now I can’t really dance with joy because I’m still in that mindset.”
Thanks to his PCA victory, Panka was understandably under the spotlight during the EPT Deauville Main Event however, yet again, he seemed wholly unruffled by the attention and spent much of his time at the table reading a thriller by Lee Child. He didn’t cash in that event but has more than made up for it by reaching the final table in the EPT Deauville High Roller.