It’s not every day that World Poker Tour (WPT) champions get immersed in an event on this side of the planet. But WPT Sanya is fortunate to actually have two titlists locking horns with the immense local field here and for these American tournament veterans that have made a name for themselves in the Western hemisphere, their Asian journey has been one to remember thus far.
Daniel Weinman from Atlanta, Georgia and Sam Panzica from Fort Lauderdale, Florida have always wanted to travel the world and being professional poker players has allowed them that unique privilege.
Weinman’s odyssey began in 2010 when he—at the tender age of 22—determined that his career as a mechanical engineer was not really for him.
“Honestly, (I turned pro for) a little bit of freedom,” Weinman told Somuchpoker in an exclusive interview in between levels here. “The money is obviously a lot better if you’re successful at poker. (I) just didn’t see that engineering career going anywhere. I just wanted to give it a try for a few years and now here we are.”
Weinman had his first cash in the 2010 World Series of Poker (WSOP) $2,500 No Limit Hold ‘Em (NLHE) event where he finished 103rd for $6,071.
He began making a name for himself in the United States as a regular in the live scene before getting his first international cash in the 2011 European Poker Tour (EPT) Grand Final in Spain; busting in 36th for EU30,000. He added major cashes in France, England, the Bahamas and the Czech Republic before that fateful run last January with that WPT victory putting him among the elite in the world followed by a victory in the prestigious WPT Tournament of Champions in April of this year.
In a span of seven years, Weinman has amassed almost $3M in winnings but has never gotten around to coming to Asia…until now.
Sam Panzica, 25, had decided not to pursue his studies in Central Michigan and moved on to be warrior on the felt at a very young age; mounting cashes and victories on the American circuit since he was 21. With three World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit wins and cashes in Canada, Italy, the Bahamas, France and Monte Carlo, Sam Panzica has slowly etched his name among the young guns emerging in the poker world but his star quickly rose by taking down the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star Main Event last March where his buy-in of $7,500 led to a staggering $1.373M pay out and now he takes his act to Asia for only the second time in his young career.
Discovering India, China and Japan
“I’ve been to Macau before,” Sam Panzica said when asked by Somuchpoker about his Asian experience.
Both voyaging together and learning a lot about the different cultures has brought these two unlikely poker stalwarts to appreciate what they had not yet experienced in their years in the game as both saw action in the recently concluded WPT India held in Goa and will be heading to cap off their Asian adventure in Tokyo for the inaugural WPT Japan.
“India was definitely different,” Panzica recalls. “It was a big culture shock.”
“India was crazy; it was just a lot different,” Weinman interjects. “Goa was super nice, everything they did for the WPT was awesome and the people were great. I saw where the Taj (Mahal) was. Everything has been a blast.”
The “culture shock” has also translated to the poker tables as both agree that the game’s speed in this region is considerably slower than how it is played on the other side of the world. The brand of play is also of a different dimension to them.
“I think it’s actually tougher over here,” Weinman confides. “The average American player is just like a degenerate gambler who sees poker as an alternative to Black Jack or something. The average Asian player seems to take more time to think about making a better decision and normally might take a little longer but I’d say the calibre of the average player here is definitely much higher.”
Weinman also shares how he’s grown to respect the average Asian player’s “higher” poker IQ.
“I think it’s not much of a secret that most Americans are very bad poker players,” he quips. “I think the top players are going to be better in America, but as far as the average players (go) they’re probably a bit better here just because I think it’s just more of a culture thing to want to be competitive and not just be a complete gambler.”
Having only been in China for a day hasn’t given the pair time to properly take in the scenery but they are absolutely absorbing everything about their Asian journey and both look forward to Japan.
“(I’m looking forward) to eat some sushi in Tokyo,” jests Sam Panzica.
“I’ve had my eye on Japan for years now,” Weinman shares. “I’m so pumped. I can’t wait.”
Both still have work to do at the felt and whether or not they earn another cash—this time in Asia for the first time—their trek in this region has left a lasting imprint on the rest of their young lives and this might not be the last time we encounter these two world class poker aces in the Eastern hemisphere.
Article By Noel Zarate