Stop the presses! Florida man with real job wins poker tournament! It's never a dull day on the World Poker Tour. Pilot Paul Petraglia defeated two premier regulars on the WPT. While most of the poker universe had their eyes on Rozvadov for the WSOP Europe, the bestbet Jacksonville casino in Jacksonville, Florida hosted the latest stop on the WPT. This particular Bounty Scramble included a final table with a couple of former champions Darren Elias and Sam Panzica, who were attempting to write history, but both came short of the mark thanks to a local pilot named Paul Petraglia.
When Paul Petraglia wasn't navigating the friendly skies flying corporate jets, the St. Augustine native was always fond of cash games at bestbet Jacksonville. Petraglia recently migrated to tournaments, where he clearly found his niche.
Almost all amateur poker players secretly wish they were poker pros. Whereas poker pros often secretly wish that had normal jobs... albeit high-paying gigs or something super cool... like flying airplanes. Petraglia, however, has no desire to quit his steady gig.
In a post-victory interview, Petraglia explained, "Flying is my passion; it's always been my passion. Poker's always been more of a... I'm a huge fan. I love playing the game. Could I do it for a living? I don't know if I could deal with the pressure. I'd rather fly airplanes for a living, but this is just a great outlet, and it's a lot of fun to do.”
Petraglia held off one of the all-time greatest players to ever set foot on the WPT, Darren Elias. Petraglia also held off a run from one of the hottest players on the WPT in Sam Panzica. Overall, it was a sensational come-from-behind win for Petraglia.
Jacksonville marked the 8th final table for Darren Elias on the WPT. Several players had won three titles, but no one had won four... yet. Elias' final table appearance nearly overshadowed Sam Panzica's deep run. The two-time WPT champ was seeking a third title... which would put him a special, elite club of three-time WPT Champions Club... Gus Hansen, Carlos Mortensen, Chino Rheem, Anthony Zinno and of course Darren Elias.
Darren Elias came into the final table at Jacksonville with a 3.5M big stack and two short stacks lingering. Only John Esposito had any semblance of a stack that could contend with Elias. Everyone else at the final table -- Paul Petraglia, Sam Panzica, Gaurav Raina, and Shankar Pillai -- needed some early blessings from the poker gods, if they wanted to have a shot at prevent Elias from winning his fourth title.
Paul Petraglia is a pilot in his everyday life. He cut his teeth flying planes for United Airlines before he moved into the corporate side of aviation. Yes, someone with a "real" job astutely navigated a wild field and outlasted a difficult final table to make it to the final three against the two big dogs.
On the fifth orbit, we lost the first player. Shankar Pillai busted first at the final table Ace-Queen ran into Petraglia's pocket Queens. Gaurav Raina was the next player to exit stage left. Raina wad dunzo in fifth place when his Ace-rage lost to Sam Panzica's pocket tens.
With four left in the hunt, Darren Elias led with 3M, but John Esposito was close behind with 2.7M. Four-handed hit a slog before John Esposito hit the road. He got it all-in with pocket treys against Elias' pocket tens.
With three to go, Elias built up a massive lead with 7M, while both opponents held 1.1M each. Could the pilot rally from behind and deny both pros a chance at history? Darren Elias coughed up the lead when his Ace-Queen failed to knock out Petraglia's Ace-ten. Petraglia turned a Broadway straight to stave off elimination and double up. Elias busted in third place when his sevens lost to Panzica's Ace-something.
With two to go, Paul Petraglia led with 5.5M to 4.2M. The final two clashed for 96 hands, or nearly half as long as the overall final table. Panzica jumped out to an early lead, but Petraglia didn't get rattled during this grueling heads-up fight to the death. Petraglia pulled close several times and even took the lead. When he lost it to Panzica, Petraglia didn't panic. Even when he was down 5 to 1 in chips, Petraglia didn't freak out. The cool cat hunkered down and battled back... slowly. Petraglia eventually got back into contention and finally regained the lead. At that point, the pilot never looked back. Panzica's run ended in second place when he failed to double up with a heart-flush draw against Petraglia's flopped straight.
St. Augustine's Paul Petraglia earned a first-place payday worth $315,732. In addition to nearly $316K in cash, Petraglia also won a freeroll a.k.a. a $15,000 seat to the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions. Three cheers to a local player for winning the WPT bestbet Jacksonville.
Among the list of notable pros who went deep and cashed in bestbet Jacksonville included... Jessica Dawley, Alex Rocha, Sam Soverel, Tyler Patterson, Daniel Weinman, Zach Smiley, Matt Affleck, Jeff Chang, and Anthony Zinno.