So close…so close. The infamous Chino Rheem tried to make history Friday night in San Jose, CA. With six to go at the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star, Rheem sat atop the biggest stack at the final table. Only five other players – Rainer Kempe, Paul Volpe, Sam Panzica, Tony Spinella, and Dennis Stevemer – stood in his way of winning his fourth WPT title.
Rheem previously won three WPT titles. He shipped two at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and last year he won an event in Hollywood, Florida. Last month, Darren Elias won his third WPT crown and Elias joined an elite group of three-time WPT champions that included Rheem, Gus Hansen, and Carlos Mortensen.
A win at the Bay 101 would propel Chino into sole possession of most WPT wins. Alas, his deep run came up short a couple of spots. Rheem busted in third place and he's still tied for most career WPT wins with three.
German pro Rainer Kempe shipped the Super High Roller Bowl in Vegas last summer and became one of the few players who actually beat Fedor Holz heads up to win a high roller title. Kemp busted in sixth place, but proved the German domination of the poker landscape continues – with or without a retired Fedor Holz in the mix. Kempe was the first player to bust at the final table of the WPT Shooting Star. Last year, fellow German Stefan Schillhabel won the WPT Shooting Star at Bay 101.
Dennis Stevemer, the token "old guy" at the final table finished in fifth place for nearly a quarter mil score. Paul Volpe went out in fourth.
WPT Bay 101 Champions
- 2004 Phil Gordon $360,000
- 2005 Danny Nguyen $1,025,000
- 2006 Nam Le $1,198,300
- 2007 Ted Forrest $1,100,000
- 2008 Brandon Cantu $1,000,000
- 2009 Steve Brecher $1,025,500
- 2010 McLean Karr $878,500
- 2011 Alan Sternberg $1,039,000
- 2012 Moon Kim $960,900
- 2013 WeiKai Chang $1,138,350
- 2014 James Carroll $1,256,550
- 2015 Taylor Paur $1,214,200
- 2016 Stefan Schillhabel $1,298,000
- 2017 Sam Panzica $1,373,000
With three to go, Rheem held more than half the remaining chips in play, but his run fell short in third place. He was dunzo and narrowly missed at another seven-figure score. Rheem took home $521,666... well on paper at least. Who knows what percentage of himself he had, minus make-up, minus expenses, minus the long line of debtors circling the cage, plus the numerous friends/family on the rail looking for a piece of the action.
Anthony Spinella lost a heads-up bout against Sam Panzica. Spinella earned $786,610 for a runner-up finish. Sam Panzica took down the biggest-ever Shooting Star event. First place paid out nearly $1.4 million. Panzica earned his second-career WPT crown. He previously shipped an event down in Jacksonville, FL. He's now just one more win away from joining the three-timers club with Chino and company.