ArticleMeet Poker Academy Ambassadors – Dominik Pańka

Dominik Pańka is one of the most successful poker players from Poland. He currently ranks 3rd on the Polish All-Time Money List with $3.3 million in total earnings, almost half of which he won at the 2014 PokerStars EPT Caribbean Adventure. Additionally, he has a WSOP bracelet from an online event at GGPoker in 2021 […]

By Doro | 15 Jun 2023
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Dominik Pańka is one of the most successful poker players from Poland. He currently ranks 3rd on the Polish All-Time Money List with $3.3 million in total earnings, almost half of which he won at the 2014 PokerStars EPT Caribbean Adventure. Additionally, he has a WSOP bracelet from an online event at GGPoker in 2021 to his name.

He was born in 1991 in Brześć Kujawski, a small town situated in the Kuyavia region of Poland. As a youngster, he was exposed to poker through family and friends and quickly learnt the rules of the game. However, it wasn’t until his high-school years that he began playing it somewhat regularly. Since his early years, Pańka has had a passion for science subjects and took part in numerous national-level math competitions.

The exotic vacation that changed everything

Since 2009, he has played poker on a variety of websites and under different screennames. His success was such that after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from the SGH Warsaw School of Economics, he chose to give up his studies so as to devote himself fully to professional poker. He made his debut on the live circuit in 2012 and within just two years had achieved success that many can only dream of.

He secured his spot at the PCA by winning a satellite on PokerStars for $700. He traveled to the Caribbean with little anticipation. Taking part in the tournament was an enjoyable bonus to his holiday in an exotic destination.

I did not have big plans for PCA. I just wanted to win some satellites and play regularly on the EPT on the continent. When I won the PCA qualifier, I thought I would have a nice holiday in the middle of the winter and enjoy a bit of poker. If I had failed in the Main Event, I may have played one more side event and spent most of the time on the beach.

In what seemed to be a distant dream, Pańka reached the final table at the tournament with more than 1,000 entries. He had to outplay prominent players such as Isaac Baron and Mike McDonald in order to win it all. While three handed players decided on a deal that ensured Pańka the biggest payout ($1.3m). Nevertheless, they still played for an additional $100,000, a trophy and the prestige that came with it. He emerged victorious after 16 hours of a memorable battle on the final table. 

His success meant that Mike McDonald failed to become the first ever player to win two EPT events. Eventually that record was taken by British poker player Victoria Coren who won her second EPT title in April 2014 in San Remo.

Dominik Pańka wins another one

The Pole had barely returned to his homeland after his greatest professional success when he was already embarking on another poker adventure. This time, he headed to the French city of Deauville, where he took part in a EPT €10,000 High Roller event with 96 other players. Once again, the trophy found its way into the hands of the Polish poker phenom from Brześć Kujawski. As a reward for winning this tournament, Pańka received €272,000.

It definitely gave me self-confidence. Of course, two such successes are usually the result of a very good run, but I definitely feel I played quite well and am quite a good player.

The months were passing by and the Pole was not slowing down. In August 2014, Pańka made an attempt at making it to the EPT Main Event final table in Barcelona but failed to do so – though still pocketed a handsome €77,000 sum. Finally, in Malta in March 2015, he got what he wanted and secured 3rd place at the EPT Main Event and left the island with a payout of €347,000.

Dominik Pańka, photo Rafał Gładysz

In the subsequent years, Dominik Pańka established himself as a professional poker player. He meticulously selected tournaments in which he competed. In 2017, he made his debut at WSOP in Las Vegas and made a one ITM appearance in an event with a buy-in of $3,000. That same year, he also began to take regular poker trips to Northern Cyprus, where he has participated in Merit Poker events. Apart from the pandemic time, there is no year without Dominik’s visit to this place. Among many cashes, the one from September 2018 stands out. At that event with a buy-in of $10 000, he placed 3rd and took home $128,380.

I always paid attention to the proper bankroll management. I was never tempted to go for the highest stakes because I know that’s where the best players play. It feels good when I can have an advantage over my opponents; when I play in tournaments with many amateur players. I also sometimes play higher stakes – with buy-ins up to $10,000 – and there are many players who want to eventually go up to higher stakes. This kind of career requires a lot of capital; one has to have jumps, descents, returns… I try to avoid that. Bankruptcy doesn’t come out of nowhere.

A great spokesman for a hopeless cause

Dominik Pańka’s success in the Caribbean made him one of the most recognizable advocate for the game in his homeland. His achievements caught the eyes of not only poker-related media outlets, but also mainstream sources. In a country with highly restrictive gambling laws, he became the great ambassador for poker. Thanks to his accomplishments, many people learned about contemporary poker. He opened the minds of his fellow countrymen to the concept that playing poker can be an enjoyable activity, and few fortunate enough players can make a living from it. 

Poker is one of the more interesting games within the realm of chance. It’s not blackjack or roulette where the game is always unprofitable. Gambling will always exist – that’s human nature. Poker is a great alternative. If someone plays irresponsibly and loses their whole capital, they’ll borrow money to do it anywhere. But by playing in tournaments, I minimize the moral unease element even more. Nobody gets “cleaned out” – at worst someone plays a few hours and then leaves.

The fame of this player has not faded away. Back in December 2022, Dominik was involved in an exhibition tournament conducted by Internet media outlet “Sports Channel” along with famous footballers, reporters and other famous personalities. Dominik’s wish is that poker tournaments can be organized without any restrictions in Polish casinos.

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