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Lumiere: Robert ‘Uncle Kruck’ Panitch Wins WSOP-C Main Event

Robert ‘Uncle Krunk’ Panitch earned his second WSOP Circuit ring the hard way—after a record-setting heads-up match that lasted nearly ten and a half hours. The win was good for $137,283.

The 62-year-old from Northbrook, IL, came out on top of a field of 416 entries to lock up a repeat appearance in the National Championship. “I’m not even tired...this woke me up!” he commented shortly after the win. “I want to be mentioned in the same breath as Stan Musial”. “I started out winning every hand,” he said referring to his quick dispatching of the 4th and 3rd place finishers about ten hours earlier.

The heads-up match lasted so long, it gave Panitch “enough opportunities to catch a card” he said. “I’ve blown so many big stacks lately”. On Friday, the first starting flight of the Main Event, Panitch was at the final table of Event 8, practically tied for the chip lead with three players remaining. An ill-timed bluff cost him his stack and he busted out of that event in 3rd place. He went straight to the cage and entered the Main Event and the rest is history.

Panitch continued, “been playing good, but I have a hard time backing up when I put chips in. I don’t like to leave ‘em in there.... played some good poker at times, but I’ve got some room for improvement. I have to start taking care of myself.”

He’s a retired plant salesman and has been playing tournaments for about 8 years. His largest live cash came in last season’s National Championship. He finished third in that event for $156,743. His win today gets him a return engagement where he can try again for the bracelet. But first, he’s probably headed for North Carolina for the Harrah’s Cherokee Circuit event. Despite a one-year hiatus from the St. Louis area, the WSOP Circuit stop at Lumière Place brought out some big guns.

Alex Masek set a new record, winning his 8th ring the day before the Championship event started. He made it to Day 2 with a short-stack, but did not make the money. Ari Engel, proud owner of six Circuit rings fired two bullets into the Main but failed to advance to the second day of play. Five-time ring winner Kyle Cartwright did not make it to Day 2. Grant Hinkle, who owns one WSOP bracelet and two circuit rings, made it to Day 2 with an above average stack, but also failed to cash.

Original November Niner and ring holder Dennis Phillips fired in both starting flights, but failed to advance to Day 2. Poker personality Bernard Lee fired once, also missing out on Day 2.

There were 416 entries in this year’s Main Event, generating a total prize pool of $624,000. The top 45 finishers earned at least $2,820. Some of the notables who made the money but came up short of the final table were WSOP bracelet holder James Mackey (44th), Dan Lowery (42nd), DJ MacKinnon (37th), Jacob Bazeley (35th), three-time ring winner Valentin Vornicu (31st), Michael Hahn (28th), Allen Kessler (25th), two-time ring winner Ben Grise (15th), and two-time ring winner John Holley (13th).

Danny Steinberg held a commanding chip lead heading into the final table and looked primed to continue his domination all the way to a title win. One by one players fell victim to their opponents and the likes of Tim Bishop (9th), Jonathan Gray (8th), and Michael Holm (7th) were sent to the rail. Throughout all of this, Steinberg found himself losing small pot after small pot, most consistently to Hale.

Eventually, Hale crippled Steinberg down to fewer than ten big blinds and he was eliminated soon after in sixth place.

Nick Weber was eliminated in fifth place and that left the final four to play into the early hours of the morning. Due to the pending change of ownership of the venue, they played an extra level on Day 2 so that everything could be wrapped up by midnight of March 31st, when the official turnover takes place.

The chip lead traded hands several times over the next couple of hours as the final four locked horns and were ultimately unable to eliminate another player. Play down from the start of the final table to the end of the night took about two and a half hours. Coming into Day 3, Robert ‘Uncle Krunk’ Panitch was the chip leader with just over 3 million chips.

Millard Hale was second with 2.1 million, Robert Edelstein was third with 1.67 million, and Peter Nigh was fourth with 1.5 million.

Millard Hale, who has one WSOP Circuit ring, made the mistake of tangling with the only player who could bust him. On an Ace-high board, all the chips went in and Hale’s AQ was out-kicked by Panitch’s AK. Hale hit the rail in 4th place. Then a short-stacked Peter Nigh made his stand and was busted by Panitch in 3rd place.

Two players were gone and they were heads up only a half hour into Day 3. Robert Panitch held a huge chip lead with 7 million to Robert Edelstein’s 1.3 million. What followed was a heads-up battle for the record books, between two Chicago natives. The final table took three hours to get from nine players to the final two. It then took another ten and a half hours to determine a winner.

The 2013/2014 Circuit heads down south for the next stop at Harrah’s Cherokee (North Carolina) beginning Thursday. Full details on that stop are available on

The player who accumulates the most overall points during Lumière Place Casino’s twelve gold ring tournaments will earn the title Casino Champion and receive automatic entry into the WSOP National Championship to take place in Atlantic City in Spring of 2014.

EVENT 9 3 /28/14
No Limit Hold’em
BUY-IN $1,675
PRIZE POOL $625,010
1. Robert Panitch . . . $137,283
2. Robert Edelstein . . .$84,833
3. Peter Nigh . . . . . .$61,988
4. Millard Hale . . . . .$46,026
5. Nicholas Weber . . . .$34,707
6. Daniel Steinberg . .  $26,564
7. Michael Holm . . . . .$20,629
8. Jonathan Gray . . . . $16,249
9. Tim Bishop . . . . . .$12,979
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