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Young-gun Dominik Panka from Poland has had the year of his life on the poker felt. Since January he's won close to $2 million, starting with the PCA Main Event in Nassau where he overcame 1,030 other players. Panka went on to win a high roller event on the EPT and rack up a ton of other cashes before arriving here at the Battle of Malta. Panka is also being honoured this week as one of three poker pros to win PokerListings Spirit of Poker Award. Panka took his trophy in the category of Rising Star which was won by Italian pro Luca Moschitta. Panka speaks with Maria Ho about what it's like being on a mega-heater, how he got into poker and where he sees the game taking him in years to come. Keep watching PokerListings.com for all the action from the 2014 PokerListings Battle of Malta.
Maria Ho: We're here at the 2014 Battle of Malta and standing next to me is Spirit of Poker Award winner Dominik Panka. Dominik, we're in the same boat here. This is both our first time here in Malta. So, how are you enjoying it so far?
Dominik: Definitely. I think the venue is fantastic and I've been playing only to a few levels but I have high hopes for this tournament and I think it's organized very well and I really enjoy this tournament.
Maria: Well, if I were you and I've had the year that you've had, I would have high hopes too because, obviously, everybody knows you've had an incredible year, a breakout year. You went from winning the PCA and then to winning on High Roller. How is that for you, in terms of getting so much poker success in such a short amount of time?
Dominik: The thing is that I was very fortunate in this year. It's not like you're the best in the game or something like this. You obviously need a lot of good fortune and there are a lot of players who have a lot of deep runs but they didn't make it in the end. I really appreciate the luck, but, of course, I am very happy with my play and what can I say? I enjoy this year a lot.
Maria: I'm sure a lot of people would love to know how you got your start in poker because who doesn't want to be on the path that you've been on lately?
Dominik: Very traditional role, grinding small stakes online and moving up to higher stakes and then finally starting playing live. I had success pretty early in my career as a live player as well, but very traditional way. Started playing in college.
Maria: I started playing in college, too. Sometimes I feel like, well should I ask you if you finished, because not all poker players finish college, after they started in college.
Dominik: I partly finished. I finished the Bachelor Degree or something but didn't get my Master's Degree or something like this.
Maria: I think your parents have lots to be proud of either way.
Dominik: They don't mind. They didn't mind it, even before PCA. They knew that what I was doing was good for me and they didn't try to push me to finishing education, even though they preferred it but they weren't forcing it on me or anything like that.
Maria: You're still very young. Do you feel like this is something that you could see yourself doing five, ten years down the line? Poker is a great game and it's something you could play till you're as old as Doyle Brunson and still have a lot of success. But do you feel like that's in the cards for you, so to speak?
Dominik: I think yes because I probably would wait for the next few years but I don't really try to play as many events as some other pros. I enjoy quiet life with my family but I will definitely be doing this for the next few years.
Maria: Well, we're really glad to have you here at the 2014 Battle of Malta and we need to grab a drink because I remember you taking some chips from me at PCA and you ended up winning it. So, I feel like you at least owe me that. What do you say?
Dominik: I couldn't agree more.
Maria: This is Maria Ho from the 2014 Battle of Malta.