Have you ever wondered who Justin Bonomo is?
He lives a double life, one as a responsible poker player, another one as a party boy who embraces polyamorous life.
Selling one game for another
In the past, Justin Bonomo was a highly ranked 'Magic: The Gathering' player. It was a good background for being a poker player, and we've seen many of successful grinders came from the 'MtG' community. It was a game of skill as well, and there are many more similarities between the two.
Justin Bonomo got into poker with the money he got after selling an MMO character in a game called "EverQuest". He got $500 and deposited it to Paradise Poker where he started playing $0.50/$1 No Limit Hold'em, but all of his successes came from tournaments and Sit & Go's at that time.
One of the people who took part in his success were his parents. Only after a few years of playing professionally and becoming a well-known poker celebrity, Justin Bonomo was able to remind himself how lucky he was to grow up in such a family.
Both of his parents supported him all the way and were confident that their son would become someone great at this game. Even though his mother had some reservations at first, it all went away after she learned what poker really is and that you are not betting against the house. Since, then, she was his biggest fan, as you will soon find out.
He was the first ever teenager sitting at a televised final table. He was nineteen at that time when he appeared at EPT Deauville in 2005. Unfortunately, he did not win the tournament, but he got out in 4th place and earned $40,815.
Bye, bye Internet fame?
He was caught entering Party Poker tournaments using multiple accounts. Even though it was 2006 and poker in full boom, he was already crucified by the community for broking game integrity. The tournament everyone was talking about was entered by not two or three Bonomo's accounts... but six! In a huge drama on the biggest poker forum at that time, Justin took the fault, but he also explained to be using "PartyPoker" bug which let him do it. He also added that the accounts were preliminarily used for Sit & Go's where he wanted to gain additional ("huge", as he called it) advantage. Well, it's not the way you should be explaining yourself caught cheating.
But that was not the end of his problems. At the same time, PokerStars decided to look into the case on their site and found out that Bonomo was doing the same there as well. The hammer dropped, and Bonomo was not able to play on PokerStars anymore. However, fortunately to him, the ban was dropped in 2009, and he could come back to the biggest poker site in the world.
But he already moved to the live MTT scene (and Full Tilt Poker where he still had had access... so far). In 2007, when he was 21 and finally able to play in the biggest poker festival ever, World Series of Poker, his mom came there with him and watched him closely while her son was trying to make history. He played in many high stakes events, including $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. where he was probably the youngest person to enter it that year. What's most astonishing that he already faced his opponents at the games other than No Limit Hold'em while most of the Internet pros tried their luck in the NLHE events.
Justin Bonomo did not have much luck in this $50,000 tournament, but he did finish fourth in Event #10 $2,000 No Limit Hold'em for $156,040.
In 2008, he became a sponsored pro of Team Bodog, and he became more known under his Internet nickname "ZeeJustin". The same year, he moved to Las Vegas to embrace his life as a full-time poker player.
And he was devoted to making this happen. He had a tremendous work-ethic which he is quite known for:
I travel so much that it’s hard to have a normal relationship, and I don’t go out and drink during tournaments.
Tournaments are his life
He was mostly known for his successes in tournaments and Sit & Go's, but he had a hard time winning anything at cash games. This changed when he met Isaac Haxton and became friends with him. He started his journey at NL600, and after having battled through the stakes, he finally set his feet at the nosebleed. He enjoyed playing online, but he despised the same format in the live environment. He said that it takes too much time to play and he can't access the juiciest Chinese games to make it profitable.
He just wanted the "big lights and prestige" of tournaments.
It doesn't mean that he was avoiding online games, but the truth is that he was not good at them. Many times, he recollected his path through the stakes and complained about going $1M under EV. But overall, his online cash results also oscillate at minus million.
It was even tougher for him when the Black Friday hit, freezing half of his money on Full Tilt Poker. That was a real blow which made his mind to move to Malta and pay closer attention to the big European poker festivals.
His first 7-digit win came in the EPT Grand Final Super High Roller in 2012. He scored over $2.1 million for the first place, having paid up a buy-in of €100,000.
He had the money, but one thing was missing... the precious World Series of Poker bracelet. In 2012, he was already irritated for not having it in his possession. As he told HighStakesDB that year:
I want a bracelet, not because I think it will be particularly great to have one, but more than that I feel like it sucks not having one. I wish I didn't care about bracelets as it's a silly artificial measure that has no correlation with skill, but for some silly reason, I do care. I'm approaching the top 10 list of players with most cashes without a bracelet which is a distinction I never want to have.
He got his first 7-digit win that year, but he needed to wait a little bit longer for his first bracelet.
The first bracelet is coming!
This moment came in 2014 when he entered Event #11: $1,500 Six-Handed No Limit Hold'em and destroyed his opponents in the quick fashion. In just two hours after entering the final table, he started a heads-up against Mike Sowers with the four times lower stack. Nevertheless, he was able to catch the wind in his wings, and within one blind level, both competitors were even in chips!
Then, the magic moment came when Sowers hit two
But it was not over yet. Over the next 19 hands, Sower was doubling up times after times again, and Justin was close to thinking about some dark fate above his head. However, he finally flopped a flush and ended it all when Sowers did not draw to the higher one.
Justin Bonomo won Event #11: $1,500 Six-Handed No Limit Hold'em and earned $449,980!
And to think that he ended up second three days earlier in the Event #5: $10,000 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw. Some people are waiting for another opportunity like this years. He got it in three days and was sure to take it down this time.
Justin Bonomo remained mainly an MTT player throughout the next years while living the life he was dreaming about when he started his poker career.
There is something alluring in poker's biggest perk - being your own boss. Travelling around the world to visit new tournaments and having enough money to secure yourself a good, stable life is something that has been a dream for many poker players and even ordinary people who have never heard about our game.
That's a life Justin Bonomo has. But he didn't say the last word yet.
Actually, it was just a beginning, an introduction to the most amazing year of his career. The year 2018.
... and exploding in 2018!
He started 2018 with the second place in the $100,000 No-Limit Hold'em Super High Roller at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure at the beginning of June where he won over one million dollars. He also came fourth in the $25,000 High Roller for over $300,000 a few days later. But it was just a preview of his next successes.
During the 2018 Lucky Hearts Poker Open in Hollywood, Justin Bonomo scored half a million of dollars in the $25,500 No-Limit Hold'em High Roller.
Then, he got another $200,000 in the $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em event during US Poker Open in Las Vegas.
Next, he netted the biggest win of his professional poker career. In the Super High Roller Bowl in China. After having paid $250,000 for the entry, he shocked the poker world by winning $4.8M for the first place! He was once again on the mouth of every poker journalist and poker player in the world. It was his biggest win... so far!
He won $5M in May in the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl at Las Vegas. He needed to pay $300,000 to participate in that one and was able to defeat 48 people to get this far. In heads-up, he crushed one of the most popular poker players Daniel Negreanu and claimed the title, alongside the nice sum of money.
But before that, he also crushed the EPT festival in Monte Carlo with 5th place at €100,000 Super High Roller (worth €401,000), 4th place in €50,000 8-handed event (worth €228,700), 1st place in €25,000 event #24 (worth €378,000), and first place in €25,000 event #40 (worth €259,700).
But then came the 49th Annual World Series of Poker festival. All eyes were on Justin Bonomo... and he didn't disappoint.
He took down the event #16: $10,000 No Limit Hold'em Heads-Up Championship for $185,965 and earned his second WSOP bracelet!
Even though he did not make any significant score in the following events, he can't be denied this fantastic achievement.
2018 will be forever remembered as a year of Justin Bonomo.
Do you want to crush the poker world as well?