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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Justin Bonomo

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

Sometimes when I see I have to write “Where Are They Now” for someone who is younger than me (I’m 26), I have to admit I get a little reluctant.  For starters, I get to examine just how little I’ve accomplished in my poker career, although I do admit it can be a motivating factor for me to keep playing, knowing my riches could be right around the corner.  Also, as a writer, I sometimes think it may be hard to find enough to write about someone so young.  With the legends of the game you not only have all the tournaments they’ve won, but you also have a few good stories that generally make for good reading.  You don’t always have that when you are writing about the future legends of the game.  With Justin Bonomo he has already done his fair share of winnings, and he has also brought along with him some pretty interesting stories.  In other words, worrying about finding enough to write about Justin Bonomo is not an issue.

Justin Bonomo was born September 30, 1985 in Oakton, Virginia.  Poker wasn’t a popular game in the Bonomo household when Justin was a child, but he did find another popular card game.  Magic: The Gathering has been a stepping stone to many of the top poker players today, including Bonomo.  Bonomo started playing “MTG” at nine years old, and by 12 years old he was traveling the country to play in competitive tournaments, some with prizes that ranged as high as $250,000.  Bonomo was among the youngest players in the tournaments, but as his opponents quickly found out he was also one of the better players.  When he was 16 years old he was hanging out with Brock Parker, a well known “MTG” player, watching him play online poker.  Parker was playing a 100/200 Limit Cash game heads-up, and Bonomo was in awe at how much money was being drug his way.  It was at that moment that Bonomo began leaning towards a professional poker career.  Parker, known in the online world as “t_soprano,” has gone on to win two World Series of Poker bracelets, and is largely responsible for bringing “MTG” players to the poker world.  Other pros who have a history in “MTG” are David Williams, Alex Borteh, Jeff Garza, and Noah Boeken.  Eager to play, Bonomo took 200 dollars and deposited it into Party Poker, which at the time was open to American players.  Bonomo expected the money to come easy, but he had a very hard time building a bankroll, and after a few months of trying, he started putting poker on the backburner.

A few months later he was participating in a “MTG” tournament California.  It was there that he first saw the World Poker Tour on television.  As with Parker, he watched with awe and excitement as he saw the type of money the players were making.  As mentioned, the money was decent at “MTG” but nothing compared to the amounts he saw sprawled across the screen during the WPT telecast.  Bonomo realized that while he had tried to play poker online, he hadn’t put any other work into the game.  On the WPT telecast he had heard about how most of the players had read all the top books and had used internet forums as a resource.  On the trip back to Virginia he picked up a few poker books, and had finished them all during the long trip across the country.  Now knowing that huge money wouldn’t come his way just by luck, he began using his new found knowledge from the books he read and internet forums.  His second attempt at online poker would go much better.

Again Bonomo, known as “ZeeJustin” on internet forums and poker rooms, deposited $200 dollars, but this time was able to run it up to $10,000.  Bonomo played a combination of No Limit Hold’em cash games and sit ‘n’ go’s.  Bonomo built a reputation online as being one of the best sit ‘n’ go players in the world, dominating the $200 buy-ins, where he estimated on an online forum he was making up to $400 an hour playing them.  Wanting to branch out to live tournaments, Bonomo began traveling the world because he was still only 18, still three years away from the legal age to gamble in the United States.  

In January 2005, Bonomo cashed in his very first tournament, and fittingly it was a WPT Event.  He placed 30th at the $7,800 2008 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.  The PCA is one of the premier live events of the year because it brings together all the best online players in the world.  Because of that fact, Bonomo began to garner even more attention.  Just one month later, Bonomo finished fourth on the European Poker Tour’s French Open, winning $40,815.  At the time he was 19 years, 5 months, and 20 days old, becoming the youngest player to ever make the final table of a televised poker event.  Online, Bonomo became even more famous, winning two of the most popular tournaments in a matter of two months.  He won the $600 buy-in event for $110,000 at Party Poker on November 22nd, 2005, and on December 11, 2005, he won $137,000 at PokerStars Sunday Millions.

Upon turning 21 the good results continued to roll in.  Three months after his 21st birthday, Bonomo announced his arrival on the Las Vegas poker circuit, making an incredible four final tables during that Fifth Annual Five Diamond World Poker Classic tournament series, including finishing 7th at the WPT televisions $15,000 buy-in Main Event for $152,230.  However, controversy surrounding Bonomo would begin to arise regarding his two big online wins at the end of 2005.

A well known poker player named Josh Field, known as JJProdigy online, had been found guilty of cheating on poker online by using multiple accounts in the same tournaments.  This caused poker rooms to make an investigation on most of their top players.  Both PokerStars and Party Poker made announcements that they had found that Bonomo had multiple accounts at both poker rooms.  Immediately Party Poker confiscated the $110,000 Bonomo had won on November 22, 2005.  PokerStars also ran an investigation saying that he won the $137,000, fairly and wouldn’t be penalized.  Bonomo issued an apology for having multiple accounts, but swears he never colluded, cheated, or used multiple accounts in the same tournaments.  It was also announced by both PokerStars and Party Poker that he hadn’t done this either, prompting many people online to say Party Poker was too quick to judge and take away his money.  Bonomo seemed to take it all in stride, accepting responsibility for his actions, and has moved on from the issue.

Bonomo recently announced that he will be donating five percent of his winnings to Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence.  SENS is a life extension research project.  The project has caused controversy in the scientific community because it is designed to curtail aging, which many scientists feel is natural and shouldn’t be changed in unnatural ways.  Regardless it is something Bonomo believes will cause people to enjoy their lives, and their bodies, much longer.
Look for Bonomo on Bodog Poker where you can get direct poker tips from him.

*Read Billy Monroe’s blog*

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