EPT8 Monaco: Super High Roller Bonomo turns his attention to the main

ept-thumb-promo.jpgThere is often an expectation that a high roller is going to be too busy to speak to you. They've probably got a yacht to burn, a Swiss bank manager to give a heart attack or a game of tennis to play with Boris Becker. I may be waiting to speak to Justin Bonomo at the break but there are probably others in line. He's probably needed by the IMF to help fund the next bout of European bond buying, Christine Lagarde nervously biting her fingernails at the end of a conference call. The Euro can wait, damn it, the PokerStars Blog needs to talk to him.

At the table Bonomo is an intimidating presence. He sits tall in his chair, body angled forward, the fulcrum of action. If someone else opens a pot it's because Bonomo has allowed them to do so. He's the Chuck Norris of the tournament poker world, just without the beard or denim vests.

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Bonomo heads-up for €1,640,000

Just a few days ago Bonomo was on the main stage tearing the biggest ever European buy-in tournament to shreds. The American took a six-to-one chip lead into the heads up on his way to winning the $1,640,000 first place prize, a haul which took Bonomo over the $5m live winnings mark and into 65th on the all-time money list. And that's just his live tournament wins.

As it turns out, Bonomo is accommodating, thoughtful and softly spoken, not a belligerent blunderbuss blasting out self-referential platitudes. Bonomo's been on the poker scene for some time, just not in Europe. Not for a long time anyway. You need to scroll all the way back to EPT Deauville, Season 1 to see his last EPT main event score. Brandon Schaefer took the title to claim the €144,000 first place prize and Bonomo came in fourth for €31,500, his second ever live cash. That teenager went on to tear the tournament world up scoring, if you include this week's Super High Roller, ten six-figure paydays over the last seven years. Just not really here on the European Poker Tour.

"I've probably played between ten and twelve EPTs in my life. When I was 19 I travelled around Europe playing EPTs back in Season 1 and 2. I'm pretty old. Since then I've played very few EPTs," said Bonomo, pausing briefly as a large man barrelled past us seemingly unaware that we were having a conversation.

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Bonomo: the high roller in his natural habitat

Given his success this week in Europe, winning the Super High Roller and now going deep in the €5,000 main event, does Bonomo regret not spending more time on this side of the Atlantic?

"To be honest, the reason that I haven't played that many is because they haven't been enough big buy-ins to make it worthwhile. Now that they've changed the schedule and made it so that you can play a big buy-in event every single day, with a Super High Roller or two thrown in, it makes it so much more worth it to travel to Europe," he said.

So you're pretty much a shoe-in for next season then. Will we be seeing you in Barcelona in August?

"Absolutely. I've only seen the schedule for Barcelona so far but it's definitely tempting enough that I'll make it out for it and if the rest of the schedules are as good I'll be playing all of them."

That's surely not great news for a lot of the other High Roller regs with Philip Gruissem, Tobias Reinkemeier and Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier jumping to mind. Those last two, Reinkemeier and ElkY, finished second and third respectively in this week's €100,000 event. Of the final six players (also Daniel Negreanu, Patrik Antonius and Masa Kagawa) which was Bonomo hoping to avoid heads up?

After a lengthy pause, he said: "I think that out of all the players at the table Tobias was the best player. He was probably the toughest player that I could have played heads up."

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Bonomo faces down Reinkemeier

In that case, who do you think would have been the easiest opponent heads up?

"I don't think that it's really appropriate to answer that question," said Bonomo.

Quite frankly, that's the answer that I expected but I can't be blamed for asked it. Moving swiftly on.

In the last level Bonomo asked a floor person whether his table would be next to break. He was told it would be the one after next. But did he want to know because he wanted to keep the table or to get away from it?

"It was neither really. I think it's something that you should always be aware of especially when you have lot of short chip stacks at the table. You can be in charge of whether they bust or whether they chip up just a little bit. It's nice to know if the calls that you make influence the table for a long time or short time."

Most garden variety poker players wouldn't think about that, but then again most poker players don't bink €100,000 buy-in tournaments. That talent has taken Bonomo deep in this €10,000 main event where he's already got €25,000 locked (barely enough to get out of bed for). He may be below average with 280,000 and at a table with Erik Seidel but let's face it, with 46 players left you'd still expect him to make it to the final 24. He's a prodigious poker talent.

Tournament snapshot
Level 20: blinds 5,000-10,000, ante 1,000
Players: 46 of 665
Average stack: 433,500
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Rick Dacey
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour