High Roller: Justin Bonomo Adds to Seminole Success with High Roller Victory

2018 Lucky Hearts Poker Open
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino 
Hollywood, Florida
Event 20

$25,500 High Roller No Limit Hold’em
Entries: 75
Prize Pool: $1,875,000
January 22-23, 2018

Justin Bonomo

Justin Bonomo has found poker success all over the globe, and he’s making his mark at Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood, too.

Bonomo won the High Roller this evening, outlasting a field of 75 entries to earn the trophy and the top prize of $556,874. It’s his third huge result in this building but the first time he’s managed to get his hands on the big glass guitar pick.

In 2013, Bonomo finished as the runner-up in the SHRPO Championship event, earning well over a million bucks despite losing the heads-up match to Blair Hinkle.

Then last April, Bonomo made a run at the Showdown High Roller title, but he was once again forced to settle for second place. Florida’s chosen one, Jason Mercier, denied Bonomo the trophy once again.

As recently as last week, Bonomo was still trying to earn his victory dance. He entered the $50,000 Super High Roller and finished Day 1 atop the leaderboard with five players left. Day 2 was unkind, though, and he ended up dropping out in third place.

This time around, Bonomo did everything in his power to avoid another near-miss. By the time Day 1 ended, he found himself with the chip lead once again. And a big one, at that. Bonomo had amassed a stack of close to two million chips, with only one other player in seven figures.

That player happened to be Stefan Schillhabel, who won that Super High Roller last week. Schillhabel exited in seventh place this time, though, leaving the door wide open for Bonomo.

The final 11 players finished in the money, and hand-for-hand play lasted more than 50 hands on the bubble. Bonomo extended his lead throughout that period, while at least four players had less than a single big blind at one point or another.

“I’ve seen chip disparities like that in satellites before, but never in an MTT payout structure,” Bonomo said. He noted that the payouts were pretty top-heavy, and there was very little jump until the top five or six spots.

“You really have to finish in the top three,” he said. “Because of that, I adopted a more aggressive strategy. And it paid off.”

Bonomo eventually found himself heads-up against Adrian Mateos, the reigning tournament Player of the Year. Mateos was looking to write his own redemption story, too.

He was the man that Schillhabel defeated in the Super High Roller, and it wasn’t the first runner-up finish for the Spaniard, either. Mateos earned the same result the last time he played a $50,000 tournament here, falling to another German standout, Dietrich Fast.

Bonomo and Mateos squared off to determine which one of them could get the proverbial monkey off their back in this building. And it ended up being Bonomo.

In the final hand, Mateos put his stack in with a combo draw against Bonomo’s top pair. The river was a blank, securing the win and cueing that photo shoot for which Bonomo had waited so long. Mateos was forced to settle for second once again.

For Bonomo, the victory moves him to within reach of the $20-million mark in career tournament earnings. He’s just outside the top ten on poker’s all-time money list.

A big chunk of those earnings have come in events with big buy-ins and elite fields, and that was the case in this one, too. “You had some of the best players in the world,” Bonomo said. “And some amateurs who want to compete against them. That always makes for an interesting dynamic.”

Apart from his success on the felt, Bonomo has become known as an outspoken public thinker, unafraid to address the deeper issues both in person and on social media. He’s also a philanthropist who actively promotes the charitable organization Raising for Effective Giving (REG).

“I’m definitely on a hot streak the last two months, and I’ve noticed that I’ve been wearing my REG patch more consistently,” Bonomo said after the win. “So hopefully I’m getting a little karma from endorsing such a great charity.”


1st: Justin Bonomo – $556,873
2nd: Adrian Mateos – $403,125
3rd: Ben Tollerene – $248,438
4th: Joe McKeehen – $169,688
5th: Dylan Linde – $113,438
6th: Lander Lijo – $85,313
7th: Stefan Schillhabel – $69,375
8th: Sean Winter – $60,000
9th: Bryn Kenney – $58,125
10th: Ben Yu – $56,250
11th: Alexander Turyansky – $54,375