Poker fans can be forgiven if they’ve heard this one before, but Justin Bonomo just took down one of the biggest tournaments of the year.
After four days of grueling action against an especially stacked field, Bonomo won the fourth annual Super High Roller Bowl – parlaying his $300,000 buy-in into $5 million.
The Las Vegas-based Bonomo defeated Daniel Negreanu heads-up to take the prestigious title, relegating “Kid Poker” to a runner-up finish and a $3 million consolation prize.
Created by Poker Central and hosted by the Aria casino resort, the Super High Roller Bowl began in 2015 as a $500,000 buy-in event, before shifting to the current $300,000 stakes. Unlike most poker tournaments, the Super High Roller Bowl caps the field size at a predetermined amount of players, with 48 poker pros and businesspeople with big bankrolls showing up this week to take their shot.
To accommodate demand after 61 players put down a 10 percent deposit, a special lottery draw was held to determine 30 of this year’s entries. Bonomo and Negreanu both saw their names pulled, alongside fellow superstars like Phil Hellmuth, Isaac Haxton, and David Peters.
Other big names to make the lottery cut included last year’s champion Christoph Vogelsang and 2015 winner Brian Rast.
The Aria chose 16 other players – with top pros like Antonio Esfandiari, Doug Polk, Jason Koon, and 2016 champ Rainer Kempe selected – while a satellite tournament sent one more player through.
Finally, when Antanas “Tony G” Guoga wound up forfeiting his seat at the last minute, none other than poker icon Phil Ivey was chosen to take his place.
Sufficed to say, Bonomo and Negreanu both had their work cut out for them before ever reaching their heads-up duel.
After starting with 300,000 chips apiece in their starting stacks, Bonomo and Negreanu took two different paths through the first day of play. Having announced “I’m here to win this tournament,” Negreanu quickly set to work putting his plan into action, amassing 1,618,000 chips by the end of Day 1 – over 600,000 more than his closest competitor (Koon).
Bonomo, meanwhile, was eighth among the 30 survivors with 675,000 chips in the bag.
Those positions flipped when Day 2 came to a close, as Bonomo led the 14 survivors at 2,144,000 and Negreanu slipped to fifth with 1,515,000.
When the six-handed final table lineup was set one day later, Negreanu held an even 4 million at his disposal, with Bonomo nipping at his heels on a 3,965,000-chip stack. The final table was led by Mikita Badziakouski of Belarus (4,205,000), followed by the American pair of Koon (1,185,000) and Nick Petrangelo (600,000), with the German Vogelsang bringing up the rear (445,000).
In the end, Bonomo squared off against Negreanu in a battle of old-school poker figures who have refused to let the game pass them by.
Negreanu is the winningest tournament poker player of all-time, having cashed for $39,546,095 (including his runner-up result) over a storied career.
Bonomo is working hard to catch up though, thanks in large part to a torrid 2018 run that may just go down as the best in poker history. Through the first five months of the year, Bonomo has cashed 16 times for just under $14 million in earnings, reaching an astounding 14 final tables over that span. He’s emerged victorious on six occasions, including a $4,823,077 win in late March at the $267,000 buy-in Triton Series Super High Roller Bowl in Macau.
After finishing off his latest multimillion dollar score, Bonomo offered the assembled media insight into his preparation process:
“I’ve watched the game change. I’ve used all the methods and learned all the games.
I finally feel like I’m on top.”
Negreanu was typically gracious in defeat, taking to Twitter to congratulate Bonomo on a good game:
“I’m exhausted. Tough grind against the world’s best. Proud of my second place finish and congrats to a deserving winner Justin Bonomo.
Day off tomorrow then back at it for the WSOP $100k! Will be vlogging it.”