For all of the success, the close calls and finally a bracelet in 2014 at the World Series of Poker, Justin Bonomo had never cashed in the WSOP Main Event before the run he’s put together in 2015.
Bonomo’s made the most of his first Main Event cash so far, and he more than doubled his stack to over 2.8 million during the first level of play on Day 5, which put him in the top five. It’s obviously a spectacular development for Bonomo, but it wasn’t necessarily what he expected after seeing who would be at his table Saturday night.
“I was actually really disappointed with the table draw,” said Bonomo. “I had three super tough players. This deep in the Main Event, the play’s certainly going to get a lot tougher, but you never want three well-established pros at your table.”
Christian Harder started the day to Bonomo’s immediate left, and Max Steinberg sat across the table. Steinberg was equally strong to Bonomo chip-wise and both of them started building early in the day. Harder had some room to maneuver but got short in a hurry, eventually falling to Bonomo with king-jack suited against ace-queen offsuit.
Shortly after Harder left, Dan O’Brien’s table broke and he joined the fray. Bonomo, O’Brien and a third player got involved in a pot as well, and a short-stacked O’Brien was thrilled to look down at pocket queens. Unfortunately for him, Bonomo had the pocket aces and held, dispatching his second friend from one of the featured tables and climbing further up the chip counts.
“I guess it’s been good news for me that I’ve knocked out two of the best players at the table, but they’re good friends of mine so I’m a little conflicted about that,” said Bonomo. “It’s made the table a lot better. I think I’m in a good situation with this table going forward, and I think I have a good edge.”
The one exception to that point is Steinberg, who built his stack at an even more accelerated pace and jumped into the chiplead with over 3.7 million after a three-way battle between Bonomo, himself and Jae Kim.
Bonomo and Steinberg seem almost destined to play a tournament-altering pot at some point on Day 5, but Bonomo’s been preparing himself for this situation all summer. He played a lighter tournament schedule than any previous WSOP and still managed to finish third in the $10,000 Limit Hold’em Championship. Bonomo also fared quite well in some PLO cash games at the Bellagio, but those cash games, staying well-rested and remaining focused weren’t the only factors behind his reduced schedule.
“I didn’t like some of the 4 pm structures,” said Bonomo. “You have to play 19 hours just to make the money, and after 10 hours of play on Day 1 you’re lucky if you have 1.5 times the starting stack – it just felt like a waste of time to me, to be honest.”
With all of the highs and lows of the summer, Bonomo’s trying to stay focused on the task at hand with the opportunity of a lifetime sitting in front of him.
“It’s very easy to dream of winning the tournament, or dream of making the November Nine, and I’ve certainly done that in past years,” said Bonomo. “Even a little bit this year. But really, what I’m trying to focus on is just staying in the moment – taking it one hand at a time.”
It’s all about sticking to the basics, and with everything that Bonomo’s done in his poker career he’s got as good a shot as anybody remaining in the field to carry this run to the final table.
“I’m thinking all about strategy and I’m not thinking about the what-ifs,” said Bonomo. “I’m just doing what I need to do, and if good stuff happens and I make the November Nine, great – but I’m not going to force it.”
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