Justin Bonomo appeared to be on the verge of securing the championship title in the final $25,000 buy-in high roller event of the 2023 Poker Masters, but fate took a surprising turn. Despite eliminating every opponent on his path to the heads-up showdown, Bonomo’s commanding 4:1 chip lead dwindled in the blink of an eye.
Justin Bonomo, the world’s second-highest-earning tournament poker player with a career cash tally exceeding $64 million, showcased a remarkable hero call that swiftly altered the course of the game.
The pivotal hand unfolded with Daniel Rezaei limping on the button, holding J of Spades and 8 of Diamonds, while Bonomo, in the big blind, raised with Ace of Clubs and 8 of Clubs. Rezaei called, and the flop revealed 9 of Spades, 7 of Diamonds, and 4 of Spades. Bonomo initiated a continuation bet of 300,000 into a pot totaling 480,000, with Rezaei calling, relying on his gutshot straight draw and one overcard. The turn brought the 7 of Clubs, pairing the board, prompting Bonomo to check. Rezaei wagered 325,000 into the burgeoning pot of 1,405,000, which Bonomo called, leaving him with slightly over one million chips while the pot ballooned to 1,730,000. The final card, a 5 of Diamonds, completed the board, and Bonomo checked again. Seizing the moment, Rezaei went all-in with nearly 2.8 million in chips, and after careful consideration, Bonomo called, staking his tournament life on an ace-high hand.
This colossal double-up propelled Justin Bonomo back into the lead, and from there, he sealed the victory, earning $333,000. His career earnings now stand at an impressive $64,439,800, leaving him just $844,456 behind the all-time money leader, Bryn Kenney.
Bonomo’s victory also awarded him 200 PokerGO Tour points, making it his second final-table appearance in the series, following his third-place finish in event no. 6, which earned him $114,000 and 114 PGT points. With this tournament win, he now occupies the seventh spot in the race for the Poker Masters Purple Jacket.
The event attracted 37 participants, creating a substantial $925,000 prize pool distributed among the top six finishers. The second and final day commenced with Bonomo leading the pack and six players remaining, as Isaac Haxton had been eliminated on day one, bursting the bubble.
Bonomo initiated the first elimination when he pushed all-in with a full house of fives and eights. Chino Rheem, a three-time World Poker Tour champion, answered the call with an A-2, holding a full house of deuces and fives. With three fives, an eight, and a deuce on the board, Rheem secured sixth place and a $46,250 prize. This marked his fourth final-table appearance of the series, having previously claimed victory in event no. 4 for $218,400 and securing fourth place in event no. 6, followed by another sixth-place finish in event no. 8. Rheem’s cumulative earnings for the series now amount to $434,640, accompanied by 386 PGT points, propelling him to second place in the series-long points race, trailing only two-time winner Vladas Tamasauskas as they head into the festival’s final event.
Next to exit was Orpen Kisacikoglu, the champion of event no. 6. He faced a substantial loss in his stack when his pocket aces clashed with Daniel Rezaei’s A-Q. Rezaei committed the majority of his chips preflop and subsequently called off the rest after hitting a Broadway gutshot on the flop. The river delivered his straight, doubling him into the third chip position. Kisacikoglu, left with slightly over eight big blinds, eventually went all-in with K-J suited, only to find himself in a challenging situation against Bonomo’s pocket kings. This time, the pocket pair held up, sending Kisacikoglu home in fifth place, with winnings of $74,000. He currently occupies the 10th spot in the series standings.
The subsequent two eliminations resulted from unfortunate preflop confrontations. First, Andrew Lichtenberger, a bracelet winner, went all-in with pocket jacks, pitted against Bonomo’s pocket queens. Lichtenberger failed to find any assistance from the board, concluding in fourth place and earning $101,750. This increased his total tournament earnings to over $16 million, securing him the fourth-place position in the race for the Purple Jacket, following his victory in event no. 5.
The second preflop confrontation unfolded in a battle of the blinds, with Bonomo raising from the small blind, armed with pocket kings, and Stephen Chidwick three-betting from the big blind, holding pocket queens. Chidwick promptly called when Bonomo initiated a four-bet shove. The ten-high board favored the larger pair, leading to Chidwick’s elimination in third place, accompanied by $148,000 in winnings. This significant victory raised Chidwick’s career earnings to $52.6 million, securing him the third position on the all-time money list. This marked his 20th final-table appearance of the year, with five titles and over $6.6 million in POY earnings. The two-time POY now occupies the sixth place in this year’s standings.
The heads-up showdown commenced with a flurry of action, as previously discussed. Rezaei secured a double-up in the initial hand, with pocket sixes besting Bonomo’s pocket fours. He repeated the feat with pocket sevens against Bonomo’s A-2, solidifying his chip advantage. After Bonomo’s heroic call, he managed to regain the chip lead, setting the stage for an intense battle lasting approximately another half-hour.
In the final hand, Bonomo cautiously limped on the button with A of Clubs and Q of Spades. Rezaei, in the big blind, checked, holding Q of Diamonds and 2 of Clubs. The flop unveiled K of Diamonds, 3 of Diamonds, and 2 of Diamonds. Rezaei checked with his pair and flush draw, and Bonomo opted for a check as well. The turn card, an A of Hearts, swung the lead back in Bonomo’s favor. Rezaei checked, and Bonomo bet 200,000 into the 240,000-pot. Rezaei called, and the river revealed Q of Clubs, granting both players two pairs. Rezaei checked with his queens and deuces, while Justin Bonomo went all-in with aces and queens. Rezaei called, only to be confronted with the grim reality of the hand. As the runner-up, he earned $222,000, marking the third-largest recorded payout of his career.
Final table Results:
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