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Justin Bonomo

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Like several of his fellow professionals, including Bryn Kenney, Justin Bonomo graduated to poker from ‘Magic: The Gathering’ at any early age. He frequently played poker online in his teenage years, but first came to worldwide attention when, in 2005, age the age of 19 – that is, still not of legal age to play live poker tournaments in the United States – he finished fourth in the European Poker Tour (EPT) French Open in Deauville, making him the youngest player to make the final table in a televised poker tournament.

Bonomo won his first of his three World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets in 2014, but his second and third in 2018, a year in which he won nine tournaments and over $25 million in prize money. Highlights of his ‘annus mirabilis’ included a Super High Roller Bowl China event at the Babylon Casino in Macau, worth HK$37.8 million, or $4.8 million, to the winner and, of course, the WSOP Big One for One Drop event at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas, worth a staggering $10 million. Bonomo has definitely benefited from the rapid increase in the number of ‘high roller’ poker tournaments in the last decade but, even so, his unprecedented winning streak in 2018 took him to the top of the all-time money list, ahead of Daniel Negreanu, with just over $45 million in live earnings alone.

Formerly a frequent and successful online poker player, under the moniker ‘ZeeJustin’, Bonomo has courted his fair share of controversy over the years and was, in fact, banned by PartyPoker for operating multiple accounts at the same time. However, in recent years Virginia-born Bonomo, 33, has focussed solely on live poker tournaments and, if 2018 and the early part of 2019 are anything to go by, appears to have made a wise decision.

 

John Juanda

john-juandaJohnson Juanda, usually known as ‘John’ or by his nicknames, ‘J.J.’ or ‘Luckbox’, was born in Indonesia, but has resided in the United States since 1990 and is currently based in Marina del Rey, California. He currently lies fourteenth in the all-time money list, with $25.2 million in total live earnings.

Since turning professional in 1997, Juanda has won five World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelets in poker variants including Texas hold’em, Omaha hold’em, stud and draw lowball, a European Poker Tour (EPT) title and numerous other tournaments worldwide. Indeed, he won his last tournament, a Triton Poker Super High Roller Series event in Budva, Montenegro – for which he collected HK$4,720,000, or $601,358 – as recently as May, 2019. His biggest payout, though, came in another event in the same series in Macau in 2017, when he claimed the first prize of HK$22,410,400, or $2,870,092, by defeating Fedor Holz heads-up.

Juanda, who turned 48 in July, 2019, has a reputation as a conservative, low-profile player and a man of few words; in fact, he is known, in some quarters, as the ‘Silent Assassin’. Nevertheless, he is one of the most successful and consistent players, online and live, of the last twenty years or so and was, quite rightly, inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in Las Vegas in 2015. Fellow professional Daniel ‘Kid Poker’ Negreanu, who introduced Juanda at the Hall of Fame ceremony at Binion’s, once called him ‘the most underrated and neglected superstar’ in poker.

Quoclong Pham Wins Big

paigow-pokerIt would be fair to say that the relatively sedate game of Pai Gow Poker, a.k.a. Double Hand Poker, rarely attracts headlines. However, so-called Face Up Pai Gow Poker, which is played with a fully-exposed dealer hand, did so at Harrah’s Las Vegas Casino & Hotel in November, 2021.

Professional player Quoclong Pham, from Vancouver, Washington, was visiting Sin City for business and pleasure and, early in his gambling session, turned up the third highest possible hand in the game. His combined seven-card straight flush – that is, seven consecutive cards of the same suit, one of which was substituted with a ‘semi wild’ joker, as allowed by the rules of the game – was sufficient to win the ‘Mega Progressive Jackpot’ of $1,393,273. Fortunately, Pham was shrewd enough to invest an additional $5 on a side bet that allowed him to qualify for the Mega Progressive Jackpot.

The newly-made millionaire reportedly had no extravagant plans for spending his winnings and intended to put the money away for a rainy day. Understandably non-plussed by the whole affair, Pham said, ‘It’s just surreal. It’ll hit me tomorrow once it hits the account.’

Coincidentally, Pham was not the only lucky gambler to become an instant millionaire. Earlier the same day, at Circa Resort & Casino in Downtown Las Vegas, ‘Nikki’, from Southern California, won a progressive jackpot worth $1,075,234 jackpot on a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ slot machine.