The game of poker has been around for centuries and it boasts a history full of remarkable players and stories. The core of competitive poker was established in the late 1970s with the creation of the World Series Of Poker (WSOP), the tournament that helped to revolutionize poker into the game it has become today. In the last fifty years, , the WSOP has continued to generate waves in the poker scene and some of its most successful participants have become renowned by fellow players and fans alike. These legends stand above the rest of the field, etching their names into the game’s annals for their achievements in poker’s most prestigious events. Today, we will cover one such player: Justin Bonomo, who, as of the time of writing, has the highest recorded winnings from live tournament poker.

Player Overview

Justin Bonomo is an American professional poker player, who is currently the all-time highest-earning player from live poker tournaments, with over $58 million in winnings. Beyond his impressive tournament poker earnings, he has 3 WSOP bracelets and one WSOP circuit ring. He also holds the claim as the youngest player featured at a televised final table, when he finished 4th at the European Poker Tour Deauville, France at age 19. 

Early Life

Justin Bonomo was born on September 30, 1985 in Fairfax, Virginia. Before poker, he played Magic: The Gathering (MTG), starting when he was nine. By the age of 12, he was playing in tournaments with prize pools as large as $250,000. He became aware that many players had also diverged into online poker, often making more from it than Magic. After a tournament in California, he decided to watch the World Poker Tour on television. He immediately became enthralled, buying several popular poker books to study the game. This new found knowledge further ignited his interest in the intrigue surrounding poker and he began to play online at 16. His dedication paid off, eventually building up a poker bankroll of $10,000, truly kicking off his career.

Early Career Blunder: The Multi-account controversy

In 2006, Bonomo won an online poker tournament at partypoker, collecting a huge six-figure prize. However, he was quickly exposed for cheating, having joined the same tournament using six different accounts. This was during the early ‘wild west’ era of internet poker. This resulted in a ban, not just from PartyPoker, but also other online poker rooms. This heavily tainted his reputation in the online poker community and he never regained the trust of some players. Nevertheless, he continued playing poker and eventually moved on from this controversy to establish himself as one of the best players. 

Poker Career Timeline

2007: This year marked Bonomo’s World Series of Poker debut. Cashing in three events, he placed fourth in the $2,000 No Limit Hold’em event, earning $150,000, his biggest win at the time. He cashed in twice more at the WSOP that year.

2009: He cashed in six times, making it to the final table of the $40,000 No Limit Hold’em Anniversary event, earning over $400,000

2011: Justin cashed in four times, including finishing second in the $2,500 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw event, earning $117,305. This was his third runner-up finish, leading him to lament how he was “Always a bride’s maid, never a bride.”

2012: He cashed in five times at the WSOP and once at the WSOP Europe Main Event. That year, he was able to finally break his string of runner up finishes when he won the €100,000 EPT No Limit Hold’em – Super High Roller 8 Max for €1.64 Million.

2014: Bonomo won his first WSOP bracelet and $449,980 in the $1,500 No Limit Hold’em 6-Handed.

2017: He claimed victory in two WPT $25,000 No Limit Hold’em events at the Bellagio, earning over $450,000.

2018: This was Bonomo’s golden year. He won over $25 million just from poker tournaments. He finished in the money at tournaments an incredible 28 times, including 10 first-place finishes. His two most notable wins that year were in the $300,000 No Limit Hold’em Super High Roller Bowl and $1,000,000 No Limit Hold’em The Big One for One Drop. Both earned him a WSOP bracelet and ludicrous amounts of cash, $5 million for the Super High Roller Bowl and $10 million from The Big One for One Drop. In a six month span, he skyrocketed from 14th to 1st on the all-time money list, overtaking Daniel Negreanu for the top spot. He was surpassed in August 2019 before claiming it back in July 2022.