Justin Bonomo finally wins his elusive first bracelet

wsop 2014Justin Bonomo has had, for a while now, the reputation of being one of the better poker players out there who had never won a WSOP, EPT or WPT title. He’s had some big cashes and plenty of final tables, but as of yesterday morning, he’d always come up just short whenever a bracelet was on the line, including a second-place finish just last week in the $10,000 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw. That’s now changed, as he took down WSOP Event #11, a $1500 buy-in 6-max event.

Luck cuts both ways for Sowers

Bonomo’s heads-up opponent was Mike Sowers, another strong player. Sowers had come into the final table with the chip lead and was responsible for knocking out most of the other competitors. One of these was Niel Mittelman, who no doubt hates the universe right now, after Sowers spiked a one-outer on the river to bust him.

Karmic balance was restored, however, when Bonomo put an almost equally bad beat on him. Coming in at a serious chip disadvantage, Bonomo chopped patiently away at Sowers, who seemed to be waiting for the blinds to get bigger before playing back too much. Soon, Bonomo drew level, and it was just at that moment that the fateful hand occurred.

Sowers raised with J2 suited and Bonomo called with A5 off. The flop came J32 to give Sowers two pair and Bonomo a gutshot. Bonomo called Sowers bets both on the flop and on the blank turn, possibly believing that his A-high was good, when in fact he was drawing very thin. Inevitably, the river was Bonomo’s dream card, a 4 for the wheel, and Sowers went all-in. Bonomo snap called, of course, and that should have been the end of the tournament.

The epic comeback that wasn’t

The chips were counted and it turned out that Sowers had been just barely ahead of Bonomo. He was left with 25,000 chips to over 7 million for Bonomo, a 284-to-1 stack ratio. The two had a good laugh about playing out what seemed to be a mere formality at that point, but Sowers won the first race to double up, and then he did it again. And again. And again.

Both men grew serious and Bonomo began to look worried as Sowers’ stack grew, eventually to the point that they were playing post-flop poker again. Sowers hit a gutshot of his own to get back above 1 million chips and into serious contention for what would probably be the greatest comeback in WSOP history.

Except that it wasn’t. In luck’s final twist, Bonomo flopped a flush, and Sowers semibluffed all-in with a draw to a higher flush. This time, the deck did not come through for him, and Bonomo, to his immense relief, had finally broken the curse and taken home his first WSOP gold bracelet.

Alex Weldon is a game designer by day and poker tournament wizard by night. You can read more from Alex at www.benefactum.ca and follow him on Twitter at @benefactumgames

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