Justin Bonomo poses with a stack of money after winning $25.4 million in the World Series of Poker.
Poker

Justin Bonomo Finishes 2018 with Unthinkable $25.4m in Poker Winnings

Justin Bonomo is all the way up after an awe-inspiring 2018 that saw the longtime poker pro rack up a staggering $25.4 million in tournament winnings.

It’s easily the most that any player has won in a single year and that’s saying something considering the millions of dollars that are regularly awarded to successful poker players on the international poker circuit.

To put things in perspective, fellow high-stakes poker pro Bryn Kenney was the biggest Sportsbook in 2017 with $8.5 million. Bonomo won over three times that amount. It’s especially impressive considering the extremely skilled talent pool that currently exists in the upper echelons of the poker world.

Bonomo wasn’t the only player to profit heavily from 2018. A total of five players cracked the $10-million mark, which is the first time that’s ever happened.

Belarusian poker prodigy Mikita Badziakouski had a particularly productive year with a stunning $14.5 million in winnings. High rollers Jason Koon, David Peters and Stephen Chidwick also recorded massive years.

Here’s a look at the top 10 biggest earners from 2018, according to poker database hendonmob.com:

Position Player Country Results
1st Justin Bonomo USA $25,428,935
2nd Mikita Badziakouski Belarus $14,563,871
3rd Jason Koon USA $12,478,538
4th David Peters USA $10,785,014
5th Stephen Chidwick UK $10,197,347
6th Jake Schindler USA $9,118,894
7th John Cynn USA $8,807,068
8th Isaac Haxton USA $8,194,991
9th Nick Petrangelo USA $6,956,868
10th Dan Smith USA $6,712,334

Rise of the High Roller Tournament

The poker industry on a whole received a nice bump in 2018 with the second-biggest WSOP Main Event ever in addition to a record-setting WPT event and an unprecedented online tournament in the partypoker Millions Online.

One of the biggest areas of growth for poker over the last five years, however, is the high roller tournament. It used to be rare that any casino offered a tournament where the buy-in exceeded $25,000 but these days they are incredibly common.

Major international tours like the EPT and WPT have added big buy-in events to their stops while high-profile venues in Vegas like Aria and Bellagio have added regularly scheduled high roller tournaments.

Take a glance at the tournaments where Bonomo found success this year and you’ll get an idea about the proliferation of high-stakes poker tournaments.

Here’s a look at the highlights from Bonomo’s incredible record-setting run that started way back in the first week of 2018:

Date Tournament Result Prize
6-Jan-18 $100K PCA High Super High Roller 2nd $1,077,800.00
12-Jan-18 $25K PCA High Roller 4th $310,000.00
22-Jan-18 $50K Lucky Hearts Super High Roller 3rd $197,200.00
22-Jan-18 $25K Lucky Hearts High Roller 1st $556,873.00
20-Mar-18 HK$2 Million Super High Roller Bowl Macau 1st $4,823,077.00
26-Apr-18 €100K No Limit Hold'em EPT Monte Carlo Super High Roller 5th $488,953.00
29-Apr-18 €50K EPT Monte Carlo High Roller 4th $276,776.00
1-May-18 €25K EPT Monte Carlo High Roller 1st $457,356.00
3-May-18 €25K EPT Monte Carlo Single-Entry High Roller 1st $311,268.00
27-May-18 $300K Super High Roller Bowl 1st $5,000,000.00
31-May-18 $25K Aria High Roller 1st $350,000.00
6-Jun-18 $25K Aria High Roller 1st $310,500.00
6-Jun-18 $10K WSOP Heads-Up Championship 1st $185,965.00
15-Jul-18 $1m WSOP Big One for One Drop 1st $10,000,000.00

Bonomo Surpasses Negreanu with $43m in Earnings

Bonomo’s incredible year was enough to elevate him to the top of the all-time charts, finally surpassing Daniel Negreanu, who held the title for several years.

Negreanu (who still recorded $4.5 million in 2018 earnings) now sits in second place with $39.8 million but will have to make up several million if he wants to catch Bonomo.

Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel and Antonio Esfandiari have all held the No. 1 spot at various points over their careers.

It’s difficult to contextualize just how successful Bonomo was this year. Perhaps the closest parallel is Dan Colman’s amazing $22.3 million-winning run in 2014. Colman got a significant boost that year, however, by winning the Big One for One Drop for $15 million.

Bonomo won the same tournament this year but for a slightly smaller $10 million. Bonomo had over 20 final tables in 2018 alone.

Another good parallel is German wunderkind Fedor Holz’ exceptional run in 2016 that saw him rake in a total of $16 million. The most amazing thing about Holz’ run was that he didn’t start playing live tournaments seriously until around 2014.

Here’s an updated look at the top 10 biggest all-time earners according to hendonmob.com:

Position Player Country Total Results
1st Justin Bonomo United States $43,463,091
2nd Daniel Negreanu Canada $39,830,195
3rd Erik Seidel United States $34,601,319
4th Fedor Holz Germany $32,556,379
5th David Peters United States $29,565,923
6th Daniel Colman United States $28,925,059
7th Antonio Esfandiari United States $27,710,941
8th Steve O'Dwyer United States $26,710,755
9th Phil Ivey United States $26,267,283
10th Dan Smith United States $25,972,250

Foxen, Schindler Win 2018 Player of the Year

Overall cash earned isn’t the sole indicator of success on the international poker circuit and various media outlets have their own metrics for determining player of the year including field size, buy-in and consistency.

Interestingly, Bonomo didn’t finish No. 1 on the two most popular Player of the Year contests.

The Global Poker Index’s 2018 Player of the Year Award went to American Alex Foxen, who cashed 24 times, including 18 top-10 finishes, to earn a total of $6.6 million.

Foxen’s poker efforts around the world helped give him a chart-topping 4,095 GPI points, which was enough to narrowly put him in front of David Peters and Stephen Chidwick. Bonomo was 39th according to the GPI POY.

Meanwhile, CardPlayer Magazine, which uses a different POY system, awarded POY honors to Pennsylvania native Jake Schindler.

Schindler made 37 cashes in 2018, including a record 31 final tables, to earn a total of $8.7 million. For comparison, Schindler finished fifth using the GPI’s system.

Finally, MTT grinding legend Shaun Deeb took home the 2018 WSOP POY with two bracelet victories, 20 cashes, four final tables and $2.53 million in earnings.