Justin “ZeeJustin” Bonomo came from behind to defeat a stacked field at this year’s World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, taking down his first major live tournament. With a final field that included Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, Men “The Master” Nguyen and WSOP bracelet holders Matt Graham and Robert Cheung, Day 3 guaranteed plenty of big-time action as the final 16 players returned to play down to a champion. In the end, it was Bonomo versus Mizrachi in an epic heads-up battle that lasted four hours and saw the two combatants trade the chip lead countless times before ZeeJustin finally emerged victorious.
Michael Mizrachi started Day 3 with the chip lead, and kicked off the action doing what chip leaders are supposed to do: eliminate opponents. He claimed his first victim in Matt LaGarde, who moved all in over the top of Mizrachi’s opening raise with . Mizrachi thought for a moment before making the call, but eventually slid his chips across the line and tabled . Mizrachi flopped top pair on a board of , but LaGarde could still catch any ace or ten to stay alive. The on the turn was no help, and when the river brought the , LaGarde picked up $15,697 for his 16th-place finish.
Justin Bonomo got into the elimination game in a big way, knocking out Ian Woodley (15th, $17,939) and Jeff Sluzinski (14th, $17,939) in quick succession. His run continued when he took out Matt Brady in 13th place ($17,939), holding pocket tens to Brady’s pocket sevens. Day 1 chip leader Jeremiah DeGreef then took out Manuel Adel in 12th place ($20,181) and Nashaat “Tony” Antonious busted Robert Cheung in 11th place ($20,181) to set up single-table play.
The last ten players gathered round a single table to play for one last elimination before moving on to the official final table. They didn’t have to wait long, as a short-stacked Bert Fujisaki shipped his last few chips in preflop with . Jack Schanbacher snap-called with , and Fujisaki failed to catch a miracle board to come from behind. He picked up $20,181 for his tenth-place finish and the final table formally kicked off.
With almost a dozen Circuit championship rings scattered among the final table players, not to mention a fistful of WSOP bracelets and countless other victories, this final table had one of the toughest lineups in Circuit history. Evgeny Serebryakov was the first to exit the final table when his squeeze play didn’t work out as planned and he busted in ninth place ($24,666). Serebryakov moved all in over the top of both Matt Graham’s preflop raise and Justin Bonomo’s flat-call holding absolute air: . Graham obediently got out of the way, but Bonomo made the call with . The board missed both players completely, and Bonomo’s king-high was enough to send Serebryakov home.
Just moments after Serebryakov’s elimination, Nashaat “Tony” Antonious lost a race for his tournament life against Jack Schanbacher. After a series of raises and reraises preflop, all the money ended up in the middle with Antonious’ chasing Schanbacher’s pocket jacks. The board came down , and Antonious was done in eighth place, good for $29,151. Schanbacher himself was the next to fall, after he moved all in preflop with and found a caller in Justin Bonomo with . Bonomo’s kings held up, and Schanbacher picked up $35,878 for seventh place.
Dwyte Pilgrim came into the final table looking for back-to-back Circuit championships after his recent victory in Rincon, but he fell short in sixth place ($44,848). His elimination came in yet another race of pocket jacks against A-K, when Pilgrim moved in with Big Slick and got action from Justin Bonomo, whose jacks held on a board of . That hand locked Bonomo into a solid chip lead over his nearest competitor, Michael Mizrachi.
Mizrachi then made a charge towards the chip lead by taking out both Matt Graham and Jeremiah DeGreef in short order. Graham went down with to Mizrachi’s on the board of , picking up $56,059 for fifth place. Moments later, Mizrachi’s was enough to bust Jeremiah DeGreef in fourth place ($71,756). DeGreef moved all in preflop with , Mizrachi called, and the board came down . Mizrachi’s ace-high was better than DeGreef’s king-high, and with that it was down to three players remaining.
Next to fall, Men “The Master” Nguyen fell two spots short of padding his record for WSOP Circuit championships. Nguyen came into the final table with four gold rings, and his third-place finish was not quite enough to grab another. For the third hand in a row, a player moved all in, and for the third hand in a row, a player went to the rail. Nguyen got it all in preflop with to Justin Bonomo’s . Nothing out of the ordinary happened on the board of , and Nguyen was done in third place ($91,937).
After the lightning-fast eliminations leading up to heads-up play, Justin Bonomo and Michael Mizrachi put the brakes on once the prize money was on the table. In a remarkable heads-up match that lasted almost four hours, the two pros traded chip leads and double-ups time and again – but finally Bonomo grabbed an edge that Mizrachi couldn’t overcome. After hours of seesawing back and forth, Mizrachi found himself in dangerous chip territory and moved all in preflop with . Bonomo made the easy call with a huge stack and .
The flop was no good for Mizrachi as it came down , but he did pick up a gutshot draw on the turn. The river was the , though, and Mizrachi was eliminated in second place ($143,512). Justin Bonomo picked up $237,692, a WSOP Main Event seat, and the gold championship ring for his first major live poker
title. For a young man whose name once was synonymous with online poker dominance, then linked to a potentially career-ending scandal, this victory proved once and for all that it only takes one ZeeJustin to dominate a field and grab the brass, or in this case gold, ring.
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