William Tonking, 27, hails from Flemington, New Jersey, one of three states that currently offer legalized online poker. It is there that Tonking plays on PartyPoker, Borgata, and WSOP.com under the screennames “amazin_mets” and “WillTonk21”; in fact, just prior to the 2014 World Series of Poker Tonking notched a $50K score on WSOP.com.
“I was never much of a tournament player. This is only the third one that I’ve played this year. I’m more of a cash game player,” Tonking explained. “I play online on the New Jersey sites. I play live some. I play in a $10/$25 game at Sam’s in Bethlehem, some at Borgata, and I play some of the Borgata Open Series and the WSOP, but other than that I’ve never been much of a tournament player. That’s why there’s not much out there on me.”
Tonking’s poker career began in the mid-2000s while he was still attending Hunterdon Central Regional High School, and he progressed to online poker while studying economics at the University of South Carolina. When Black Friday struck in 2011, Tonking was forced to find action elsewhere, most notably in regional casinos.
In December 2012, Tonking notched his largest career score (not including his 2014 WSOP Main Event run), which was a fifth-place finish in the Sands Bethlehem Deepstack Extravaganza $2,500 Main Event for $28,000. Other cashes that grace his poker résumé include 56th in a 2010 WSOP $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em event or $6,571; seventh in the 2010 Borgata Poker Open $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em for $11,330; 33rd in the WSOP Circuit Atlantic City $1,675 Main Event for $4,188; and 77th in the 2014 WSOP Event #58 $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em for $3,924.
Tonking, who was one of four Americans in the 2014 WSOP November Nine, took a long and arduous road to that year's final table as he was one of only two players (the other being Jorryt van Hoof) to not finish even one day in the top ten chips counts, minus the final day of course.
Tonking’s road to the November Nine began on Day 1C where he worked his starting stack of 30,000 up to 45,275, which put him 1,010 out of the advancing 2,572 players. On Day 2, Tonking more than tripled that to 158,200, which put him 376 of 1,864.
Tonking, who is a fan of the Mets, Cowboys, and Knicks, made little progress on Day 3, where he finished with 179,000 (453 of 746), but Day 4 was kind to him as he bagged a healthy 740,000 (101 of 291). Day 5 saw Tonking bag 1.295 million (58 of 79), which put him in the bottom 20 in chips heading into Day 6. Fortunately for him, he was able to gain some momentum and finish the final 27 with 5.87 million, putting him 13th in chips.
On Day 7, Tonking navigated his way to the unofficial final table of ten, and was one player away from making the November Nine. That is when he put his tournament life on the line. It happened in Level 34 (150,000/300,000/50,000) on just the sixth hand of ten-handed play when Martin Jacobson limped from under the gun and Tonking who completed from the small blind. Dan Sindelar checked from the big blind and the three saw a flop of . Tonking checked, Sindelar fired 500,000, and Jacobson came over the top with a raise to 1.75 million. Tonking announced a check-raise all in for 4.675 million, Sindelar folded, and Jacobson called.
Tonking led with a flopped straight but Jacobson was drawing live with four to a club flush and a nine for a chop. The fell on the turn, keeping Tonking ahead with his straight, and the drilled the river, allowing Tonking's straight to hold and scoring him the double up to 11.25 million in chips.
"The whole time during it, I was trying to think about not being in this moment and playing poker. I kept on making myself refer back to the scene in 'Hoosiers' when Gene Hackman took them into the big stadium, the small-town team, put the tape measure up to the rim and down to the floor and said, 'Still 10 feet, gentlemen,’ Tonking told ESPN’s Andrew Feldman after making the November Nine.
When the final table reconvened four months later, Tonking got off to a quick start, which included eliminating Mark Newhouse in ninth place. Tonking quickly vaulted up the chip counts, but eventually his heater wore off and he was dispatched in fourth place for $2,848,833.