As a former athlete who gets his competitive juices flowing nowadays with poker, Tomas Jozonis fits in neatly with thousands of others who enjoy the game. Where he stands out from the crowd is his sport of choice.
After all, you can hardly walk through a poker room without finding a basketball, soccer or football player who turned to poker when their athletic dreams ended or were put on hold by injury. A beach volleyball player, though, is a little more rare.
But setting and spiking in the sand is Jozonis' jam, and he once aspired to be one of the best in his home country of Lithuania. In a June 2016 interview with PocketFives, he said that while he hadn't yet reached the top level of beach volleyball, he planned to try to get there within two years.
Two years later, however, he bagged a massive chip lead on Day 4 of PokerStars and Monte-Carlo©Casino EPT €5,300 EPT Main Event with 16 players remaining. What happened in the interim to his beach volleyball dreams?
PokerNews caught up with Jozonis at the close of Day 4, and he confirmed his days as an aspiring beach volleyball pro are finished. While he still plays recreationally, a knee injury from which he never quite recovered put an end to his efforts to climb the volleyball ranks.
"I was trying to get into the Lithuanian professional league," he said. "But, I think I started too late to get into the top level. I had the knee injury, then I had problems after the injury and had another surgery. I didn't rehabilitate well.
"I still had a great experience and I love the sport."
Instead Jozonis appears to be all in on poker for the time being, although he allowed it might only be for a few more years. He's certainly doing what he can to build up a nice financial nest for himself, putting in the volume both live and online.
Jozonis might not be a familiar name to most poker fans, but he's been racking up winnings for years online as "dartazzzz" on PokerStars. He currently counts more than $3 million in online cashes and grinds hard enough to currently be ranked 31st in the world on PocketFives' leaderboard, and first in Lithuania.
Live, he's venturing out more onto the international circuit over the past few years. He finished 66th in this very event in 2016, followed the EPT that fall and winter and then had his biggest score in January 2017 when he made the trip to Aussie Millions. There, he fired in the $25K Challenge and got ninth for $72,545.
It remains his best cash to date.
He finished the year, his heaviest on the live grind, with $231,000 in cashes. Overall he's cashed for $400,000, but that number could go way up with a win here in the Main Event, which is set to pay out €712,000 to the winner.
Jozonis has certainly put himself in prime position after his tremendous Day 4 showing. He flopped no less than three sets that he showed down, the first two earning him massive pots against ace-kings that had hit top pair, while the third came all in preflop with eights against ace-five.
"I got some coolers," he allowed. "It was really crazy."
He said he planned to watch a replay of the live stream and go over some hands on his computer to prepare for Day 5. Heading into the first break, he appears to be treading water so far as his stack hasn't budged much from his start-of-day lead, meaning the pack is inching closer as opponents hit the rail.
With such an a stacked final 16, Jozonis said table draw would be crucial for Day 5. Part of what allowed him to stack up so quickly on Day 4, he said, was an early table break that saw him grab one of the prime seats where he could open up and start playing more hands.
The Day 5 draw provided a mix of good fortune and challenges. Sitting with Adrian Mateos is going to be a massive obstacle no matter what, but Jozonis was at least fortunate enough to draw the seat on the Spanish crusher's left. Patrik Antonius, however, got the spot on Jozonis' own left and caught an early heater, so Jozonis will have to be on his toes and ready to tangle with the experienced nosebleed-stakes legend.
No matter what happens, look for Jozonis to make an appearance at the WSOP "in the middle of June." Summer for most poker players means maximizing their ROI at all costs with a full summer's grind, but for the Lithuanian, it means something else entirely.
It'll be volleyball season again, and he'll be back on the beach.