Justin Bonomo vs Fedor Holz

Justin Bonomo, Fedor Holz Agreed to Heads-Up Chop in WSOP Big One for One Drop

Justin Bonomo is having what one might call a pretty good year. The 32-year-old poker pro is simply crushing souls in live high-roller tournaments, having accumulated nearly (*cleans glasses*) $25 million in live poker tournament winnings in 2018. That’s seven months, so far. Thanks to his existence on another plane of reality, Bonomo has also become the all-time live tournament money leader with almost $43 million. As most people reading this site probably know, a healthy chunk of his winnings this year came from his victory in the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop at the 2018 World Series of Poker, an event for which the first prize was $10 million. In a recent Twitter post, Bonomo revealed that he and runner-up Fedor Holz agreed to a chop before their heads-up battle.

Bonomo felt compelled to let the world know about the deal because he attracted “hundreds” of backers on YouStake and felt it was easier to just make a public post about it rather than try to contact everyone individually.

“Fedor and I chopped half of the prize pool when we got HU (heads up) and played for the other half,” he wrote. My final share was $8,751,111. I discussed how this would work with Scott from YouStake before the FT and he said I should wait until I get paid before announcing it. I messaged him privately as soon as the deal was struck so that everything would be transparent.”

Math Time!

That explanation is a little confusing, so let’s clarify how they arrived at that $8,751,111 figure for first place.

As mentioned, first prize was $10 million. Combined with the $6 million second prize, that meant there was $16 million in the prize pool heads-up (I was a mathlete in high school). Both players had already guaranteed themselves $6 million, since they worst they could do was second place, so they subtracted that from the total, leaving $4 million. It was half of that $4 million that they chopped based on heads-up chip counts, leaving $2 million on the table for which to play.

Holz had the chip lead entering heads-up play, 84.3 million to 50.7 million. That’s approximately 62.44 percent of the chips in play versus 37.56 percent for Bonomo. Thus, applying those percentages to the $2 million that they chopped meant that Bonomo received $751,111 and Holz got $1,248,889.

So, Bonomo was awarded $6 million as guaranteed second-place money, $751,111 as his portion of the chop, and $2 million for winning the tournament, bringing his actual prize money to $8,751,111, just as he said in his tweet.

Does your brain hurt yet?

Bonomo also posted a photo of the $75,000 he donated to the One Drop charity, which he said consisted of the “entirety of the markup” he charged his YouStake backers (thus he did not personally profit from markup) plus an additional donation.

Poker Community Reacts

Most people, be they backers or not, responded positively to Bonomo’s transparency, though a few took issue with the chop. They felt that since they were investing in him, expecting to receive a portion of his $10 million first prize if he won, it was dishonest of him to chop without warning people in advance that he might, resulting in backers not getting as large a return on their investment as they thought they were going to get.

The responses to these complaints, correctly, were to ask the whiners if they would have been upset if Bonomo had finished second, thus winning more than he would have without a chop.

Going back to the math, Holz received $7,248,889 for second place because of the chop, when he would have “only” received $6 million had the two men not agreed upon their deal. If he had backers (which he probably did), they were likely quite happy with how that turned out.

Some backers respondent to the complaints by noting that they invested in Bonomo because of his decision making at the table, and making the decision on a chop is part of that. They trusted his judgment and were rightly pleased with how things turned out.

Justin Bonomo told ESPN that because the buy-in was so expensive, he “was not able to put up anywhere close to even half the money” himself. But that was part of the fun for him.

“It honestly made this even more special,” he added. “I get to share this win with literally hundreds of people, because I sold action on the internet, as well. Also, some of my closest friends in the world who helped me prepare for this tournament [had pieces], and I’m so happy to give back to them.”

According to the page for Bonomo’s Big One for One Drop campaign, he had 235 backers via YouStake, amounting to 9 percent of his buy-in. Those 235 people received a total of $787,599.99 for his win, a collective profit of $697,599.99.

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