LAS VEGAS -- As the poker world converges on Las Vegas for two months of poker tournaments, with the World Series of Poker at the center, a handful of poker players manage to put together a spectacular summer of results every year.
That season winds toward a close on Tuesday as the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop wraps up on Tuesday at the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino -- and Justin Bonomo sits in the catbird seat with six players left.
A lot of attention has rightfully been heaped upon the likes of Shaun Deeb, with his pair of WSOP bracelet wins and his strong hold on the 2018 POY race, and Joe Cada for his two bracelet wins and monumental run to fifth place in the WSOP main event. But in that time, the biggest story from the start of the summer, Bonomo's, has hovered slightly off the radar in recent weeks because of everything else going on in the meantime.
That will certainly change Tuesday, though, if he's able to carry his chip stack into winning $10 million -- the biggest individual WSOP prize of the summer -- on Tuesday.
It's already been an incredible year for Bonomo, who has already rattled off more than a dozen significant High Roller results in 2018 including a $4.8 million win in the Super High Roller Bowl China in March and a $5 million win to kick off the summer in the Super High Roller Bowl in late May. All told, he came into this tournament with just shy of $15 million in tournament cashes. Bonomo also added his second career WSOP bracelet in the $10,000 no-limit hold 'em heads-up championship just over a week later.
"I've been on the streak of a lifetime," said Bonomo. "I've obviously never expected anything like this. I mean, I think I'm a great player, but what I've done is above and beyond what I've ever expected or think I even deserve, to be honest. From the most part, I'm just trying to focus on the next day -- tomorrow's a big day -- so I'm not going to think about the accolades or the accomplishments. All I'm going to think about is how to maximize my expectation tomorrow."
The chance at a $10 million payday in the Big One for One Drop offers another accolade that hangs in the balance should Bonomo win.
"The financial considerations are definitely first, and that's why I play poker," said Bonomo. "One thing that I have been thinking about is the all-time money leader list, and it'd be pretty sweet if I passed Negreanu. I was actually thinking at the start of the tournament, 'I hope Negreanu doesn't win, because that'll set me back about five years in passing him.' And now I have a really good shot at passing him."
With 48.9 million in chips, Bonomo holds more than twice as many chips as second place. The other five players represent a mix of high roller regulars and some familiar faces from Big One for One Drop final tables past. Fedor Holz (22.1 million) and Dan Smith (21.4 million) are bunched together in second and third, while 2014 Big One for One Drop fourth place finisher Rick Salomon (19.6 million) sits just behind.
2012 Big One for One Drop third-place finisher David Einhorn (12.3 million) and Byron Kaverman (10.5 million) -- the latter being one of three players to register at the last moment Tuesday morning before Day 2 of the tournament began -- are the two players most at risk of going home empty-handed.
The Big One for One Drop drew 27 total players, each of whom put up a $1 million buy-in to battle it out. The tournament buy-ins directly benefit the One Drop Foundation's global efforts for clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. There's no rake taken from the tournament. Instead, $80,000 from each buy-in is set aside as a donation to the foundation.
Rounding out the action from the 2018 World Series of Poker, Joe Cada pulled off a remarkable feat early Monday morning by winning the $1,500 "Closer" event -- a tournament with three starting days and unlimited re-entries well into each day. After busting out of the main event in fifth place following a massive coin flip hand, after nine grueling days of poker, Cada immediately returned to action the following day. He fought his way through a field with 3,120 entries and, after a dominating final table performance, claimed his second WSOP gold bracelet of the summer and fourth overall. He also added another $612,886 payday to his tally for 2018.
With a staggering 17 cashes, two bracelet wins in a pair of marquee WSOP events and a third final table appearance to boot, Shaun Deeb carries the 2018 WSOP POY lead out of Las Vegas. Though events at WSOP Europe will count toward the race, Deeb would have to be considered a heavy favorite to win this year's recognition.