Run It Once Elite Q&A: Justin Bonomo on study, nerves at the poker table and more

Mo Afdhal
Posted on: February 13, 2024 04:46 PST

It's not easy to quantify the value of poker training site subscriptions. There are a number of ways to look at each site's benefits, which makes it hard to pinpoint just how much a membership is worth. But there's one metric that perhaps stands above the rest – career winnings – and the team of Elite level coaches at Run It Once boasts combined winnings of $494 million.

JustinBonomo, number two on the Hendon Mob all-time money list, accounts for over $63 million of those winnings, and Run It Once Elite members have unparalleled access to his wealth of poker knowledge. Earlier this week, Bonomo fielded questions from Elite members in an hour-long online Q&A session – one of the regular features on the site.

PokerOrg was lucky enough to sit in on the session, and you can find selected highlights below.

Justin Bonomo playing at the 2023 WSOP Jamie Thomson

You're currently neck and neck with Bryn Kenney on the all-time money list – how important is holding that title to you?

JustinBonomo: It impacts the tournaments that I play a little bit, honestly. If it was someone like Stevie [Stephen Chidwick] ahead of me, who was just absolutely playing everything, I would just give up and not even go for it. Since Bryn's not even really playing, I kind of feel like it's just too easy, low-hanging fruit to not go for it. But if someone like Stevie does pass me, then I'll have no problem saying, you know, I'll never be number one again, and that's okay with me.

Is there a dollar amount that, if you achieve it, you would scale back your poker playing or even eliminate it altogether? As a follow-up, how long do you see yourself in poker?

JB: I'm kind of there already. In 2019 and 2020, I actually took a bunch of time off because I was kind of burnt out. Then obviously, COVID affected things too. My basic M.O. over the years has been to play until I don't feel like playing. And usually, after taking a couple of months off, I'm dying to get back in there. I've played a ton over the past four months, and I'm really feeling the burnout. So, I might not play at all for the next month. I might skip [Triton] Jeju. You know, I need my rest.

In terms of the long term, for one, I don't think poker will be a sustainable way of making a living ten years from now. I think all the AI and botting stuff we see online is going to transfer to real-life play. I haven't really been following the Neuralink stuff in the news, but we're going to get to the point where we are attached to our phones, not just because it's in our pocket, but because it's literally in our brain.

And I don't think poker, in its current form at least, will survive past that point.

And one of the things that I have on my radar is that I'm 38 years old, and you need to be 40 to make the Poker Hall of Fame. I really would like to be included in that before I retire, but I definitely am kind of looking – not only long-term, but short- and medium-term – at lowering my hours and kind of stepping back a little bit.

I don't think there will ever be one clear point where it's like, 'Okay, now is the point I'm never playing.'

Justin Bonomo Joe Giron/

When you feel as if your opponents are seeing right through you due to anxiety, what adjustments can you make to your game?

JB: That's not something I personally experience too often. Okay, so I'm 19 years old, I make the final table of EPT Deauville and this is my first big result, so I'm super nervous.

This is actually when I became the youngest teenager ever to be on TV for poker. And I was incredibly nervous going into that final table. And I asked a player who was maybe ten years older than me, 'Man, I'm really nervous. Are you nervous too?' And he said, 'Yeah, of course.' And he obviously was incredibly nervous. For whatever reason, just seeing that he was more nervous than me somehow made me incredibly calm. And because of that, I just wasn't nervous at that table at all.

There are lots of different ways you can help with your nerves. Meditating will likely help out a lot. Just fixing anything that's kind of awry in your life in general, whether it's a problem you have with your landlord, or your girlfriend, or whatever.

Becoming more confident in your poker player play, just studying more. Yeah, there are mental game coaches out there – you might want to seek out one of them or read one of their books.

Justin Bonomo Jamie Thomson

How much of your game is just trying to play Nash as best as you can versus individual pool and player exploits?

JB: So, the better my opponent is, the more I'm kind of playing against Nash. The guys who are pretty unexploitable, like Ike Haxton, Nick Petrangelo, Jason Koon – there are very few holes in their game that I'm trying to take advantage of and it does come up, but it's pretty rare.

If I'm playing against more recreational players, I'm going to do a lot less randomizing and I'm really going to be focusing on: 'Are they c-betting too much? Are they folding to check raises too much?' And really just exploiting it.

One thing I often do is, when a spot comes up that's a mixed strategy, I kind of use that as my invitation to be like, 'Okay, you can do whatever you want here to kind of exploit your opponent.' So, a very basic example would be suited aces preflop; are they three betting too much? Just shove on them, you know? And if they're not three betting too much, then you don't need to roll for that shove with ace-five suited, just don't shove it.

What does your typical study schedule look like?

JB: I would not recommend my approach. When I'm at a poker tournament, I go all in, and I'll play for ten hours and then go back to my hotel room and study for four hours more. And I'll do that for 14 days straight. And then, when I get home, I won't think about poker at all for two weeks, which is definitely not the optimal way of doing it. That's just kind of how my mind works. Some people give you advice, like the best routine at the gym is the one that you enjoy doing, that keeps you coming back to the gym. So, apply that to poker, whatever you can do to keep your curiosity flowing, that makes you want to study, do that.

If you're interested in hearing more from Justin Bonomo, the entire conversation is available to Run It Once Elite members.

Additional benefits from Elite membership include access to the revamped Run It Once Discord, instruction from some of the best coaching minds in the industry, and access to the Run It Once video library with captions available in eight languages.