Exclusive Interview with Tyler Bonkowski Canada’s First Bracelet Winner of the 2011 WSOP



Tyler Bonkowski is a 26 year old Team 888 professional poker player from Regina Saskatchewan, who now owns the bragging rights of scoring Canada’s first bracelet of the 2011 World Series of Poker, just a few days ago.

The title and win earned Tyler over $220,000, as well as the pride of achieving some personal goals and what most poker players dream of; winning the coveted WSOP “gold”. Tyler has come very close to major tournament titles in both the Irish Open and Aussie Millions, but maybe it was just in the cards to save it up to make his first big win really epic and this probably couldn’t be described as anything less.

After spending a few well deserved days to let it all sink in, Tyler was kind enough to answer a few questions and share the experience with us…

CP: “How hard was it to have that bracelet inches away for a very long heads up battle?”

Tyler Bonkowski: “As soon as they set it on the table, I said to Brandon, ‘Wow, It’s really tough to have that sitting there.’ I glanced at it for less than a second, I wouldn’t let myself look at it.”

CP: “You mentioned when you got short stacked, you felt pretty angry. You obviously pulled yourself together, what was going through your head at that time?”

Tyler Bonkowski: “I was pretty frustrated because 1) I was losing and it was mostly out of my control 2) I didn’t come this far to get 2nd and 3) there were maybe 20 to 30 people railing, and all but 1 were cheering for him. Then, he missed a key bluff opportunity where it really looked like I had a hand(I raised with 4c7c, he calls. Flop 852, one club, i bet, he check-raises. turn Ac, he bets, I raise, he three bets the turn and I call. River brings a 2 and pairs the board. I felt on the turn he didn’t have a strong hand even when he three bet me, so when he checked the river, it gave me a big opportunity to show that I had it and I bet. He folds, and I show the 47cc for the bluff. He told me had 36cc and If that’s what he had I don’t blame him for not betting there, it completely looks like I have an ace there, or a hand that I can’t fold on the river), that allowed me to come back in and change up my strategy a bit. I got more aggressive, got better cards, and it all went in my favor from there.”

CP: “You have always proudly listed Saskatchewan as home, how much does it mean to you that you are the first player from the province to win a bracelet?”

Tyler Bonkowski: “Yeah, it probably has something to do with the Roughriders and how anyone that leaves home from Saskatchewan remains connected in that way. Yeah it’s pretty cool that I’m the first one from Saskatchewan to win one.”

CP: “Your first major title and it ends up being a WSOP bracelet. You have been very deep in large events before, how good did it feel to get over this hump?”

Tyler Bonkowski: “Over the last few years I’ve had some deep runs, within the last 6 months I’ve felt that I finally have the experience to do better and that if I’ve had those same previous opportunities I could’ve played better in them and gotten further. So for me to finally win, it just feels unbelievable.”

CP: “With everything going on in the online poker world and 888 having always just hung back and worked on building their team, how stoked were the other members and crew after this? What were some reactions?”

Tyler Bonkowski: I got a lot of congratulations, they were pretty happy for me. My buddy and teammate Darren Woods was there railing. It also looks like 888 added a congratulatory message with my pic to their poker client when you exit the software.”

CP: “How did the bracelet ceremony go, Canada’s first bracelet of 2011, anthem going, that had to be a rush. Can you describe that feeling?”

Tyler Bonkowski: “I enjoyed it! Everyone was looking up at me on the stage, so I was a little nervous though.”

CP: “Going back to the room, how the tough was it to unwind? Sleeping must have been near impossible?”

Tyler Bonkowski: “I was planning on going back to my place and sleeping so I could go back the next day and play the $1500 NL at noon, but I didn’t get to bed until 8:30 or 9am because of all the texts and facebook messages I was reading/replying to.”

CP: “Limit is a different animal, you just can’t get it all in and call it a day. That long heads up match must have been torture, but Limit has always kind of been ‘your game’ from what we gather. Can you tell us a bit more about your roots as far as Limit Hold’em goes?”

Tyler Bonkowski: “Since you can’t really get all your chips in on one hand, you can’t lose your tournament life over just one bad beat, which really helps the skilled players. During the heads up match, we both had said to each other that it could get long and boring. Limit is how I started in poker, and I think it has really helped me in aspects of No Limit poker, if I instead had just learned to play No Limit without ever playing limit, I might not be here today. I started playing small stakes limit on 888.com (formerly Pacific Poker), I eventually quit university and my part time job because I thought I was good enough to do it as a living. I kept increasing stakes, and occasionally taking risks at high limits and succeeded (but not without failing… a lot).”

CP: “Going into the final day, did you feel like it was going to happen? How confident were you? Once final table hit and players started to drop, how much energy and adrenaline kicked in or was this much more stressful than past deep runs?”

Tyler Bonkowski: “On Day 1, I felt pretty miserable, I had just busted a No Limit tourny, and almost regretted registering for this one. I just lost a set over set pretty early, then not long after that I kinda laughed inside my head and thought ‘this is probably going to be the tourny I end up winning’. I got the chiplead on Day 2 when we were near the money, and I felt like ‘I have a good shot at this’. I was thinking, ‘if I can get to the final table with any amount of chips’, I have a shot at winning. So when Day 2 was complete and I was 3/18 in chips, I felt that I had a really good chance at winning this. I told my friend Darren,(also Team 888), that I didn’t want the chip lead after Day 2 for various reasons and that I would probably be safe to win it, since I had lost the chip lead before the end of the day. All I could think about was winning and what it would feel like, so I could barely sleep. I never really had any adrenaline rush until I won it and there was also no stress for me until it was heads up. Most of my decisions were easy until it was final 2, then I was really put to the test against Brandon.”

CP: “What’s next? Does this huge score change your tournament schedule at all, add any other events you might not have traveled to, or have you been waiting for a huge score to treat yourself to something sweet?”

Tyler Bonkowski: “I don’t think it changes much, I might play one more tournament than I had planned on for the WSOP. For future events internationally it will probably add more to my schedule. I don’t think there’s something I really want money for now other than to use on playing more poker.”

CP: “Are you still more of a cash game player than MTT?”

Tyler Bonkowski: “I’m an online cash game player, but I really enjoy playing live tournaments now more than any other poker game.”

CP: “What events can we plan on seeing you in next? Will you take a break? Can we expect to see you in the Main?”

Tyler Bonkowski: “I’ll be in the WSOP Main Event, and I haven’t really planned on anything after that. I know when WSOP is over that I’m going back home to do a lot of relaxing for the rest of summer.”

CP: “Are there any other disciplines outside of No Limit or Fixed Limit Hold’em you will play?”

Tyler Bonkowski: “(HaHa) I’ve tried omaha, and while I like it, I’m not good enough at it to play it. Other than that, I’ve never tried anything other than Hold’em.”

We want to thank Tyler for giving us a little sniff of what it takes and what it means to win a bracelet and in case he hasn’t heard; “You Da Man! Congrats!”

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Jon Harnish
35 year old recreational player, husband and father of three from Calgary, Alberta. Enjoy lower stakes cash games including PLO and limit Omaha 8. Any of the micro-stakes HORSE games will play online MTTS and SNGs. Live, Tournaments and Satellites up to $550. I love the game but am far to social to take it seriously and sometimes give up a little to much information at the table because I enjoy discussing the game, so decided it was safest for my bankroll to take up writing about the game. That way I still get to meet the cool people and opinions on the game, but with a little less risk. Writing wise, currently a regular contributor to Poker Pro Canada, like to write profiles, previews and recaps the most. formally wrote for Canadian Poker Player Canada. My Poker Blogs have been featured on CardPlayer Social and SpadeClub as "Recommended" or in newsletters on several occasions and Pokerweblogs as "Blog of the Month". Past projects included organizing and promoting major events with the Canadian Poker Tour, introducing Big Slick Poker Tour to Southern Alberta and directing events and finals.



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