Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bodog Signs Another Poker Cheat!

Bodog Signs Reformed Justin Bonomo!

It seems to be par for the course: Get caught in an online poker scam, then say you´re sorry, apologize to everyone and his mother reading the poker blogs, then sign a deal for big bucks with a major online poker room. Such is the case again, this time with Justin Bonomo, better known as "ZeeJustin" who was caught cheating by playing on multiple accounts on sites like PartyPoker and PokerStars. (To read more on previous online cheats who signed big poker deals, click here.

Oh how I wish I had been caught cheating at online poker! Then I could have signed a big contract with Bodog too! Only problem, I was never an online poker cheat. In my next life, I will have to consider changing professions!

As reported by Jennifer Newell:

On May 5th, 2008, Bodog Poker announced that it had signed Justin Bonomo to its roster of pros, which already includes David Williams, Jean-Robert Bellande, and Evelyn Ng. Justin will represent Bodog both in live tournaments and online at Bodog, as well as possibly participating in other marketing and branding opportunities.

Poker pros ink deals regularly with online poker sites. Why is this one significant and worthy of a column? Because Justin is the Justin Bonomo, better known as “ZeeJustin” in online poker circles—the player who was caught cheating by playing on multiple accounts on sites like PartyPoker and PokerStars. And though he didn't handle the scandal well when it happened—he was not even 21 years old—he has since matured, taken particular care to address the problem, and changed.

When the scandal first broke in early 2006, Justin was not afraid to post on web forums with his excuses and justifications for using multiple accounts. He claimed that he did so because his style under “ZeeJustin” was too wellknown, and he needed to be anonymous in order to win more money. Granted, that is a simplification of his reasons for the sake of space in this column.

Eventually, the wrath he felt from the poker community caused Justin to realize the impact of what he had done, and his justifications turned to apologies. In his immaturity, he even attempted to strike a deal with PokerStars that would allow him to play on the site for several months, with all proceeds going to charity. “For me, the benefits are obvious,” he wrote to PokerStars. “I would get to play on your site again and return some credibility to my name, but more importantly, I see this as a way to become the person I've always told myself I would be. This won't be a one-time thing. This is how I want to live the rest of my life… Basically, I realize that what I've done is terrible, but I

refuse to accept the fact that those actions define me as a person. I see this as a way to overcome what I've done, not as a poker player, or a wanna-be celebrity, but as a human being.”

The site ultimately denied his request. Justin then took his poker skills to the live tables once he became of legal age to play in the United States. He played tournaments humbly and quietly, not drawing any attention to himself. He allowed time to heal wounds, and in the year and a half that he has been on the circuit, he has eventually gained the respect of many poker players who have seen his remorse and witnessed his true love of the game.

What makes Justin different from recent players involved in cheating scandals, like Sorel Mizzi and JJ Prodigy, is that he grew to understand the severity of his previous actions and let some time pass as he carefully repaired his image. Though he's still in his very early twenties, he seems to have matured immensely. Players like Mizzi seem to expect immediate acceptance of whatever apology is issued, and they come to tournaments as cocky and full of themselves as ever. As basic as it may seem, people need time to accept apologies and see another side of those players, and Mizzi is one of several who do not seem to understand this.

Justin Bonomo has become a successful live tournament player, with final tables at EPT and WSOP events to his credit, as well as several near-televised WPT tables. He has made over $1.1 million in his short time on the circuit, and the Bodog sponsorship appears to be a positive step in his journey.