A little sweat and hard work is nothing new for Jesse Lonis. Before playing cards full time, the 27-year-old poker pro worked as a laborer doing construction in New York City. One day Lonis would help pour concrete for a foundation and the next he might be framing or doing interior work.
In the recent World Series of Poker Online at WSOP.com, Lonis built plenty of nice chip stacks as well. He scored nine cashes and his first WSOP bracelet. It’s been a huge year for Lonis and the former construction worker may have even bigger things ahead.
“Online used to be my weak point in poker,” he says. “Over the last year I really put in a lot of work and it paid off this series.”
Lonis, who now lives in Las Vegas, recently spoke with USPoker about his big online poker run and his unique poker life.
Surging through the WSOP Online
At the tables, Lonis has $1.7 million in live tournament winnings. In the recent WSOP Online, he grabbed his first bracelet by taking down a $1,000 No Limit Hold’em Six-Max for $73,371.
Despite the win, the victory was mostly a subdued affair after winning. He battled it out online while just relaxing at home with his dog.
“My friend was watching at his house, so he called me when I won,” he says. “My fiancée was sleeping and we have a 1-year-old daughter, so I didn’t want to wake her up.”
There may not have been a major celebration, but Lonis was happy to grab his first WSOP gold bracelet. He also took down the $500 Tuesday Showdown a day later on WSOP.com.
— Jesse Lonis (@JesseLonis) September 21, 2022
A bracelet win almost came earlier this year. At the WSOP this summer in Las Vegas, he found a runner-up in a $1,000 Super Turbo for $117,872. In 2021 Lonis also scored a runner-up in the $1,000 COVID-19 relief charity event for $30,086.
Then in the WSOP Online, another second-place finish came his way just three weeks after his win. He grabbed runner-up in the $500 Big 500 event for $44,275.
To reach the winner’s circle, Lonis’s hard work indeed paid off. Some shrewd play certainly helped lead to the title after coming close several times.
“I was playing really aggressively,” he says. “I remember a few weak four-bets that got through that really changed the momentum for me.”
Construction site to poker table
Poker has been part of Lonis’s life even from an early age. His grandfather and uncle taught him how to play the game. He even got some insight on online poker at any early age.
“Some of my earliest memories are when I was about 10 or 11 years old and my grandmother would play on Full Tilt,” he says, “and I would take over for her on bathroom breaks.”
Later, while living in the Bronx, the daily construction grind actually helped rekindle a love of betting and bluffing.
“I would go to the bar with a bunch of Irish guys,” he says. “One night one guy asked me if I wanted to go to a poker game with his friends. I ended up playing that game for a few months every weekend and would make more in that one night of playing then I would all week working like an animal. I knew I had to start using my brains over brawn.”
Jesse Lonis (@JesseLonis) gets the action started at the Poker Masters – Event #6 final table with the spice as he clicks it back against Matt Wantman (@MatthewWantman) and gets the four-bet bluff through.
— PokerGO (@PokerGO) September 28, 2022
Poker life and beyond
Along with some nice finishes on the WSOP, Lonis also has wins and deep runs in events on the PokerGO Tour, Venetian DeepStack series, Wynn Summer Classic, and numerous other series.
Last year also brought one of the biggest scores of Lonis’s career. He finished fifth in the World Poker Tour’s $3,500 Seminole Hard Rock Lucky Hearts Poker Open for $223,895.
Obviously, fine tuning his online poker game has shown some dividends. He doesn’t have a definite online routine, and says he just likes to play the major events with buy-ins from $320 to $10,000, adding: “I get excited either way. I just love the game!”
At a time when players focus on solvers, GTO, and other advanced training aides, Lonis prides himself on bringing a different perspective and approach to the game.
“There aren’t many players like me left,” he says. “I’m very old school for such a young guy. I’ve never studied in my life, just always been a feel player and learned by putting in the volume. It’s very rare nowadays. I think it separates me from the masses.”
Now with some considerable winnings under his belt and soon becoming a father, Lonis is thinking beyond the poker table. He’s hoping to parlay some of those winnings to a stable family life and other financial interests.
“I’m interested in breaking off into the business world,” he says. “Growing up poor always made me want to have it all. That’s just the mindset I have, and I want my daughter to never have to worry like I did.”
* Lead image courtesy PokerGO