Interview: Tyler Bonkowski
Hometown: Moosomin, Saskatchewan
Place of Residence: Regina, Saskatchewan
Best Known For: Winning the $3,000 limit hold'em event at the 2011 World Series of Poker, 888 Poker sponsored pro.
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This week, 888 Poker pro Tyler Bonkowski talked with us about his thriving poker career and gave us the inside scoop on a recent meeting with MMA champ George St. Pierre. Tyler had a great 2011 WSOP by winning a bracelet in a prelim event for $220,000 and finishing 60th in the Main Event for $130,000.
PokerTips.org: First off Tyler, can you share with us a little about how you got into the game of poker?
Bonkowski: I was in university and came across poker with friends during my 2nd year. After depositing online, it took me a year and a half before getting really good and confident in my game. I decided it would be pretty stupid (money-wise) if I didn't at least try playing it like a job, and quit school halfway through my 4th year. My bankroll boomed and busted a few times, and eventually I had a breakout year online that really set me up well.
Do you focus exclusively on tournaments or do you play cash games as well? If so, what stakes?
I play cash games mostly, $10/$20 to $250/$500 fixed limit. And I play a lot of the $10/$20 to $25/$50 Push-Fold tables on 888 Poker. I go on spurts where I'll play 20-30 tournaments every day for a week or two just to change things up.
Recently, you tutored current Welterweight Champion of the UFC, George St. Pierre, as part of a promotion with 888 Poker. What can you share with us about that experience?
Meeting GSP was really cool. The guy is so genuine and just acted like one of the boys the whole time. I think this was his first tournament ever. So he had a very basic knowledge of poker. He caught on pretty quickly about combining aggression and patience.
Did he teach you any MMA moves?
I was planning on asking him to teach me the art of the Superman-Punch, but I kinda forgot. So I'll try to remember next time.
What else can you tell us about your affiliation as a sponsored pro with 888 Poker?
888 Poker was the first poker site I've ever played on, so I've been a regular there for a very long time. When they contacted me I was extremely excited. Being sponsored is so key because it eliminates a ton of the risk while still allowing for the high reward.
What are some hobbies and interests you have not related to poker?
I play some videogames (mostly Call of Duty and sports games that involves competing against other online players) and watch a ton of sports. I've gotten serious into sports betting lately and have been picking NBA and NFL pretty profitably. My biggest hobby is probably trying to get to the gym every day I can. It makes me feel a lot better after a ton of online grinding all day, and lets you escape and forget about money.
By your observation, what are some ways in which other poker players screw up?
I think the biggest flaw in tournament players' tactics are by them rifling off their 8bb-15bb stacks. I think that's an area where many players could work more on their game by being more patient and not being afraid of dwindling into a 5-7bb stack.
What weaknesses do you have in poker?
I probably have a lot of flaws in no limit that I don't know about, because my game might be more unorthodox coming from a limit player background. Bankroll management is another leak. And continuing into ring games after the game has basically broken. So i'll play heads-up vs a good player because we both think we are better than each other.
Finally, can you share with us a little about your upcoming poker-related travel schedule for the year?
I'll be staying pretty low-key until the WSOP. Thinking about playing the Western Canadian Poker Championships in Edmonton in May. But just trying to grind out some online games and relax at home before spending a ridiculously busy month and a half in Vegas with a lot of WSOP tourneys planned there.