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What Sets Jesse Lonis Apart Is Something You Just Can’t Teach

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Jesse Lonis made his way into the Thunder Valley poker room. Again. Ushered to his new seat, grinning ear to ear. It’s been the same scene all morning on Day 2 of WPT Rolling Thunder, Lonis striding in, being escorted to a new table, playing a few hands, standing up, and heading back to the cage.

In total, Lonis is eight bullets into the $3,500 WPT Championship event.

“I’ve done every table,” he laughed as he passed by. It’s a personal record for him.

But Lonis doesn’t seem desperate or despondent. More like determined. And he’s as upbeat as usual. And why shouldn’t he be – he’s Jesse Lonis.

From the outside, Lonis seems to be on top of the poker world. He’s had an incredible start to 2024, racking up more than $1.36 million in cashes to date. He’s getting married in May. And he’s fresh off his first foray into the deep waters of the Triton Super High Rollers – a successful new experience for the next step of his poker career.

“It was really cool. [Jeju] was probably the best one to do for the first one,” Lonis said. “It ended up having record-breaking numbers, so the experience was awesome. I had never been to Asia or anything, so just experiencing that was really cool. And then playing against all the players there was awesome.”

In his debut on the Triton tour, Lonis made an immediate impact. He cashed three times, including making the final table of the $25,000 GG MILLION$ Live event, and finished his week in Korea with $373,000 in earnings. Triton has a reputation for bringing out the best in the world, drawing incredible poker star power, but Lonis, who picked up the nickname “American Gangster” while in Jeju, revealed that the fields, while star-studded, may not be the toughest in poker.

“Triton was surprisingly a lot softer than you would imagine because I mean, the PokerGO Studio is mostly filled with a lot of regular pros where at Triton, you get a lot of rich whales that just are there for the experience. So it was actually way softer than I would expect, but it was a lot of great players, obviously. It was a good time. Definitely a good experience.”

It doesn’t seem to matter where Lonis is – he’s winning. Between EPT Paris, where he picked up more than $235,000 in cashes, a short vacation, and then his stint in Jeju, Lonis had been on the road for the better part of a month. And so, even though it was going well, he cut his trip short and made his way back to the USA.

“Yeah, mentally I was just not really there,” Lonis said. “My body told me to go home, and then obviously it worked out. First tournament back – I won.”

Just a day and a half after returning home, Lonis topped the 58 entries of the Wynn $10K High Roller for another $193K. The next day, he shipped a WSOP .com online tournament to take home a Circuit ring. He’s in “can’t stop, won’t stop” mode – both playing and cashing. As it is for the most competitive of players, for Lonis, winning money isn’t his only motivation. He’s looking to prove he belongs among the best in the world by any means necessary.

“I put in so much work to get the number two [on the Global Poker Index]. I’m trying to chase number one now in the world, so I was just trying to get up in the ranks. You gotta strike while the iron’s hot,” he said. “So I’ve just been playing and enjoying it, and there are so many things going on in Vegas and everywhere that it’s just hard to pick to what I’m going to do next. There’s so much poker right now. It’s more alive than ever I feel like. So, we just got to play when we’re young, right?”

At 28-years-old Lonis now has more than $7.7 million in tournament earnings, bolstered by his WSOP bracelet win in the 2023 WSOP $50K PLO High Roller for $2.3 million. But even more by what seems to be an unstoppable drive over the past two years. His volume and results have elevated him from a mid-stakes grinder to cracking the All-Time Money List Top 200 and being recognized as one of the best young poker players in the game. And the Las Vegas by-way-of New York pro separates himself by doing it his way.

“I think I diverge away from what most people are doing and studying. I like to just do my own strategy, and then I’ve always had a natural feel for the game, which is obviously something you just can’t teach. And I mean, I think those are my strongest areas, the parts that you really can’t teach and just I’m not scared to go for it – you got to, I feel like tournaments, you have to be able to navigate and just know when to hit the brakes and know when to hit the gas. So I think that’s probably my best attribute is knowing when to change gears.”

So while eight bullets in a tournament is not ideal, it’s also not nearly enough to keep Lonis from smiling.

“Yeah, it’s amazing. I mean, two daughters, my one daughter is learning new stuff every day. She’s two-and-a-half years old, so every day it’s something new she does. And then obviously the young kid is great. Plus, winning obviously helps, and yeah, life’s great right now.”

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