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Moving Forward After Black Friday: Lars Bonding

Poker Pro and His Family Plan to Move Back to Denmark

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In this new series on Card Player, we present to you a top poker pro who has had his or her world turned upside down by the events on Black Friday. In this edition we bring you Lars Bonding, his wife, and their two kids.

Lars BondingVeteran tournament grinder Lars “Dsavo” Bonding has been one of the best online players in the world over the course of his career. However, due to the recent indictments of the major online poker sites, effectively shutting down their U.S. operations, Vegas-based Bonding has had to put his computer on standby.

Bonding is a case file on poker as a game of ingenuity, rather than karma. He had been on one of the best tears in the history of online poker earlier this year. Over the course of a few months, the Denmark native recorded two wins and a fourth place finish in the $200 buy-in PokerStars Sunday Warmup, which had consistently drew more than 4,600 entrants each week. The run netted him about $250,000.

“My husband is not a gambler, per se,” said Lars’ wife Esther. “He’s a numbers man. Before poker he was one of the best backgammon players in the world. Of course there’s an element of luck in all games, but the fact that he’s made a consistently good income year after year from poker only confirms you have to have skill to sustain your success.”

The BondingsThe consistency has netted Mr. Bonding nearly $2 million in career tournament earnings. He hasn’t been playing all these years to degenerate into the lifestyle of a gambler, or even to simply travel the world and have a good time. He and his wife have two boys, ages five and three, and they will all make the move back to Lars’ home country of Denmark — a place where widespread online poker is available.

Despite having plenty of the money saved and stored offline, the Bondings will have to make adjustments. “The majority of our income has come from his online success, and we’ve definitely enjoyed the fruits of it,” Esther said. “I guess we’ll just have to tone things down for a while until we feel more secure about the situation.”

Lars said that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) is puzzling, and he expressed a sentiment that players are resigned to suffer the consequences handed over by politicians who believe poker is a game of happenstance. “It’s tough for me to understand why the United States would ever implement the law in the first place. There is a lot of things I don’t understand about this country and my own country, and that’s the way it is.”

The situation in Denmark is also far from ideal, according to Bonding, but it is a far better option than remaining in the land of opportunity. Bonding said that players can pay up to 50 percent in taxes on their winnings in his home country. But that isn’t stopping the family of four from planning the move.

“It’s always been on our minds to some day return to his home country since all of his family and most of our friends are there,” Esther said. “It won’t be easy though because it will be very different from what our life is like here in Las Vegas. We won’t have a lot of the conveniences we’re used to here, and I’ll be freezing my butt off. But it’ll for sure be better for our family and definitely for our kids. We’ve never intended to raise them here.”

The indictments against the major online poker sites have created an uncertain future for players like Mr. Bonding who make their living using their lucid brains and battled-tested theorems. But perhaps the most devastating long-term effect is that the Department of Justice has increased the volatility of playing for a living, more than normal variance could ever generate.

“I love poker, but as we can see now with Black Friday, it is a very unstable foundation to base your life on,” Lars said. “Of course now my mother was right, I should have finished my education. If one of my sons decides to go the same way, I am not going to keep him back. But it’s not something I especially wish for them to do.”

While the DoJ proceeds with its case against sites that allegedly engaged in bank fraud and money laundering, families supported on poker incomes will proceed to take their talents and tax dollars elsewhere. Las Vegas will lose a fine family like the Bondings after this summer’s World Series of Poker.

“When we first bought our house we built a separate ‘casita’ for Lars to work in so he had the best of both worlds: being able to work quietly in his own space and yet being only steps away from coming inside to say hello to the kids and grabbing a drink during his breaks,” said Mrs. Bonding, who used to have online poker as her “glass of wine” in the evenings. “It’s not in his DNA to go grind it out at the casinos, so I guess that’s one of the reasons we’re heading for friendlier poker shores.”