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WSOP Bracelet Winner John Bonetti Passes Away at 80

Tournament Player Didn't Start Poker Career Until Late 50s


John BonettiThree-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner John Bonetti died Saturday, June 28, 2008, in his hometown of Houston, Texas. He was 80.

Phil Hellmuth wrote an extensive post about Bonetti in his blog Saturday wherein he talked about Bonetti’s competitive passion and his tough personality both at and away from the poker tables.

Bonetti came to tournament poker late in his life and didn’t cash in a major tournament until he was almost 60 years old. Bonetti went on to win more than 40 tournaments and cash in more than 180, winning more than $4 million in the process ($1.7 million came from WSOP events). Some of his highlights include:

  • 1990 WSOP $5,000 deuce-to-seven draw bracelet ($83,250)
  • 1993 WSOP $1,500 pot-limit hold’em bracelet ($122,400)
  • 1995 WSOP $5,000 deuce-to-seven draw bracelet ($101,250) 
  • Two third-place finishes in the WSOP $10,000 main event (1993 and 1996). His finish in 1996 gave Bonetti his largest career payday ($341,250)

An Italian who grew up in New York — and cut from the type of cloth that has long gone out of production — Bonetti could be abrasive, loud, and borderline abusive, and he’d often leave his tablemates laughing and dealers shuddering.

Bonetti’s passing wasn’t surprising. According to Hellmuth, Bonetti suffered from cancer for more than a decade and was told no less than four times that he only had months to live, beating doctors’ expectations three times. He last cashed at the WSOP in 2006, when he did it three times for a total of almost $11,000.