In 2022, Jesse Lonis was one of the busiest players in poker, if not the busiest of all. He averaged better than one live tournament cash per week, and wrapped up a career year with a pair of final tables in massive field events during the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas festival in December.
As the calendar turned over to 2023, Lonis continued to plow through tournaments at a prolific pace. He cashed in more than 30 live events through the end of July, including a trio of six-figure results. But the moment Lonis truly leveled up came in the $50,000 Pot Limit Omaha High Roller at the World Series of Poker.
On his way to a second career WSOP bracelet, Lonis banked $2.3 million – more than six times bigger than any of his previous live results. Then, after wrapping up a long, successful summer of poker, Lonis did something he hadn’t done since early 2021.
He took a long-deserved break from playing poker, awaiting the arrival of his second daughter. On August 18, Myla Michelle Lonis was born. Lonis spent a couple more weeks at home, spending time with his family. They celebrated his daughter Harley’s second birthday on Wednesday. And one day later, Lonis officially returned to the felt on Thursday as the Poker Masters series kicked off at the PokerGO studio.
“It’s just extra motivation to get back out there and start crushing,” said Lonis. “I feel better than ever now, and I have a much more comfortable bankroll after the $50K PLO win.”
In what may come as little surprise to anyone paying attention, Lonis immediately returned to the payout window in his first major live event back – narrowly missing out on an official final table appearance in eighth place.
The time off seemed to do Lonis a world of good, and if the early returns are an indication, he didn’t lose much of his edge as he took on some of the best players in the world.
“It feels amazing,” said Lonis. “I had a good two or three months off, and it was well-needed. When you’re in a moment playing [every day], it’s kind of like a daze. You don’t even realize what you’re doing or how crazy it is [to play that much].
“It’s just an incredible feeling, knowing that I can take a few months off and not have to stress about bills and saving money – for college, for kids, and all the kind of things that everyone stresses about. Now that I’ve been able to sit back, I still look at my bank account and wonder how the hell I got to this point.”
Lonis’ first seven-figure cash went a long way towards the kind of financial security Lonis has been after his whole life. No one could accuse him of not putting in the hours or the work, and the scope of what Lonis achieved was clear in his reaction in the moments after he clinched his WSOP PLO bracelet victory.
“It was emotional,” said Lonis. “If you watched any of the videos, I was obviously trying to hold back tears so I could talk and do the interviews. I grew up in more humble conditions, poor in a way. Just having that money, it was just crazy. No one in my family has ever seen money like that. I was on cloud nine. I’ve dreamed of those moments, and it was crazy to finally be in that moment.”
Even after his two-month hiatus, that big win and his previous results have Lonis at No. 7 in the GPI rankings and No. 13 in the 2023 GPI Player of the Year race. He already has another nice cash to his name and some points in the race to win the 2023 Poker Masters on his ledger.
As he’s jumped up in stakes over the last few years, Lonis hasn’t shied away from grinding it out in small buy-in, big field events along with playing the nosebleed high rollers. But Lonis would love to add a purple jacket to his collection of poker accolades and continue to cement his status among the strongest tournament poker players in the world.
“These ones are special,” said Lonis. “So many of the players in there are people I looked up to when I first started playing, just watching them on streams. It feels like this is the pinnacle. You dream of being able to play with the best players and compete. It’s a really good experience playing in [the PokerGO Studio]. Nothing like it, honestly. It’s the best quality of play anywhere. And whether you’re winning or losing, you still enjoy yourself, even though it’s bigger money. You get a good experience for what you pay for.”
As he wrapped up his break in the tournament and started walking back inside, Lonis paused for a moment. He reflected on the growth he’s enjoyed over the last 10 months, and how far he’d come since he’d last spoken with WPT.com staff. A smile appeared on Lonis’ face, and he alluded to the potential for him to take a shot at yet another milestone is career – the Big One for One Drop that’s set to happen in December at Wynn Las Vegas.
“Maybe the next time we talk, it’s after I win a $1 million buy-in tournament.”