New Jersey’s Keith ‘donnysack’ Donovan Happy to Grind at Home


Keith ‘donnysack’ Donovan didn’t have to leave home after Black Friday

There is something to be said for online tournament grinders who have withstood the relative test of time. The game has changed quite a bit from the immediate post-Moneymaker boom years to what it is now and the players who can still make a living grinding online MTTs have found a way to adjust accordingly with the times.

As one of those long-time grinders, Keith ‘donnysack’ Donovan has been around online poker for nearly a decade and is one of the elite tournament players in the state of New Jersey. Currently, Donovan is ranked fifth in the PocketFives New Jersey online rankings.

Donovan started his professional poker career at the ripe age of 19 and struck gold early, winning the PokerStars Sunday Second Chance in September 2008 for a score of over $73,000. That score jumpstarted Donovan’s career and he hasn’t looked back since. With years of experience under his belt, Donovan has collected nearly $1,500,000 in online tournament earnings in that time.

The road to his current standing in the poker world wasn’t always a smooth one but Donovan looks back at his mistakes as a younger player as a solid building ground for where he is today.

“At the time I first started playing, I was living with my parents and didn’t really understand the value of a dollar. I burned through a lot of money back then [but] I don’t beat myself up over it,” said Donovan.

Donovan credits a sizable portion to his growth in the game to his friends Shankar Pillai and Shaun Ruane, brother of 2016 World Series of Poker November Niner, Michael Ruane.

“The best way to get better is to go over hands and try to get their perspective,” said Donovan.

Of course, for many players like Donovan who made their living playing online, Black Friday was as Donovan says, “a dagger.” Once Black Friday hit, Donovan received backing from Pillai to play more live events and played on unregulated online sites as well.

Despite having the option to move out of the country to continue his online career, Donovan hung around his home state of New Jersey long enough to be there when the state opened its doors to regulated online poker.

“It was like Christmas Day, when it actually did happen. It was music to my ears to [and] it allowed me to get back to living my life.”

With New Jersey online poker continuing to grow, Donovan sees a bright future ahead for the game in his state and specifically sees PokerStars as an important catalyst to growing online poker both in New Jersey and the United States.

“PokerStars has been a massive addition to New Jersey. I like how they are trying to promote their brand in the US. The live events are great and the PokerStars brand will be seen more. I hope that can be translated to other states.”

Donovan plays a select schedule of live events that consists primarily of Borgata tournament series and a full summer out in Las Vegas. Should he notch a major score, Donovan says he will consider putting the money toward opening a sports bar and look at potentially buying a house with his girlfriend, Emily.

Theory and strategy is always changing in the poker world and Donovan plans to stay with all of the latest trends in order to remain successful.

“Everyone is so much better and the game is at another level right now. The game is always evolving and you can’t have an ego that you can be better than anyone. If you’re not trying to improve, [your success] is going to change.”