Jean-Robert Bellande is the poker pro you love to hate but he’s a survivor in more ways than one. He’s lived like millionaire for years despite living on the edge of being broke and he loved playing the villain the TV show Survivor. We caught up with Jean-Robert in Vegas the day before this year’s World Series of Poker first event to see how his new found fame has changed his life, what crazy prop bets he’s gotten himself into this year and how he started his rise to poker stardom.
PokerLizard: So how is registration for the World Series going, they always seem to make a few screw ups along the way? Is it going smoothly or is there a big line of the people?
Jean-Robert: I just went over there and there was no line, I just registered now.
PokerLizard: Are you going to play in the 40K?
Jean-Robert: I am actually not going to play in the 40K now, too big a buy in.
PokerLizard: Sure, why not just play in the smaller events where it is a bunch of donkeys? Playing in the 40K, will be good for publicity if you make the final table to be on TV; but it seems like the field will be way too tough not to mention the huge buyin.
Jean-Robert: Yeah it is tough field equity wise; it is not a great value. May be it is good for people who have a lot of money and want to get a bracelet because it’s going to be a smaller field than I had imagined with somewhere between 200 and 300 people. The TV value is there, but it is only 2 hours of television time, and no real guarantee of getting on TV.
PokerLizard: What you think about the choices for the televised World Series of Poker only having four events televised. The $40k, Main Event, Ante up for Africa charity event, and the Tournament of Champions event with all the past champions.
Jean-Robert: Actually TV-wise, I can understands the decision on the part of ABC or ESPN because I mean that is what the public is interested in. The general public does not really understand games like HORSE and Pot Limit Omaha. They have been spending a lot of time educating the public which I think they could have benefited from this year. The last three years had been televising the $50k HORSE event, , they have been educating the public and I think they get more viewers each year, so this year they might have got more than last year, but the bottom line is people would rather see No Limit Hold’em. With this 40K that they are basically guaranteed that they are going to have big names at the final table because half the field is going to be all big names.
Jean-Robert: Half the field is going to be big names and really really good players for the guaranteed star studded final table. It’s the same thing with the Tournament of Champions; then you’ve got the main event. I would not be surprised if there are more big names deeper in the tournament this year because they have given us 30,000 in starting chips instead of 20k. the more starting chips you’re given it makes it more challenging deeper in the tournament.
Jean-Robert: Yeah, so for them I think it’s a good decision but for poker players of course more televised event is better. We would like that. Yeah, I can understand why they would do that.
PokerLizard: Right, just the cost to putting it all together is going to be a lot cheaper than to stick around as long to pay Norman Chad his huge salary.
Jean-Robert: I do not think that is the case. I know there are still a lot more taped days this year. I would not be surprised if the viewership on ESPN 360 goes way up. I know that they are going to be showing quite a few of the events online.
PokerLizard: That should be pretty cool. How many events are you going to play?
Jean-Robert: I am really going to see as we go. Last year I think I played like 23 events last year. I was looking at the events that I am interested in. I am actually interested in 42 different events, they overlap each other, but I would imagine that I would probably end up playing somewhere between 20 and 25 events again this year.
PokerLizard: How tough is it to play that many, I mean it has got to be brutal mental and physical grind, just to get up every morning.
Jean-Robert: There comes a time like right now; I am so excited about it, I do not see myself getting worn out at least for the first week or so, but later there comes a time when you just do not even feel like playing the next day and when that happens to me I am just not going to play that day. I will just take a day off or a couple of days off because every time I play I really want to be there so when I get knocked off I’ll leave the Rio right away, get fresh air; go hang out by the pool, hang out with friends or go to movies, so that I am ready to go back in there and be fresh for the following tournament.
PokerLizard: So do you have any specific goals for this year. finally get over that hump and win that bracelet?
Jean-Robert: Absolutely, getting a bracelet is a very high priority to me. I’ve pretty much shown consistent profits in the world series over the last few years, but bracelets are really big for me so I am going to play more smaller events than I played in the past. I think I’ve worked out some of the kinks in my game to be able to get deeper in those tournaments. They are the best value tournaments if you can get past that first dinner break, you are in pretty good shape because the field is usually so much weaker than the bigger buyins. The big name players mainly want to play the 5K events and 10K events, so you are looking at much less talent in the smaller events, so I am really going to be focusing on the small events this year.
PokerLizard: Do you have a hard time even watching the events that you have played in the past, when you came so close to a bracelet?
Jean-Robert: It is brutal; last year I had the 9 to 1 chip lead for the bracelet. Part of the reason why I have gotten there is that my style of play is going to get me rewarded with big chips, people are going to call me down and pay me off and I am pretty confident about being able to get there again and again. Do not be surprised that once I get my first bracelet I don’t end up with two or three.
PokerLizard: Someone pops up and wins two or three every year. Why not you? Why not me? Why not?
Jean-Robert: Tom Schneider a couple of years ago. Yeah, so everybody is getting in town right now. There is kind of nostalgic feeling, everyone is getting kind of excited. You can see people were ready for the series.
Jean-Robert: I may even play in a $1500 super satellite to the 40k tonight due to the excitement. I would like to try to get into the 40K but I have no problems missing it. I really do not.
PokerLizard: Yeah, it seems like they are having it awfully early to create buzz or whatever. Do you think they should have had it more in the middle of the series?