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.
Out All The Lizard Interviews
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
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
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
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?
Jean-Robert: Definitely would
have liked that because then I could take some
winnings and enter. Otherwise I’d have to
put 40K right into that and be busted for the
rest of the series.
PokerLizard: Yeah, unless you
qualify via the satellite.
PokerLizard: After all the bad
beats, are you superstitious or anything like
Jean-Robert: I am not superstitious
but I definitely believe in luck. I know I will
get there in the long run, but being in any one
tournament is just the short run. You can get
all your money with the best hand and get unlucky.
It happens all the time.
PokerLizard: For example, that
main event hand last year where you got knocked
out, you know the “bye bye” hand where
that guy hits his miracle card. You gotta be sick
of seeing that hand on the WSOP reruns.
Jean-Robert: Well I celebrated
prematurely then he gave me the “bye bye”
before his card came; that’s pretty strong.
That was particularly unlucky but if I win that
hand I am well above the chip average and am in
good shape in that field.
PokerLizard: Plus then you get
a ton more TV time, you are more marketable, make
more money on the side.
Jean-Robert: Exactly. Wow...you’re
right. Probably cost me maybe half a million dollars
PokerLizard: Speaking of marketability,
you were on Survivor and that must have been interesting
being a poker player.
Jean-Robert: Actually when they
asked me initially to be on the show I turned
them down; then, after I thought about it, I realized
this could bring a lot of good things for me marketing-wise
plus the 1 in 16 shot at a million dollars, that
is pretty good equity.
PokerLizard: I know it was right
in the middle of the world series of poker a couple
of years ago, so It kind of had to be somewhat
of a tough decision.
Jean-Robert: Yeah, that was
brutal missing the world series but overall, it
was worthwhile. I hated being out there, but it
was great fun to watch on TV.
PokerLizard: Do they give you
guys sun block and stuff out there or is it “tough
Jean-Robert: Yeah, there is
some sort of a like a sun block that also has
like a insect repellant on it.
PokerLizard: I mean, obviously
do not want anybody to die on tv.
Jean-Robert: We were completely
covered with bugs. There is actually a first aid
box off camera which includes like tampons for
the girls and contact stuff for people who wear
contacts, but there is no tooth brushes, toilet
paper or anything like that. Yeah, you go out
in the woods, dig a hole; run down a lake and
PokerLizard: What is the coolest
thing that has happened from you being on Survivor?
Jean-Robert: [thinks for awhile]
That’s interesting. One of the coolest things
is just a general recognition from the public,
when I was on the show, I think most viewers probably
hated me or at least more than half of them did.
Yet somehow, when I run into people that are fans
of the show, they all seem to love me or my character.
Maybe that was like a fun character for them to
watch. It’s funny how whenever I meet people
who watched it, they are really appreciative.
It’s funny, I know they hated my ass when
I was on there.
PokerLizard: It has to do with
the way they edit the show, I mean this is the
same way with the WSOP broadcasts. You’ve
got to have a villain on the show and you need
to have a hero on the show.
PokerLizard: I mean half the
time you were probably watching episodes wondering
when did I say that or wow that was out of context?
But since the camera is there, people believe
what they see.
Jean-Robert: You are right, you
are right and even in the celebrity apprentice
they tried their hardest to make Annie [Duke]
look like a jerk and make Joan Rivers look good.
Annie still seemed like the much better choice
PokerLizard: How they picked
Joan, I’ll never know, that show was just
Jean-Robert: That was complete
PokerLizard: Lets get back to
poker. So would you say your biggest step in poker
was when you became friends with Jeff Lisandro.
How did you become a great player?
Jean-Robert: Definitely the
few months that I spent in Europe with Jeff
Lisandro; that definitely would be the biggest
jump in my skill level in poker. Because when
I was in Prague, I was playing No Limit Hold’em
everyday and just really began to understand the
game really well. I was in Prague for about six
managing the game over there. While doing that,
I was also playing Sit N Go’s online.
Jean-Robert: Yeah, I would play
100 and 200 dollar Sit N Go’s all day long
and I would just play until I had made $1,000
everyday then I’d quit. Sometimes it would
take me couple of hours, sometimes it might take
me 8 hours, but I would basically do that until
I was up $1,000 everyday and I did that for 30
days straight, that actually was when I improved
my No Limit game the most.
Jean-Robert: And the dynamics,
the changes in the game from full handed to short
handed play and hand values and what position
they are in. When anybody asks me about how to
improve their game, I recommend playing a lot,
a lot of Sit N Go’s.
PokerLizard: You finish an entire
tournament in an hour and you learn so much.
Jean-Robert: Right, even if you
make just a little bit of money in grinding you
are learning so much about the game when you play
PokerLizard: So why did you come
home from Prague it is pretty awesome over there.
Jean-Robert: I came home when
it turned to winter over there. When I was there
I thought I wouldn’t never come back. I
miss it, I would like to go back sometime.
PokerLizard: So on Survivor
they asked you? You didn’t have to go through
any of the BS to get on the show?
Jean-Robert: Well, even after
they ask you to be on the show you still have
to go through the audition process. Basically
at first I wasn’t one of the 16, just that
I made the final 40 and they were going to chose
the final 16. It’s funny because there was
actually discussion whether or not I would actually
be on the show. Once I was on it was such a no
brainer for them, they loved me being on there.
It was funny, when I got knocked out the producer
was bumming, they were loving my character and
story line and strategy. I was trying to be the
biggest jerk possible without getting knocked
off – they loved it.
PokerLizard: Was there any effect
on ratings when you got knocked off?
Jean-Robert: Usually the ratings
go up each week as the show gets near the end
but they pretty much stayed steady with 15 to
16 million people watching each week.
PokerLizard: You can’t
beat that exposure, even being on the WSOP.
Jean-Robert: Yeah, versus the
2 million that watch the WSOP.
PokerLizard: So what you want
to achieve through being a poker pro fame? Fortune?
just the freedom to do, whatever you want to do?
Jean-Robert: Well, right now,
I am really hoping that the UIGEA
(Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) gets
repealed; poker is starting to dry up quite a
bit, the game is getting tougher and tougher,
people are getting more knowledgeable. It’s
not like the old days when you knew you were going
to make x-amount of money each month. It’s
a grind, so I’m hoping poker opens up to
the public like it was before. When that happens,
some of us that have already made a little bit
of a name for ourselves might end up with some
huge sponsorship deals.
PokerLizard: I read online about
Harrah’s setting up an online division.
Which may be a good indicator that the UIGEA is
going away, so there's some hope.
Jean-Robert: Right now, I've
been playing a lot of mixed games that seem to
be getting more and more popular. ; I’ve
been trying to get Bodog to add some mixed games.
This is my second year with Bodog and I’m
feeling a little more comfortable trying to giving
them some advice.
PokerLizard: Them finally getting
the bodog domain back wont’ hurt either.
Jean-Robert: When did they get
the name back?
PokerLizard: Actually just recently
back in April..
Jean-Robert: That is great.
Good news for me, trust me.
PokerLizard: Tell me about your
project “Broke and Living Like a Millionaire”
Jean-Robert: Were actually shooting
the pilot during the series. It’s basically
a lifestyle piece about me; It’s not so
much about the poker, but the lifestyle that goes
along with it. The emotional swings, the highs
and lows, the struggle, the grind, the celebration.
I think it will be interesting. There may also
be a book in the works.
PokerLizard: Probably have
some crazy prop bets?
Jean-Robert: There will be all kinds
of things. Just recently Huck
Seed offered me a bet. It will be a 2 mile
race, me just running versus him in high heels
running backward [laughs]. That sounds like a
“lock” bet for me, but Huck doesn’t
lose too many prop bets.
PokerLizard: All of his prop
bets sound crazy. Then he wins and you think “he
did that lot easier than I expected”.
Jean-Robert: I think I can run
my 2 miles like in 21 minutes.
PokerLizard: Two miles backward
in High Heels Just sounds impossible…
Jean-Robert: It does sound
impossible, but he’s probably just going
to take my money.
Jean-Robert: I have actually
got a lot of people following me on twitter right
now. Basically on
twitter I am very open with what my bankroll
actually is (you can follow Jean-Robert's twitter
his bankroll is currently at $3,700). The goal
is to turn my little bit of nothing into a million
dollars. Right now I think I’ve got a thousand
dollars that we are going to try and figure out
how to get to a million. Hopefully, we will do
that winning some of these tournaments this Summer.
PokerLizard: If you only have a grand,
you’re obviously being backed for the series
right? Or is Bodog buying you into some events?
Well, my deal with Bodog is not really something
I can talk about in too much in detail, but as
a member of team bodog I represent them at any
tournament I play throughout the year. My bankroll
determines what I am able to do so sometimes I
buy myself in, sometimes someone gives me a freeroll
or I may play a tournament with makeup. It’s
a constant hustle. I am thrilled to be with Bodog
and I am actually getting ready to go play on
Bodog right now. I really anticipate some amazing
results during the series this Summer and hopefully
cash early so that I am bankrolled for the remainder
PokerLizard: I read online that
you keep getting offered all these crazy deals,
for example 5 hole cards in Omaha, being on the
button each hand, or cash rebates for playing?
Are these people nuts it seems like you can’t
lose in the long run?
Jean-Robert: Well the kid that
gave me 5 cards won’t be giving me 5 cards
again that’s for sure. The same kid who
offered me 5 cards also offered Barry
Greenstein 30% back on his losses. Barry turned
him down because there is really nothing he can
win there. Either he is going to win as expected
or he’s going to lose and this kid gets
bagging rights. It's a lose-lose proposition.
I’ve had some other pros tell me you’ve
got big balls going up against that because if
I'm beaten and I've gotten five cards it’s
pretty embarrassing. In fact, one of the magazines
actually printed that the kid did beat me; which
never happened by the way, but I do not mind that
getting out there because then other people are
going to want to spot me as well. I did have one
or two other people actually offering me with
same game and I will never turn down an extra
card in poker. You want to give me five cards,
let’s play. You want to give me six we can
play that too. I don’t mind.
PokerLizard: So you like to play
up the image that you are a degenerate gambler
to get action?
Jean-Robert: I do not know that
I necessarily play it up , I am just me and yeah
sure I might have little bit of ego and all, but
it is not big too to turn down getting a good
spot. I used to play pool and anytime there is
a match up there is usually spot that is given
and If a guy gives you too much weight, you are
not going to turn it down. That’s a good
gamble. If he gives me too much weight and happens
to beat me well okay; that means he’ll just
want to play again tomorrow with the same amount
of weight, so why not? It is just a good decision
making and I have no problem with taking those
spots in cards. No problem.
PokerLizard: So you consider
yourself an action junkie? Have a little money
on the line like Phil
Ivey just to make things interesting.
Jean-Robert: Not so much in
action junkie. I do love being in action, but
I am alright not be in action. I just spent a
couple of weeks in Cyprus and Istanbul and the
guys were trying to get me to play poker. I told
them, “We’re in Greece, why do I want
to play poker? I’m loving this; This is
fantastic and we play poker all the time.”
I do enjoy being in action, but I do not consider
myself a junkie.
PokerLizard: So you do not really
have any big leaks that you want to plug? Baccarat?
Jean-Robert: No, when I play
those casino games I will do it once in a while
for entertainment, but it is not really a leak.
The leak in my game is that I tend to play much
too high for my bankroll. The people who play
in games who need to have at least 200 or 300
big bets in order to play; I can commend those
people, that’s great . I wish I could that,
but for me if I see a live one in a game and I
have a couple times the buyin; I am going to try
and play. If I think someone is going to be giving
away money. That’s a bad habit I have, playing
too high for my bankroll.
PokerLizard: You have a lot
of friends in the poker world, is it weird trying
to take their money every day? Or do you try and
stay out of each other’s way and carve up
Jean-Robert: It’s interesting
that you say that because probably one of my best
friends in the world is Joe Cassidy and he and
I bet with each other almost every single day.
We do bet on everything and have a bet on the
Laker game today. I actually prefer beating friends
out of their money. I like that it is kept in
the family. If I lose money to a good friend it’s
still family money. I live at
Joe Cassidy’s house in Vegas so we’re
both happy when the other guy does well. Huck’s
another guy, we will always gamble together. Huck
is one of my closest friends but we will definitely
try and get over on each other; by the way I do
not recommend gambling against Huck. Not many
people come out on the right side of that.
PokerLizard: Doesn’t he
have some weird weight bet with Hellmuth
that he has to stay under a certain weight each
month for 10 years? And he hasn’t lost a
Jean-Robert: Yeah, yeah I think
they just settled out of that one just recently.
Jean-Robert: The boys are coming
over here later, Huck and Shieky are coming over
to watch the Laker game, play some pool and we’ll
all be bettting. It’s not just me and Joe.
Joe’s got a big bet with John Hennigan on
the 40k on how many people are buying in…it’s
Jean-Robert: Any side bets I
make outside of poker tend to be really small.
They are more for entertainment.
PokerLizard: What do you think
you will be doing if was not a poker?
Jean-Robert: I would be in the
nightclub business, I used to promote clubs and
then I owned my own club for awhile. I was really
good at it and here in Vegas they run clubs a
little bit differently but I have actually been
studying what they have been doing here and I
may find myself back involved. Ideally I’d
like to be operating a club and playing poker.
Right now I am just focusing on poker and after
the World Series I will sort our possibly getting
back into the club business.
PokerLizard: Maybe parlay a
big score this year into your own club.
PokerLizard: What advice did
you give to anybody that wants to aspire to be
a pro poker player?
Jean-Robert: Well my advice
to them would be to do something that I have not
really done well. That is to really capitalize
on all the free information out there; the books,
the DVD sets, the online training sites. So many
of these things that took us months and even years
to learn in live games you can learn just by reading
and studying and reading again just sort it out.
The games have evolved so much and the reason
why I think these youngsters are so good is because
they have learned in a short time what took Doyle
[Brunson] and Johnny
Chan years and years to learn. Take advantage
of the information that is available.
PokerLizard: If you were Matt
Damon's character in the movie Rounder's, how
long would it take you to get with Famke Janssen
after your girlfriend kicked you to the curb?
Jean-Robert: I definitely know
some people who might turn that down, Huck for
instance [laughs] pretty much. For me the best
way to get over somebody is get with someone new.
That is my answer.
PokerLizard: Daniel Negreanu
actually said Damon would be better off if he
stuck with his girlfriend.
Jean-Robert: Well we all know
that Daniel likes the self torture…he’ll
put somebody on a better hand and then call anyway.
PokerLizard: ha. Thanks for
the interview, great job.
Jean-Robert: Thanks buddy.
You can keep up with John-Robert during
the WSOP through twitter at BrokeLivingJRB
or play with him at the tables on Bodog
Poker...make sure and offer that 5th card!
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