Juanda upset with million dollar profit


You win a million bucks in a calendar year, and you're a pretty happy camper.

Unless, of course, you're John Juanda.

Then you're disappointed and vowing to do better and pretty much putting the poker world on notice.

"I feel I let myself down last year,'' said Juanda, regarded as one of the best tournament players in the world. "I had an off year.''

Near the end of last year, Juanda won the Monte Carlo Millions Gold consolation tournament after finishing sixth in the Monte Carlo Millions. He finished second in the FullTiltPoker Invitational, also in Monte Carlo, and was runner-up again at the WSOP Circuit stop in Atlantic City, N.J. He also made the final tables of the U.S. Poker Championship in Atlantic City and the WSOP Circuit event in Tunica, Miss.

In all, Juanda, one of the stars of the FultTiltPoker Web site, won more than $1.1 million in 2005. An off year. To him, anyway.

Tough grader, huh?

"I'm more motivated this year,'' Juanda said, and he looked it when the 2006 season started.

In January alone, Juanda collected almost $750,000, largely on the strength of winning the Speed Poker Million Dollar Challenge in Australia, where the buy-in was $100,000.

That tournament victory seemed particularly gratifying because it allowed the usually deliberate Juanda to show his full range of poker chops.

"Everybody was making fun of how I was a big underdog,'' Juanda said. "Daniel Negreanu said I was a 50-1 dog with 10 players because normally I take my time.

"But I'm capable of playing as fast as anybody else. I don't do it because I don't have to. If you can take a minute to consider the variables, why take 15 seconds?

"There are lots of things to take into consideration on the river alone: Will this guy bet if I check? Will he call if I bet? What's his mood? How has he been playing? I mostly think about the psychological aspects.''

As Juanda goes about playing a year he can be proud of, the leader in the Bluff Magazine/ESPN Power Rankings by more than 100 points over Phil Ivey wrestles with the number of tournaments available vs. the amount of money to be won.

"I'm going to try to play as many events in the World Series as possible,'' Juanda says. "But I always say that, then I'm at the table saying, 'What am I doing trying to to win $150,000?' I'd rather play for a million dollars or spend time with my family. I don't like to play anything other than $10,000 buy-in events.''

On points: One thing I hadn't realized is that the Card Player magazine Player of the Year award includes invitational events, such as the recent National Heads-Up Poker Championship that will be shown on NBC.

Ted Forrest won it, beating Chris "Jesus'' Ferguson, who finished second for the second straight year. While there's no denying that Forrest and Ferguson are terrific players, I am not a fan of including invitational events in the Player of the Year criteria, and here's why:

Those events are not always about just the playing, but can be as much about marketing and politicking and TVQ ratings (the way broadcast outlets measure the popularity and recognizability of people). Not always, but I think this plays a part in who makes it and who doesn't -- read Andrew Feldman's examination of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship and the big response from NBC wonks -- which seems to be less fair than an open event, where players have the chance to pony up the full buy-in or gain entry by winning a seat in a satellite.

Of course, there is no perfect system. Some players who might be terrific might not have the bankroll or the time -- or both -- to compete in enough events to rack up points. And if you're thinking about giving the award to the player who wins the most money -- that's the object of the exercise, no? -- then you just hand the hardware to next year's Joseph Hachem at the World Series of Poker main event.

The folks at Card Player annually tinker with the criteria for the Player of the Year award, and good for them. They're making an earnest effort to fairly determine a winner. They did it again this year, twice addressing qualifications for invitational events.

One criterion includes invitational events with at least 60 players and a prize pool of $500,000. The other cites invitational events with a prize pool of more than $1.5 million. The National Heads-Up Poker Championship qualified as a point-getting event on both counts because it started with 64 players and featured a prize pool of $1.5 million. So Forrest collected 288 Player of the Year points, while Ferguson was awarded 240.

But the Player of the Year criteria specifically says events open only to dealers (senior and ladies, for instance) do not count, and understandably so. They run counter to the open competition that these kinds of awards are about. For me, invitational events seem just as exclusive.

But my opinion is just that -- my opinion. In this case, it seems worthwhile, not to mention fair, to hear from someone at Card Player. Get an explanation. Understand the thinking. And I received an answer from Card Player magazine co-publisher Jeff Shulman, who was invited to the National Heads-Up Poker Championship:

"We had a lot of good players come up to us in the past that won events against the best players in the world and thought that they should get points,'' Shulman said. "In golf, not every person gets to play in The Masters, and that certainly counts toward the overall standings in golf for the year. Having said that, you can not win Player of the Year without winning huge events, and invitational events have relatively small prize pools.''

Money talks: Many regulars on the tournament circuit say it can easily cost a half-million dollars a year to follow the money. A half-million here, a half-million there, and pretty soon you're talking real money.

Turns out, that kind of expense can hit even players who are seemingly flush.

Barry Greenstein, for one.

Don't misunderstand. No one will be holding a tag day for Barry, and he's not asking for one, certainly.

But the man known as the "Robin Hood of poker'' for his decision to donate all of his tournament winnings to charity -- raising poker's social consciousness to remarkable levels -- has changed his thinking a bit, a piece of news I came across after Greenstein collected $100,000 in winning the L.A. Poker Classic Invitational.

"The last two years have each cost me more than $1 million in expenses and entry fees,'' said Greenstein, a regular in the "Big Game'' at the Bellagio. "In addition, I have not played much on the side, because I was too busy traveling to and playing in tournaments. As a result, I am going to wait until the end of the year and then give my net tournament winnings to charity. Half will go to Children, Incorporated, and I will choose the recipients of the other half at that time.''

Kid stuff: Karina Jett is pregnant again. Karina, mostly a cash-game player, and Chip Jett, a wild tournament player who never a met a 2-4 offsuit he didn't think he could play, already have a 2-year-old daughter named Athena. Chip said they know the next one will be a boy, and they already have a name: Apollo. Tell you what, Karina had better be in shape if the Jetts are going to go somewhat alphabetically by Greek gods. Quick, someone tell them it's a long way to Zeus.

Kid stuff 2: Mark Seif, the only double-bracelet winner at the 2005 World Series, and wife Jennifer also just became parents. Baby Sarah was born the weekend of the National Heads-up Poker Championship, and daddy already has her playing 7-2 offsuit for a raise from under the gun.

Steve Rosenbloom's book "The Best Hand I Ever Played" is available at bookstores everywhere. A regular contributor to ESPN.com, he is also author of a syndicated column for the Chicago Tribune. To leave Steve some feedback or ask him a question for his column, check out his mailbag.