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Card Player Profile: Jean-Robert Bellande

Bellande Talks About His Experiences Playing Against a Table Full of Hecklers


Jean-Robert BellandeJean-Robert Bellande has more than $750,000 in tournament earnings. He often talks trash to his opponents at the tables because he believes he has an edge over opponents that do not like him. This past fall he was a contestant on the 15th season of the hit show Survivor. Recently, he made another television appearance; he was one of the players on NBC’s Poker After Dark as part of their match dubbed “Hecklers Week.” It was Bellande’s first appearance on the popular late-night poker show.

Lizzy Harrison:
You recently appeared on Poker After Dark as part of their hecklers week. Do you consider yourself to be a heckler?

Jean-Robert Bellande:
I do not see myself as a heckler at all. I admit that I am someone who likes to taunt people to try to get them off of their game or so they want to attack me. It is not likely that I would heckle an amateur or anyone who does not play poker for a living, because I do not think that it appropriate. It does happen, but it is something I would rather not be a part of, myself. I want to put my opponents on edge, and I will tease them with comments like “Bad lay down!” but I really am not a heckler. I also do not view the other players at that table as hecklers, with the exception of Sam Grizzle. At that particular table, since we knew everybody and we all had enough confidence, a bit of heckling was okay. It is not a problem to heckle really good players. I would not mind heckling Phil [Hellmuth] or Gavin [Smith], because they are great players and they can take a little bit of beating up. In general, though, I do not think that the players at that table, with the exception of Sam Grizzle, would heckle any player that is not a top player. I want to point out that the lineup I was up against consisted of outstanding players. I thought that I was able to hold my own with those great players. I have a tremendous amount of respect for each of their games.

LH: How would you define the term heckler?

JRB: I think that a heckler is somebody who capitalizes on every opportunity to try to embarrass or belittle somebody else.

LH: When you accepted the invitation to play this match, what did you expect the atmosphere at the table to be like?

JRB: I had played at a similar table when I was part of the Bad Boys of Poker for the World Poker Tour. I do not see how anybody could ever be louder than Mike [Matusow], but there is one person. The exception to Mike being the loudest at a table was when we were at the table with Tony G [World Poker Tour: Bad Boys of Poker II]. Tony was much louder than Mike there. I think that he is the only guy who could ever be louder than Mike. This Poker After Dark match consisted of a pretty loud table, louder than I expected it to be. At this table, I was actually the quiet one.

LH: Phil Hellmuth mentioned on the first episode that he thought you would be the loudest at the table. How would you respond to that?

JRB: I don’t agree with that; I was not the loudest one. Except during the altercation that we had; I admit that I was loud then. The problem in the hand that Phil and I disagreed on was that since I called him on the river I had the right to see his hand. When he made that bet, and I called, I was thinking that he might have me beat, but I called him to see what he had. It was fine that he conceded the pot, but at that point he should have just thrown his hand in the muck. I don’t think he should have conceded the pot and then said that he wanted to see my hand. That is not really fair. If he wanted to see what I had, he should have shown me what he had. And the rules of poker support me 100 percent. Hellmuth started asking if others thought it was ethically correct for me to make him show his hand when I was about to take the pot. I really did not care if I saw his hand or not, but he should not have asked me to show him mine.

LH: Did you make any adjustments to your game against this table of hecklers?

JRB: To be honest with you, the table was not very aggressive. Going in, I believed that most of the other players at the table would think I would be making a lot of bluffs. I thought that they thought I would be making moves and playing fairly loose. Because of that, I decided that if I played true then I would probably get paid off a lot. I figured I could get myself into situations where I would probably have the best hand, which is obviously right where I would want to be. Basically, I thought I should play pretty conservatively, because I did not see the need to make moves at that table.

LH: Were you able to stick to your game plan?

JRB: Yes, I love the way I played. I was confident, and I thought I was the best player at the table. I played very well; I love how I played, and I probably would play similarly if I was put at that same table again. It’s interesting, earlier this week I watched one hand where I had two jacks and a queen came on the flop. Normally, I would take one off in that spot, but I know Shawn [Sheikhan] pretty well, and when he made that bet on the flop, he was convinced that he had the best hand. When he made that bet, I knew it wasn’t a bluff. Like I said, I know Shawn and I know when he is weak or strong. In that spot he showed a lot of strength, and that is what got me to lay down that hand right away. I think that he truly believed that he had the best hand at that time. That is why I laid down my jacks so easily; I was convinced that he had a monster hand. Ultimately, I got bluffed, but I did not really get bluffed, because he believed that he had the best hand.

LH: There was a big hand early in the week when Mike Matusow moved all in with pocket nines after Shawn Sheikhan made a comment to that effect. Do you think Sheikhan’s remark influenced Matusow’s push?

JRB: I absolutely think that Shawn did influence Mike, and that is why it can be inappropriate to chatter at the table. It is unfortunate, but sometimes Mike is like a child that can be manipulated into doing things. I honestly believe that if Shawn had said something like “Come on, let’s get on to the next hand! Fold!” Mike would have probably folded his hand. That was unfortunate, because I really wanted to see Mike stick around. Mike is actually one of my favorite people; I love hanging out with him, and I like having him at my table. I love playing with him, because I don’t think he is nearly as good as he thinks he is.