John Juanda at the 2012 WSOPE.
It's been a high-profile couple of months for the usually low-key John Juanda.
Beyond his usual stellar tournament results, including a runner-up finish at the recent €50k High Roller at the WSOPE, Juanda has been in the unusual position of being in the media spotlight.
His was a prominent name brought up by Howard Lederer in the Lederer Files interview and the picture painted was fairly unkind.
Not only was he cast as a major voice of discontent towards Ray Bitar it was also suggested he was an obstacle to the PokerStars deal.
Juanda didn't take kindly to the insinuations and snapped back at Lederer via Twitter, claiming Howard was skewing the story to meet his own agenda.
He also claimed Full Tilt management "stole" $5.4 million from his friend Erik Seidel, which Lederer later confirmed was taken back.
On a break with three players left in the WSOPE High Roller, our colleague at PokerListings France Fred Guillemot caught up with Juanda for a few quick questions including his thoughts on the Lederer Files.
PokerListings: John, you seem pretty motivated to play in this €50k. Are high-roller tournaments your favorite?
Picks his tourney spots well.
John Juanda: Yes, actually. I like high-roller tournaments a lot because you don't have to play for too many days most of the time.
Like the Main Event here in Cannes for example, I have to play for six days. In Vegas it’s eight days whereas high-rollers usually take about two days.
This one is a bit longer than usual, it lasts for three days.
Another thing about high-rollers is that you don't get as many players, so it is, or at least it seems, a little bit easier.
PL: What about the other tournaments with lower buy-ins. Do they feel, in some ways, less interesting?
JJ: You know, it really depends on the tournament. You have to understand I've been playing poker for 15 or 16 years now. So when I was younger, I just couldn't wait to be playing the next tournament.
But now I'm a bit more selective. I can't play all of them so I have to pick a few I can play mostly because of the time constraints, which is why I usually end up picking the ones with big prize pools or in nice places like here in Cannes, Barcelona or Australia.
I go to places that I enjoy. For the most part I usually prefer tournaments with bigger prize pools and usually bigger buy-in means bigger prize pool.
Of course there are exceptions like HORSE where the buy-in is cheaper but you still see big prize pools. That's really exciting too.
PokerListings: Is this the reason you moved closer to Macau, because there are more cash games?
JJ: I usually live in Japan now, it is pretty close yes. So whenever I get an itch to play poker, I can just take a short flight to Macau to play where the action is.
PokerListings: You took two rebuys in this tournament which was a pretty good idea in the end.
JJ: It wasn't a great idea to start with, I busted pretty quickly... On one of the hands I think I could maybe have folded, but I'm not sure. David Benefield had a set, or at least looked like he might have a set, so I had to play my hand.
Yong misclick led to first bust.
The other hand was quite interesting. I called and Richard Yong put in the wrong chip. When we play in Macau, it's really friendly, so when you put in the wrong chip, people let you take it back, no-one ever calls string bet.
But in this tournament, Richard meant to put in 1,000 and put 10,000 instead. Then I raised and he realized he made a mistake, but he had a good hand and he thought maybe I was trying to steal from him, knowing he had made a mistake, so he went all-in.
I had aces. Then I lost. So I had to rebuy again.
Normally it should have been my last rebuy, because I had a hard time finding money here. See, a bunch of us guys from Macau only have a pool of money between us, the equivalent of six or seven rebuys.
But I had already used up two of them, so I felt bad. I didn't want to use all their money or spend that much money on one tournament.
PokerListings: So you still have a limit, you don't want to spend too much in one tournament.
JJ: Yeah. It's not smart to rebuy for 300,000 then you have to finish third to get your money back. But fortunately the last rebuy worked out pretty well and I'm still in. (note: this interview was done when there were 3 players left)
PokerListings: A few words about Full Tilt now. Do you have anything to say about the latest developments and the video interview with Howard Lederer?
JJ: You have to understand that Howard did that interview for his own reasons, so obviously he was going to say things that make him look good.
I thought he should have taken more blame instead of pointing fingers at everyone else.
He was the top guy at Full Tilt. At one point he was Ray Bitar's boss.
"I don't think Howard's a bad guy."
Ray Bitar had to report to him and, even after that, he was still on the board of directors.
A lot of the people involved in the company tried to warn him about Ray Bitar from the beginning but he wouldn't listen. He trusted Ray Bitar too much.
I don't think Howard's a bad guy, but he trusted the wrong person and maybe he should have listened a little bit when people told him he should look over Ray Bitar's shoulder for example.
So yeah, that's more or less my take on the situation.
PokerListings: Do you feel angry about it?
JJ: I am definitely very angry. The whole thing has cost a lot of embarrassment to me and everybody involved in Full Tilt.
For the last 15 months, I don't know where Howard was but he didn't show his face anywhere. We're the ones who've had to face people every day.
He never had people coming up to him asking for their money. People came to us, to me, to Erik Seidel, Gus Hansen.
They came to us and asked us where their money was. So yeah, I guess he didn't think about that.
I thought it was nice of him to apologize to the players, but I think he owes a lot of people an apology too.
Juanda: Loved every minute of past Full Tilt life.
A lot of people involved in Full Tilt, a lot of them lost their job, and others were in complete uncertainty for 15 months, not knowing if they'd still have a job.
I don't think he even realized that.
PokerListings: He could have done better.
JJ: He should have taken more blame and apologized more instead of blaming basically everybody else instead.
PokerListings: Will you be part of the new Full Tilt Poker?
JJ: That's not up to me. I love the company and I was involved in it from the beginning.
I loved every minute of it. I have a lot of nice memories there, like going to Germany 2 or 3 years in a row, shooting the commercials.
And I met some of my best friends, so I miss that part about Full Tilt.
But it's in good hands now.
I'm sure PokerStars will manage the whole thing much better and will allow the company to expand, and I wish them the best.
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