PokerStars pro Toni Judet. Photo: PokerStars
Like a lot of people who've found success in poker, Toni Judet has an impressive background in another life endeavor.
In Judet's case it's the pro billiards circuit, where he picked up several major titles around the world before making the jump to poker.
In 2008 Judet had his first major score with a €2,000 side-event title at the EPT Grand Final and since he's piled up the cashes to sit fourth overall on the all-time Romanian money list.
In 2010 he became the first-ever Romanian Team PokerStars pro and he's been with the team since.
PokerListings France's Fred Guillemot caught up with Toni at EPT Barcelona to pick his brain about the similarities between poker and the pro billiards scene.
PokerListings: So let’s talk about billiards. You used to play professionally?
Toni Judet: I've played before, yes. I stopped playing seven years ago because I started playing poker – with all the travelling and the playing, I don't really have time for pool anymore.
Judet: It's very hard to make a living playing billiards
PL: What's your favorite type of billiards -- 8-ball, 9-ball, carambole, snooker … ?
TJ: I actually played American pool, which means that I mainly played 9-ball. I also played 10-ball and 8-ball, but not as often.
PL: Did you ever get to play against one of the superstars like Francisco Bustamante, Efren Reyes, the infamous Earl Strickland, Ralf Souquet, etc.?
TJ: I played against a lot of big names, but I never played against Reyes and Bustamante because they play in America and don't travel to Europe much.
I was mostly playing in Europe, so I played against Ralf Souquet, Nick van der Berg ... All the big European players.
PL: How does it feel to play against such big stars?
TJ: It's tough, because on one hand you feel honored to be playing against such players, but on the other hand you have to play really well in order to beat them.
PL: Would you compare it to playing guys like Daniel Negreanu or Phil Ivey in poker?
TJ: I guess, but it's not really the same.
PL: Is it possible to make a living playing billiards?
TJ: That's actually part of the reason I stopped playing: it's very hard to make a living playing billiards. You have to travel a lot and spend a lot of money – a bit like poker – but the prizes you win in poker are much bigger.
For example, if you win the biggest billiards tournament in Europe, you're only going to win €10,000. There are some professional players who have contracts with billiard websites and such, but very few.
PL: Do you think we can compare billiards with heads-up poker?
TJ: Yes, of course. I think you can even compare it to poker in general, not just heads-up. Just like in poker, you have to wait for your moment in billiards.
Sometimes your opponent is playing so well that you don't even get a chance to play. In both cases you have to learn to be patient and wait for the right moment.
PL: So your experience with billiards must be useful to you at the poker table.
TJ: Yes, it definitely helped me with the mental aspects of poker.
PL: Both psychologically and physically, what's the most demanding part of billiards?
Be patient and wait for the right moment.
TJ: You definitely have to be well-prepared physically, because in one day at a pool tournament you have to play four or five games. You have to be ready to play all day long.
PL: You said you wanted to go back to playing competitive billiards. What are your plans?
TJ: It's not about the money anymore because now I'm earning enough money thanks to poker. But the thing is that I don't want to go back to pool just for fun. I want to be a competitive player and for that I need to train.
I'm planning to start from Romania where I'll take part in the national championship and some local tournaments, and then if I do well I'll play some European tournaments.
I don't have enough time at the moment – I just got back from Vegas where I stayed for a month, and I'm going to be travelling again for poker, not to mention the fact that I have a family. That's why I haven't been able to get back to it yet, but hopefully I will soon.
PL: It must be hard to have two passions like that. Do you know other billiards players who also play poker?
TJ: Actually, I do. In Romania, a lot of pool players I know also play poker. I met some in America too. They're not as well-known as the ones we mentioned before, but they stopped playing pool for the same reasons I did.
PL: I think Daniel Negreanu plays pool too... Maybe you two should set up a game?
TJ: Actually I think he plays snooker, although I'm not completely sure. We're friends though and he’s from Romania too, that’s a good idea, I'll ask him (laughs).
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