About John Juanda

John Juanda
John Juanda

John Juanda got his MBA at Seattle University, but his most useful education may have actually come on the weekends when he was learning to play poker at nearby casinos.

"Perhaps the most underrated and neglected superstar in our game today is John Juanda," said Daniel Negreanu in a blog. "Without question, John has been the most successful tournament player in the world over the last five years."

"His consistency is unrivaled. If you had to pick one guy to make a final table, your best bet would be John Juanda, hands down. Yet I'll often read the message boards on the Internet and notice that John's name is rarely mentioned among the list of greats."

Juanda's results, however, speak for themselves and prove his place among the greats. He has made more than $6.6 million playing in poker tournaments alone since his entry into professional poker in the late ‘90s, making him one of the youngest, winningest players on the poker circuit.

Though Juanda didn't learn to play poker until he went to college, his gambling roots run back much further, to his childhood in Indonesia.

Juanda was born the first of four children July 8, 1971, in Medan, North Sumatra. He spent many years of his childhood living with his grandparents while his parents worked to start up a business in another city.

Being apart from his parents didn't keep him from being exposed to his father's vices. He liked to drink and gamble, which never made for a winning combination, and in typical do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do fashion, he kept telling Juanda not to gamble.

Juanda apparently didn't heed that advice, as he started playing marbles for money in grade school. Gambling wasn't a huge part of his life growing up though. Instead he was a well-liked, yet well-grounded child who was a track star in high school.

As the firstborn, Juanda was favored. He didn't let it go to his head, however, partially because of how his parents raised him but also because the firstborn has the responsibility to help care for the family. That duty led him to the United States for his college education.

It was on his flight to the U.S. to start his college education at Oklahoma State in 1990 that he actually got his first taste of poker. A friend taught him to play during the flight, so even though he spoke very little English, when he stepped foot on American soil, he knew a game that's practically interlaced with the country's history.

It wasn't until Juanda wrapped up his undergraduate degrees in marketing and management at Oklahoma State and moved to Seattle to work on his master's that he got more involved in poker.

He worked a variety of jobs to pay for school, including stock brokerage and selling Bibles. Though a self-proclaimed lifelong Buddhist, Juanda won awards for his Bible sales.

On the weekends in Seattle he headed to the local casinos to play poker. He honed his game and figured out quickly that he could make money playing.

Juanda said in a Seattle University story, "I'd spend 12 hours playing poker, then go home to sleep, and I couldn't wait to get up and play again the next day."

After he completed his MBA in 1996, it was apparent to Juanda that poker was going to be his next career move. With the money he'd bankrolled while playing on weekends, he embarked on becoming a full-time professional player.

He continued to work on his game at casinos and card rooms on the west coast, eventually settling near Los Angeles, Calif., to find the bigger-stakes games.

It wasn't until 1999 that Juanda got up his courage to enter his first major tournament. He'd been regularly cashing in low buy-in tournaments, but this was an event at the World Series of Poker, the $1,500 Limit Hold'em event.

He placed ninth in a field of 609 players and the following week came in seventh in the $3,000 Limit Hold'em event. At a final table filled with the likes of Josh Arieh, Humberto Brenes, Howard Lederer and "Captain" Tom Franklin, the $3,000 event made it apparent that Juanda was headed for greatness.

If that wasn't enough, the following few years made it crystal clear. In 2000, he went back to the WSOP and took 10th place in the $3,000 Limit Hold'em event. In 2001, he returned to take third in the $2,500 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo Split Eight-or-Better and seventh once again in the $3,000 Limit Hold'em event.

In the meantime, Juanda continued to play in some lower-buy-in events, jumping up to $1,000 events here and there. Then in 2002 he hit his stride, cashing in at five different WSOP events, three of which were final tables and a fourth was his first bracelet win.

Less than two weeks later he followed that win up with a second place finish at the World Poker Tour Five Diamond World Poker Classic May 31. It was his biggest cash to date, $278,240, and also started a streak of final tables that lasted through the end of the year.

Two more WSOP bracelets came in 2003 among his six cashes at the series. And the list goes on and on after that with cash after cash in tournament after tournament. Some of the highlights include a Professional Poker Tour win in 2004 and winning the Crown Australian Poker Championships $100,000 Speed Poker Million Dollar Challenge in 2006.

One of the few things missing from his poker accomplishments is a World Poker Tour win. In 2006 he came close twice, making the final table of the WPT Championship as well as the North American Poker Championships.

The money just keeps coming in for Juanda as he continues with his poker career. To this day, it's a safe bet to back him as someone who will make a final table. What's the secret to his success, you ask?

There are several things that keep one of the nicest guys in poker on the winning track. One is his friendly, level-headed demeanor at the poker table, which can make people think he might be a pushover at the felt, but is really just a manner of self-control he's developed through Buddhism.

"I try my hardest to win, but I respect everyone I play with, and when I lose, I don't get upset," Juanda said in a Seattle University article. "One of the teachings of Buddhism is to have a sense of balance. I take satisfaction in doing my best and don't have overly high expectations."

That philosophy definitely helps Juanda keep from tilting his money away, and it also works well with his strategy of treating professional poker play like a business. Always keeping a watchful eye on his money, Juanda has been a successful "winning" poker player every year since he started playing professionally.

He's also responsible enough to invest some of his winning and put some away in savings for the future.

Another key to his success is the fact that he spoke very little English when he first came to the United States. When someone was talking to him and he couldn't understand what he was saying, Juanda would watch their body language and facial expressions and make an educated guess about what they were saying.

There are poker players all over the world who can attest to how valuable a talent that is at the table as they study each other's body language and actions looking for tells.

Despite his skills, it's not his own interest in the game that keeps Juanda playing poker; it's his success in the game that keeps him interested.

At one point Juanda was even thinking of quitting to go back to school and become a doctor so he can provide care to children in Third World countries. But the poker boom has made poker too lucrative to quit now.

While he continues to rake in the money, saving some for medical school and investing some of it, he is showing his altruism in other ways. He's taken in his younger sister and is helping put her through college in the United States.

Player Analysis

Although John has focused most of his energy on becoming a top tournament player, he did tear up the Triple-Draw Lowball side games when the game was first becoming popular.

When I view some of John’s play decisions in the context of high-stakes poker, they don’t always seem sound, but when I watch him work his magic against the weaker tournament players, I am often impressed.

Tournament Placing

Place Winnings Tournament
293 $33,734.00 WSOP 2014 - $10,000 Main Event
15 $25,327.00 WSOP 2014 - Event 28 - $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em
5 $54,770.00 WSOP 2013 - Event 38 - $2,500 4-Max No-Limit Hold'em
237 $38,453.00 WSOP 2012 - Event 61 - $10,000 Main Event
6 $41,270.00 WSOP 2012 - Event 60 - $10,000 2-7 Draw Lowball (No-Limit)
52 $12,315.00 WSOP 2012 - Event 9 - $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Re-entry
18 $7,254.00 WSOP 2012 - Event 5 - $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em
25 $15,287.00 WSOP 2012 - Event 2 - $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
6 $42,897.00 WSOP 2011 - Event 23 - $2,500 Eight-Game Mix
1 $367,170.00 WSOP 2011 - Event 16 - $10,000 2-7 Lowball Championship
92 $12,669.00 WPT - Season 9 - Bellagio Five Diamond
297 $2,801.00 WSOP 2010 - Event 45 - $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
3 $129,553.00 WSOP 2010 - Event 37 - $3,000 HORSE
4 $78,088.00 WSOP 2010 - Event 19 - $10k 2-7 Draw Championship (No-Limit)
5 $97,989.00 WSOP 2010 - Event 15 - $10k Seven-Card Stud Championship
4 $436,865.00 WSOP 2010 - Event 2 - $50k Player's Championship
11 $57,137.00 WPT Season 8 - Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic
40 £14,200.00 EPT Season 6 - EPT London
43 £2,803.00 WSOPE 2009 - £1,000 No-Limit Hold'em
4 $44,941.00 2009 WSOP - Event 55 - $2,500 2-7 Triple Draw (Limit)
9 $24,207.00 2009 WSOP - Event 30 - $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em
4 $75,964.00 2009 WSOP - Event 23 - $10,000 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship (No-Limit)
5 $25,633.00 2009 WSOP - Event 16 - $1,500 Seven-Card Stud
9 $25,000.00 2009 Special - NBC National Heads-Up Championship
2 $573,427.00 EPT Season 5 - EPT London £1m Showdown
1 £868,800.00 2008 WSOPE - Event 4, No-Limit Hold'em Main Event
35 $3,945.00 2008 WSOP - Event 51, H.O.R.S.E.
6 $154,296.00 2008 WSOP - Event 28, Pot-Limit Omaha w/re-buys
29 $5,535.00 2008 WSOP - Event 16, Omaha Hi-Lo Split Eight-or-Better
7 $16,920.00 2008 WSOP - Event 11, No-Limit Hold'em Shootout
27 $16,496.00 2008 WSOP - Event 5, No-Limit Hold'em w/re-buys
40 $17,213.00 WPT Season 6 - Borgata Poker Classic
6 $46,080.00 2007 Special - APPT Macau High-Rollers
14 £5,775.00 2007 WSOPE - Event 1, HORSE
10 $9,719.00 2007 WSOP - Event 44, Omaha Hi-Low Split
61 $9,708.00 2007 WSOP - Event 35, No-Limit Hold'em
57 $4,091.00 2007 WSOP - Event 30, No-Limit Hold'em / Six Handed
21 $5,879.00 2007 WSOP - Event 20, Seven Card Stud Hi-low-8 or Better
7 $107,196.00 2007 WSOP - Event 7, Pot Limit Omaha W/Rebuys
12 $26,235.00 WPT Season 6 - Mandalay Bay Poker Championship
5 $217,320.00 WPT Season 5 - North American Poker Championship
24 $4,302.00 2006 WSOP - Event 35, Seven Card Hi Low Split
17 $19,063.00 2006 WSOP - Event 30, No-Limit Hold'em- Short handed 6/table
25 $11,589.00 2006 WSOP - Event 14, No-Limit Hold'em w/re-buys
28 $4,268.00 2006 WSOP - Event 8, Omaha Hi-low Split
8 $37,606.00 2006 WSOP - Event 3, Pot-Limit Hold'em
31 $274,090.00 2005 WSOP - WSOP 2005 $10,000 World Championship Event
17 $11,320.00 2005 WSOP - Event 31, $5,000 No-limit Hold'em, Short-handed (6/table)
26 $12,145.00 2005 WSOP - Event 24, $2,500 No-limit Hold'em
66 $2,155.00 2005 WSOP - Event 16, $1,500 No-limit Hold'em Shootout
17 $11,565.00 2005 WSOP - Event 12, $2,000 Pot-limit Omaha w/re-buys
17 $10,085.00 2005 WSOP - Event 6, $2,500 Short-handed no-limit Hold'em
44 $4,200.00 2005 WSOP - Event 4, $1,500 Limit Hold'em
6 $84,000.00 WPT Season 3 - Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship
5 $130,000.00 WPT Season 3 - UltimateBet.com's Aruba Poker Classic
4 $162,012.00 WPT Season 3 - Mirage Poker Showdown
3 $18,000.00 WPT Season 2 - WPT Invitational
2 $278,240.00 WPT Season 1 - Five Diamond World Poker Classic

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