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Howard Stutz

Juanda riding high at WSOP

27 June 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- When John Juanda denied Phil Hellmuth an unprecedented 12th World Series of Poker championship bracelet in the Deuce-to-Seven Lowball event, about a third of the audience for the heads-up match was solidly in Juanda's corner. Another third was rooting for his rival -- and the rest were there just to cheer against Hellmuth.

None of the emotion in the room fazed Juanda, who earned his fifth career World Series of Poker gold bracelet by besting Hellmuth in the game's world championship event.

"You show him a couple of bluffs here and there and he can get thrown off his game," Juanda said after the event. "I don't know if that really happened tonight, but I just decided to do it and see what happens."

For at least the first half of the 42nd World Series of Poker, Juanda has been the best player at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

A victory in the $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw Lowball World Championship on June 9 earned Juanda $367,170. He also turned in a sixth-place finish in the $2,500 buy-in Eight Game Mix event, winning $42,897 less than a week later.

After 28 events, Juanda, 40, was atop the World Series of Poker's Player of the Year standings.

In addition to his five career World Series of Poker bracelets, Juanda has earned almost $4.5 million at the tournament since 1999. According to poker databases, Juanda's career tournament winnings top $12 million.

Juanda, a native of Indonesia, moved to the United States in 1990 to attend Oklahoma State University, where he earned a degree. He later earned an master's of business administration at Seattle University and was a salesman before pursuing poker full time.

In his first five years at the World Series of Poker, Juanda reached 16 final tables and won three gold bracelets. Before the Deuce-to-Seven event, Juanda's last victory in Las Vegas came in 2003 in a Pot Limit Omaha event.

At the 2008 World Series of Poker Europe No-limit Hold'em Main Event, Juanda earned a victory in one of poker's most memorable matches. The final table lasted 19 hours and 10 minutes and 484 hands. Juanda earned more than $1.7 million.

"I still remember it like it was yesterday," Juanda said. "It felt like the dog chasing the cat. I finally won and I was like, 'We have to quit now?' "

Juanda's latest victory landed him in a tie with seven other players who have won five gold bracelets; the late Stu Ungar, Berry Johnston, 2000 World Series of Poker champion Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Ted Forrest, Jeffrey Lisandro, Allen Cunningham, the late Gary "Bones" Berland, and 1998 Main Event winner Scotty Nguyen.

Besides Hellmuth, Juanda had to get past a field of 126 players and a final table that included seven past World Series of Poker gold bracelet winners that had a combined 20 individual event titles.

"There were a lot of great players, so I didn't expect it to be easy," Juanda said.

The heads-up action gained the interest of the Rio's Amazon Poker Room, with Hellmuth looking for career World Series of Poker bracelet No. 12. His 11th came in 2007 and Hellmuth was seeking to give himself a little extra distance between Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson, who each own 10 gold bracelets.

But Juanda, who at one point trailed Hellmuth by a 2-to-1 margin in chips, came through at the end.

For Hellmuth, who won the World Series of Poker's Main Event in 1989 at the age of 24, second place marked his World Series of Poker all-time best 80th career cash and earned the poker professional $226,907. Hellmuth's career World Series of Poker earnings are more than $6.4 million.

Both players were complimentary.

"You know, a lot of people said (Hellmuth) couldn't play anything besides hold'em," Juanda said immediately after winning. "But tonight he played really well. If the cards had fallen his way, he could be standing here doing the interview instead of me."

Hellmuth congratulated Juanda after the final hand, shaking his hand and saying, "Well played, buddy. Well played."

Juanda is hoping he'll have a few more final table interviews before the World Series of Poker concludes.
Juanda riding high at WSOP is republished from