Every week, UK based poker writer Paul Seaton relives some of the epic moments Poker After Dark has created since its first season in 2007. All Poker After Dark episodes are available on-demand on PokerGO for your viewing pleasures in The Vault.
If you’re like me, then whenever you watch one of the many tournaments available on demand on PokerGO, the first thing you do is to see who’s playing. I like to imagine I’m sat down in those comfortable seats, pulling up bundles of greenbacks, ready to toss in a pile for that big-time moment.
If I was sat in this six-handed shootout, I’d be slipping all my available dollars back into my pocket, trousering my stacks of chips and fleeing altogether, and it’s because of just one man of the six.
It’s not the fact that Juanda has won $24m in tournament winnings alone. It’s not even that the Indonesian-born 47-year-old can still outpace me and all my friends by running 5km in a shade over 20 minutes. It just that he’s been so consistently good at poker for so long that he has a mental grip of his opponents that goes beyond the strategic understanding of the game.
I can’t think of anyone more consistently brilliant than Juanda over the last two decades apart from perhaps Negreanu. Juanda won money for the first time in a tournament in 1997, over 21 years ago. The tournament cost $120 to enter. Within a month, he’d won a $1,000-entry tournament. Within five years, he’s cashed a hundred times and racked up his first million. So how did he do it? One suggestion I have is that he often knows exactly what to say, but more importantly, how to say it.
There’s a famous fable about the sun and the wind. Both try to get a man in the street to remove his jacket. The wind roars, gusts, and howls about the man in an effort to blow the jacket clean off his shoulders. The man simply zips it up and keeps walking. The sun, however, only has to appear, stay there and make it hot enough under the man’s collar for him to remove his jacket voluntarily. The morale, fairly obviously, is that persuasion is a greater power than force.
This is a great hand to show exactly how Juanda persuades his quarry to remain in the hand and pay him off.
Pre-flop, Juanda has the worst hand but manages from the off. From the flop to the river, he has to switch up, having quickly worked out that he has the best hand. Now Juanda’s mission has changed. He’s not trying to catch cards, instead, he must persuade Cunningham to either continuing trying to do so or believe that Juanda is weak enough to be bluffed off the pot.
Juanda is so persuasive that not only could he convince you that your Happy Meal is a priceless antique, you’d be examining the free toy with an eyepiece.
From the point he starts his story, he is utterly convincing. If he was an eyewitness, I’d believe his version of events over and above actual footage of the opposite taking place.
“I think we both have really good hands this time.” Is just beautifully prosaic language. But then, with Juanda, it isn’t so much the material, but the delivery.
I’d have bet him on the river. You’d have bet him. Even knowing deep in our hearts that we should throw our cards away, we would have reluctantly tossed a stack of bills into the center, a futile gesture given we’d know the money was going to our left. We’d throw that money in the same direction as so many millions have gone over the years – in the direction of John Juanda – for one reason. He’s the master of the dark art of persuasion.