It's a side bet with good odds and it's a side bet for big money -- maybe as much as he would collect for winning a World Series of Poker event.
"Someone laid me 4-1 against me winning a bracelet,'' said Juanda, one of the best tournament players in the world and owner of three WSOP bracelets already. "As arrogant as I am, we bet $100,000, so if I win a bracelet, I win $400,000.''
Understand, the bet wasn't made in a trash-talking kind of way. It was borne out of the massive fields and changing style of opponents seen at the World Series the last couple of years.
"We just have a different opinion,'' Juanda said of his betting partner. "He's a good friend. He's not what you'd consider the best tournament player. He just doesn't understand that for the very best players, the odds are not that long. A lot of people don't understand that. A lot of people think that because the field is so large, it makes it so much harder. But look at some of the people: Allen Cunningham, he won and he made a final table.''
Indeed, Cunningham won a bracelet this year after winning one last year. Other well-known pros such as Chip Reese, David Williams, Sammy Farha and Max Pescatori also have copped jewelry this year.
But the fact remains that pros, well-known and otherwise, took fewer than half of the first 25 events this summer, compared to pros' winning almost two-thirds of the bracelets in the same number of tournaments last year.
Overall last year, it appeared the pros reclaimed the greatest of all poker showdowns. Big-name pros, too. Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan each won their record 10th bracelets. Phil Ivey, Barry Greenstein, Todd Brunson, Erik Seidel T.J. Cloutier, Josh Arieh and Mark Seif (twice), among others, had the best hand at the end.
Overall last year, it seemed the pros adjusted their learning curve after the Moneymaker effect turned a card game with romantic outlaw images into pokerpalooza, where more than 5,600 players entered last year's main event, making it the biggest in history. That fueled this year's first open no-limit hold 'em tournament, where almost 2,800 people entered to make it the second-biggest ever. The pros seemed to have figured out how to handle the massive number of unknowns.
This year, though, not so much. Why? I know, it's still not over. But still, why?
One question, so many answers.
"The fields are bigger, you have another year of kids coming in, and that makes a big difference, and you've got more Europeans this year,'' said Seidel, who has seven career bracelets. "The Swedes and young Europeans. You don't know their names, but they're all three times better than Ivey.''
Seidel laughed as he made his point, but still &133;
"I think it's the young Internet kids who are playing really well this year,'' Erick Lindgren said, which is fitting after Lindgren became one of the first top Internet players to cross over into big-time live tournaments. "I think in these tournaments, they eliminated a lot of levels and they want to get them over with fast, so it's a lot of reraising and a lot of guts this year. There's not much postflop poker. It's basically that these tournaments have become a World Poker Tour final table. It favors guys who have a lot of guts. It's like the tournaments that Internet guys play online on Sundays on FulltTilt. These tournaments mirror that, where they get a pair of 8s and they think 8s or A-10 are the nuts and they race a lot, and if you win a lot of races, you win a tournament.''
If it comes down to winning races, then it involves adjusting your play.
"I'm always adjusting,'' Seidel says. "It's a different adjustment every day. I'm probably gambling more this year than last year. I think there's more volatility and you have to gamble a little bit more. It's something of a change for me. Of course, it hasn't improved my results, so maybe I should go back.''
Another top tournament player who has changed his approach is Hoyt Corkins, the cowboy hat-wearing Alabaman.
"I've gone to a more conservative style,'' Corkins says. "There's a lot of people playing back at you. I'm playing a more solid card style. People are moving in on king-high. I seen a good bit of that.''
Of course, there is a completely separate reason the pros aren't taking down events the way they did last year: They aren't playing. Can't win if you don't play.
"Some of the better pros that play higher limits are skipping the tournaments and playing live games, I think,'' tournament pro David Singer said. "Maybe there aren't as many of them playing. I feel like a certain amount of the pros aren't playing as many because of the big fields and the time it takes to play. Doyle's played some. Phil [Laak] hasn't played many.''
Indeed, I saw Phil "The Unabomber'' Laak at a no-limit hold 'em event that began Friday and told him he needed to step it up because he's on Team Rosenbling, my ESPN Poker Club fantasy team, and he pretty much told me I was an idiot for picking him.
"I've only played about five events,'' Laak says. "I'm playing a lot of the side games. Jennifer [Tilly, his actress/girlfriend] is playing a lot of events.''
In fact, Tilly was 16th in chips after the first day of the $2,000 no-limit hold 'em event that began Friday, while Laak was gone.
But for the pros who are playing, even if they aren't winning with the dominance seen last year, they might just be playing better overall this year, Robert Williamson III says.
"I think the pros have figured out how to get to the right place to win these things, but it's still a matter of getting over the hump,'' Williamson says. "At some level, the blinds become so big that it's still a crapshoot.
"So, if you notice, you'll see a lot more pros getting deeper now," he said. "Last year, they won more bracelets, but I don't know if you saw as high an average of pros getting that deep. This year, a lot of pros get really deep in tournaments. I think the reason why is, when you come to that critical hand, you have to win. A lot of pros aren't winning that hand to get them the bracelet, but a lot of pros are getting really, really deep in these tournaments.''
Williamson can see where the pros have adjusted their strategies.
"For example, if it's a small pot and I don't have too many chips committed and if I think I have only a small advantage, I have to let it go and wait until I have them really tied up in a hand where I have 3-1, 4-1 the best of it because I'm going to have to do this 10 times today. I'm going to have to fade a lot of these hands,'' he says.
"Here's the thing: The amateurs, from watching TV, have watched the people put their money in with crazy, terrible hands. All of a sudden, a lot of the amateurs realized, 'Wow, if I bluff enough and put enough pressure on the pros, I know they can outplay me, but if I don't give them the chance to outplay me and stick it all in preflop or on the flop, it puts the pro at a big disadvantage.'
"That's a key thing to fight for the pros. Doyle Brunson says, 'Put a man to a decision for all his chips.' That's how you play poker. Most of the time, the amateurs acknowledge ahead of time that we're going to outplay them after the flop, especially on the turn and the river, so they're trying to play it preflop and on the flop.
"Now, what we're doing to counter that is, we're picking places to take stands, sure enough, but we're still picking them, picking them, picking them. You're seeing more pros play more hands and trying to pick up pots, so when we do have to take those stands, we've got them covered so we don't go broke on the hand and we can afford to play a hand where we have only 3-2 the best of it for 30 or 40 percent of our chips.
"It's like the difference between bacon and eggs for breakfast. The chicken gives his young by giving you the eggs, but the pig is committed.''