Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.
Admittedly, before starting research on this story, most of what I knew about Jean-Robert Bellande is that some fellow poker players had poked fun at him because of the way he decided to pronounce his name, saying Robert with a French accent as opposed to the English pronunciation. I believe it was ESPN’s World Series of Poker announcer and writer Norman Chad that pointed out that a guy born in Long Island, who grew up in Taiwan, most likely wouldn’t have any French accents in his name. Regardless of how he decides to pronounce his name he has made a name in the poker world as a player who craves action anyway he can get it, even if sometimes he is out of his league. To be considered unique among all the “adrenalin junkies” that exist in the poker world is saying something, and Bellande is never at a shortage of words.
Born on September 17, 1970, Jean-Robert Bellande spent most of his childhood living in Taiwan. Bellande’s father held a job with the U.S. Government and a job in Taiwan opened up, and after doing research Bellande’s mother and father decided that Taiwan was an ideal place to raise young Jean-Robert and his two brothers. When Bellande graduated from high school in Taiwan he decided to go back to the United States to attend college.
Bellande graduated with a degree from Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, California. Despite graduating with a degree in Marketing, Bellande didn’t really know what he wanted to do with his life. Shortly after graduating Bellande was reading a magazine that featured a story about the Roxbury Night Club in Los Angeles. The story intended to draw a negative light on the nightclub scene, but Bellande walked away from the article knowing it was a business he wanted to know more about. When Bellande turned 21 he started going to the Roxbury, and after a few visits got a job as a promoter for the nightclub. In just a couple of years Bellande was promoter of some of the best clubs in both the Los Angeles and Hollywood areas. Promoting nightclubs made him want to try his hand at owning his own place, which he did for five years with a club called Sky Sushi.
Bellande started becoming interested in pool as he was promoting and owning, and started to make a name for himself around local pool halls. In 2000 he won $5,000 in a game and went to a local L.A. casino right after to try his hand at blackjack. Now in most cases this generally sounds like a bad idea, but Bellande was able to go on a heater and run his 5K up to $25,000. Bellande had wanted to try poker for a while, and felt this was the perfect opportunity. Bellande first sat at a low-limit table, but after being bored by the small amount of money at play he decided to sit down at a $60/$120 table, and later an $80/$160 table. Bellande proceeded to lose about half of the money he had won from pool and blackjack, but he also knew he was hooked on the game from that point.
Unlike some of the people we’ve profiled, Bellande did not have an easy go of it from the start. Using his contacts from his work in the nightclubs, he started putting together cash games on his nights off or after work. In his first year alone Bellande lost upwards of $200,000, yet that didn’t stop him either. One night while playing with poker pro Jeff Lisandro, playing Omaha Hi-Lo, he lost $20,000. Lisandro decided that he would like to help Bellande get better at poker, and became a mentor to him. Lisandro was also looking for someone to help promote a poker room he was the manager of in Prague. The timing was perfect for Bellande to get away for a little bit, as his father had just passed away from cancer and he had closed his nightclub.
In Prague, Lisandro’s poker room flourished due to Bellande’s promoting skills, becoming one of the best known poker rooms in the nation. At the same time Lisandro began to teach Bellande everything he knew about the game, and his results improved dramatically. At the same time he was playing online with all the free time he had. After six months in Prague, Bellande felt his game and his confidence were both at an all-time high and he decided to return to America, particularly, Las Vegas, where he resides today.
When he made it back to the United States, “The Poker Boom” was in full-effect, and tournament prize pools were at an all-time high. Bellande continued to play cash games, but decided he wanted to make a name on the tournament circuit. Having played only a handful of tournaments, it took Bellande a little while to adjust to the circuit, but when he did, he did in a big way. In December of 2004, he finished 3rd in the $2,000 No Limit Hold’em at the Five-Diamond Poker Classic, winning $63,557. Just three months later in March of 2005, he finished 3rd at the Rio Las Vegas Poker Festival’s $10,000 buy-in event, earning $210,900. Just seven days later he won his first major tournament, the “Winnin’ o’ the Green” tournament for $148,000. Amazingly just a month later he won another $123,385, finishing second at the Third Annual Five-Star World Poker Classic $2,000 buy-in No Limit, Hold’Em Event.
Bellande’s personality is one of the brashest on the circuit. Because of this he’s been asked to be on a few televised poker specials. In 2006 he was featured on the World Poker Tour’s Bad Boys of Poker alongside Gus Hansen, Men “The Master” Nguyen, Phil Hellmuth Jr., Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, and Tony G. - who took down the tournament. Bellande finished fourth. Bellande has also appeared on two episodes of NBC’s Poker After Dark, the “Hecklers” and “Sit-n-Talk” episodes.
Bellande has cashed in ten WSOP tournaments, and narrowly missed winning his first Bracelet at the 2008 Series, finishing second in the $1,500 Limit Hold’em – Shootout, winning $173,564. Despite being unlucky at the WSOP, he has still won over a million dollars on the tournament circuit.
In 2007 Bellande was introduced to a new set of people, those who watch reality television. Bellande was cast as a member of the wildly popular show Survivor, appearing on the show that was filmed in China. Bellande made it exactly halfway through the show, being eliminated eighth out of the 16 contestants. Bellande had hoped he would go far as the “loveable bad-boy,” but his dream for the top prize of one million was cut short.
Bellande, in his own words, is almost always broke but still lives a millionaire’s lifestyle. Bellande has learned to embrace that lifestyle, having started a book titled “Broke and Living Like a Millionaire” and has pitched a television show with the same title. Bellande is one of the sponsored poker professionals at Bodog Poker.
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