Poker, in itself, is often times viewed as a game of chance, even luck. While those particular characteristics are certainly incorporated, the game of poker encompasses so much more information. Poker’s complexity is often dissected into many categories, and we all have generated our own hypothesis about the skill and longevity of poker.
While all of us have certainly created our own specific portraits of what the world of poker entails, it’s important to share two unique stories. Both Jean-Robert Bellande and Jared Huggins have been playing poker for years. They’ve recently built histories for themselves, as living life day-by-day, struggling to withstand the brutal swings and variation that the game of poker involves. Each player has an intriguing perspective on what it truly means to be “broke,” and oddly enough, their lifestyle choices are incredibly dissimilar.
Jean-Robert Bellande, a 40-year-old poker professional from Las Vegas, Nevada, spends most of his days playing poker at some of the highest stakes available in Ivey’s Room at the Aria Casino and Hotel. Several big name poker stars such as Justin “Boosted J” Smith, Eli Elezra, and the namesake of the room Phil Ivey, have all spent countless hours exchanging thousands of dollars back and forth between one another. Bellande, sometimes called “Action Bob,” is often one of the players generating these enormous pots.
The once Bodog sponsored Bellande, who originally made a name for himself through his charismatic persona at a 2005 World Series of Poker Circuit event, is very keen on gambling. He has been rather successful throughout his poker career nonetheless. In the previously mentioned event, he finished in third place, for $210,900. Just a week later, Bellande was involved in a tournament in which he finished heads-up against the well-known poker pro John Pham, and won for $148,000. In 2008, his $1,500 buy-in to a Limit Hold’Em event during the World Series of Poker awarded him a second place finish for $173,564. Bellande’s total career earnings are over $1 million. The famous poker pro even spent several months on the popular CBS reality series, Survivor: China, and although he didn’t win the grand prize of $1 million, managed to generate celebrity buzz after he outlasted half of his competition. With his resume of success, and his existing lifestyle, one might consider — how can Jean-Robert Bellande consider himself broke?
Although Bellande’s success at the live tournament circuit is well documented, what many casual observers of poker don’t get to view is the everyday struggle of a professional poker player. Day-long sessions of intense poker scenarios are often commonplace, with large portions of player’s bankrolls often being at risk. Ring games (also known as cash games), are usually either the source of much of a poker player’s yearly income, or on the contrary, their expenditures. This often untelevised world is what caused Bellande, who was once considered one of the best upcoming poker players in the world, to now consider himself “BrokeLivingJRB.”
Bellande is now often followed by many poker fans, famous players, and celebrities, not because of his poker prowess, but because of his infamous “tweets” on Twitter about his daily life and bankroll cycles. While BrokeLivingJRB was once a millionaire, his finances now are steadily inconsistent, and he lives each day carefully analyzing how to maximize his monetary value. Even though Bellande still spends many hours playing poker, the stakes he often plays are dramatically lower that what he was once accustomed to, or he takes unthinkable risks, betting nearly all of his bankroll on the flip of one card.
More times than not, Bellande ends up completely exhausting his bankroll, and needs to be staked by several individuals in order to continue participating within poker. It’s at this point, where he often gathers the support of his poker friends to assist him in recovering his losses. Borrowing thousands of dollars at a time, this volatile cycle of loans is ultimately what has now shaped Bellande’s career and persona. Despite personal choices and a career which most traditional thinkers would consider destitute, the well-known player doesn’t view himself in the same light. He’s keeping his head well above the surface, and although he has his frequent ups and downs, embraces the life he’s chosen.
His Twitter page in full of followers, photos of lavish nights on the town, and beautiful women that likely swoon at the presence of one of the most talented poker stars on the planet. While most of us can only envision filling the shoes he walks in everyday, Bellande would likely consider trading those shoes for a pair of ours. There’s nothing more that Bellande truly wants, than a little stability.
Bellande currently resides at the Panorama Towers in Las Vegas, Nevada, one of the most sought after living locations in all of the state. A plethora of intellectual poker minds reside in the hotel, and Bellande is most certainly included in that group. While many poker players would dream having a swingy bankroll of $30,000 to spend freely at the tables, the once on-top-of-the world Bellande now has only one goal, to return from zero, to hero. It’s not surprising, when just several years ago, he was the bonafide star on one of the biggest poker stages in the world.
Jared Huggins, also a poker player, could be seen as the antagonist to Bellande’s unique regime. He has spent most of his existence in the most dire of situations. Born in Inglewood, California, the 28-year-old Huggins has spent his life in and out of poverty, and was born into a family struggling to survive.
His parents divorced when he was just one year old, and his father left his mother to take care of seven children. Huggins, being the youngest of the seven, was unable to provide the necessary assistance to keep his family afloat. Although his mother worked countless hours, at as many as three jobs simultaneously, his oldest brother Lawrence (21), realized he was going to have to take on more responsibility. Lawrence began to take the weight of the household’s problems on his own shoulders. While Lawrence was extremely intelligent, and easily could’ve made a living in several different occupations of his choosing, the life of a drug dealer was not only the most profitable at the time, but the most easily accessible and beneficial to his family’s immediate survival.
Years later, his brother Lawrence and Kelton were both arrested for possession and the sale of crack cocaine after a raid of his family’s home by the police. Not long after, Huggins chose to separate himself from his family for awhile. He ended up traveling to Hawaii for free, since his father worked on airlines, and used a variety of loans for all of his traveling expenses. He worked relentlessly while attending junior college, until he was astoundingly able to attend and graduate from the University of Hawaii.
While most college graduates immediately attempt to pursue a full-time position within their career field, it was during this time that Huggins stumbled upon the profitability of poker. Averaging almost $2000 a month, playing stakes of No-Limit Hold’Em at $.50/$1, the university of Hawaii graduate thought he had found his calling. It wasn’t until several months later, that he learned the game of poker isn’t quite a personal ATM.
Huggins eventually went broke, and while living out of his car, he found sanctuary. A place were he could finally rest and comtemplate the next moves of his life.
Although homeless, Huggins life on his own proved to be a true blessing. Despite still living out of his car, he remained hopeful, and was able to gather a variety of part-time jobs in order to survive. It was actually during this time, that Huggins would manage to save a small amount from his paychecks in order to continue to play poker online. But despite small initial success, the struggling poker player’s triumphs were once again short-lived.
Huggins, who is currently still homeless, plays poker regularly, albeit now more recreationally. What’s most interesting about Huggins however, is that he refuses to give up hope. In an attempt to generate income, Huggins was actually offered several monetary amounts to make videos. On the famous poker forum TwoplusTwo.com, Huggins’ username “RelaxedPrecision” has generated tons of responses and sympathy from his poker counterparts. Many personalities on the site have sent Huggins hundreds of dollars to remain positive throughout life’s obstacles, and to continue to work diligently to pull himself out of his current situation. His video, in which he gives free hugs along the boardwalk in Venice Beach, is considered one of the most inspirational videos in poker. After admitting the difficulty of his life’s upbringing, his poker struggles, and fighting the urge to take his own life, Huggins was able to gather strength from the inspired words he gathered from other people.
The world of poker, is without question, unsuited for the weak-hearted. While many professional players have incredibly successful and productive careers, there’s also the dark reality of those players who aren’t victorious. It’s essential to any aspiring player, and even those who admire and dissect the game, to be aware of it’s capricious nature.
As most people involved in the poker profession are aware, there isn’t much distance between being a millionaire and being mediocre. But what’s also undeniable, is the direct correlation of accomplishment and attitude. Sometimes, it’s just more beneficial to look on the brighter side.
If you’re interested in more information on both players, be sure to check out each of the links below.