Jonathan Duhamel rose to poker fame when he won the 2010 World Series of Poker main event, and he has played in the shadow of his own victory for five years. Duhamel stepped out from under the pressure of “former World Champ” and won his second bracelet in the $111,111 High Roller for One Drop for $3.9 million.
The 2015 WSOP hosted the event for the second time and secured a 135-player field filled with the world’s best-bankrolled players. Some, like Phil Ivey, Andrew Robl and 2014 Big One for One Drop winner Daniel Colman, played at the Rio for the first time this summer.
Duhamel survived a final table that featured Colman, Ben Sulsky and Phil Hellmuth -- who entered the final table with the chip lead and had his eyes set on a 15th bracelet.
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) June 30, 2015
“I feel so amazing right now. It doesn't get any better than this,” Duhamel said moments after winning. “The biggest buy-in of the whole summer, it’s for ONE DROP, so all of those things combined for probably the second-best day ever. I feel so blessed, so lucky to be where I am and just an amazing day.”
Around the world, Duhamel has thrived on the felt, but since winning the main event, Las Vegas hadn’t been his spot. He's cashed 23 times and made five final tables since 2010, but just one of those five WSOP final tables was in Las Vegas: his eighth-place finish in the 2013 $50,000 Poker Players Championship.
“I’ve played quite a bit of tournaments [since winning], so it’s been a while," he said. "I started playing mixed games three years ago because there are so many players and the fields are so big to have a better chance at winning a bracelet.
“The journey has been amazing -- I never thought I would be at this point in my life. Five years ago I never thought I would win the main event, and after that I never thought I would win two bracelets. In life you’re always going to have ups and downs; everybody gets up, everybody gets down -- it’s part of life so you just have to deal with it,” he said. “I had some highs and lows like anybody else, today is a big high for sure.”
Playing six-figure buy-ins is a high in itself.
“Your heart is pumping up because you know the min-cash is a quarter of a million dollars, so it's pretty good money. But it's fun, this is why we play poker, this is why we play the game," Duhamel said.
While the players at the final table did well for themselves, so did the One Drop charity. Runner-up Bill Klein, a retired businessman, donated all $2,465,522 he earned for second place to the cause.
“It’s something to win a poker tournament, but knowing that it’s going to help save so many lives is even better,” Duhamel added. “I have been one of many spokesmen for One Drop. For me, it feels like a double win tonight. I always try to donate as much as possible because I really believe in it.”
Carol Fuchs took down the $1,500 dealers choice event and prevented Robert Mizrachi from repeating as champion. She became the first female winner of an open bracelet of the Series. Fuchs won $127,735 and was overwhelmed after her win because she figured herself to be a 500-1 dog going into the final table. Fuchs is a Hollywood screenwriter and plays cash games regularly.
“I know all the games but don’t have near the experience of these guys,” Fuchs said. “I’m blown away as everybody else is. I felt really comfortable at the final table and didn’t feel much pressure because it’s fun for me, it’s a bonus.”
Ben Yu broke through and won his first bracelet after 30 WSOP cashes in the $10,000 limit hold ’em championship. He defeated Jesse Martin after a lengthy heads-up match in front of rowdy rail of friends and won $291,456.
“This win is really big for me, the World Series of Poker is the important thing in poker to me,” Yu said. “Ever since I was 16 and watching the 2003 World Series on TV, I was like everyone else. I grew up watching it and that’s what brought me here.
“During the year I don’t work that hard, but every day I chain myself here and try to win a bracelet,” Yu added. “I think we put too much emphasis on winning because finishing second or making a final table can be a matter of a coin flip. But it feels so good to win at the same time - there’s nothing as good as winning a tournament.”
Kevin MacPhee won his first bracelet in the $5,000 turbo no-limit hold ’em event for $490,800 after 25 WSOP cashes and three final tables. The event powered through in just two days and online pro said, “I’m pretty used to the format because I play a lot of turbos online,” MacPhee said. “I use my push/fold calculators methodically when I play, so for me it’s a pretty good event.”
MacPhee already has an EPT title to his credit (EPT Berlin in 2010) and needs a World Poker Title to complete poker’s Triple Crown.
What to watch for
Two more $10,000 championship events remain on the schedule before the main event. The HORSE event begins late Wednesday and the dealers choice on Friday. The three Day 1 flights for the main event begin Sunday. Play continues in Las Vegas until July 14, when the November nine leave for their three-month hiatus.