Every poker player dreams about winning the WSOP main event and imagines raising the diamond-encrusted bracelet over their head. That iconic picture instantly christens the champion as one of the most recognizable faces in poker, gaining instant fame and fortune.
If we've learned anything since the start the of the boom, winning the WSOP main event doesn’t guarantee future tournament success. In the past decade, the 10 champions have combined to win almost $14 million after their main event victories. Almost 60 percent of that total was won by only two players, both of whom are celebrating a special anniversary this year: Jonathan Duhamel (fifth) and Joseph Hachem (10th).
With the exception of Joe Cada’s multiple WSOP final table appearances, including his 2014 WSOP victory in the $10,000 no-limit six max, these two aforementioned WSOP main event champions have shown tremendous consistency throughout their careers.
Both served as excellent poker ambassadors, a responsibility that some of the main event champions have reluctantly accepted, yet these two players have embraced the role, both helping increase the popularity of poker in their respective home countries.
Before the 2015 WSOP begins next week, let’s take a moment to celebrate the anniversaries of Duhamel and Hachem.
Career earnings after WSOP main event win: $3.75 million
Highlight after WSOP win: Make four final tables in one week at 2012 PCA, earning $1.2 million
Latest title: January 2015, $5,300 no-limit hold 'em, 8 max at PCA; $116,738
Since its inception back in 2008, only one November Nine chip leader has lived up to the lofty expectations after their three-month layoff. Montreal’s Duhamel navigated through an unbelievably tough final table in 2010, headlined by Michael “The Grinder” Mizarchi. Although the main event final table was five years ago, Duhamel remembers the day vividly.
“Going into the final table, I was pretty nervous even though I was chip leader. And it started off pretty bad for me. During the first two or three hours, I was just losing chips,” the 27-year-old recalled. “I had to refocus and forget the stage that I was playing on, even with all the big ESPN cameras pointing at you. I had to try and play my best game.”
After winning a huge flip when his A-9 outflopped Grinder's 3-3, Duhamel rode the momentum toward the title.
“That hand was everything," he said. "I was able to recover after that.”
While some WSOP main event champions have shied away from the limelight, Duhamel, after an initial period of adjustment, embraced it.
“Winning of the WSOP is a life changing experience and it takes some time to adjust. Nobody knows how to handle this until it happens to you. I decided to try to have fun doing it, and I might as well enjoy it. If players, especially at the World Series, want a photo or autograph from me, I’m happy to do it for them.”
Beyond the photos, Duhamel is still all about the game and has worked incessantly on mixed games since his win.
“Over the past few years, I learned all of the mixed games, which I did not know about before. I felt it would be a pretty good challenge for me. I wanted to try some new stuff to keep the game interesting. I played a lot online, trying to become more of a complete poker player," said Duhamel, who has finished in the top 13 of the Poker Players Championship in each of the past two years. "I have worked so hard on my mixed games. All the best mixed game players are playing in [the $50,000 Poker Players' Championship] and to be out there and compete with them and win the bracelet in that event, it would mean the world to me.”
Duhamel plans to play another busy schedule this Series, but may slightly alter his approach from previous years.
“Like the other years, I plan on being there from the start and play as much as I can," he said. "I always try to go day-by-day, depending on how I feel. This year, I might be cutting down on the smaller buy-in events so I can have a day off here and there, to be more focused on the bigger buy-ins. As long as I have fun doing it, I’ll keep doing it. And for now, I am still having a blast playing poker, so why stop here.”
Career earnings after WSOP main event win: $4.4 million
Highlight after WSOP win: 2006 WPT Doyle Brunson: $2.2 million
Latest title: April 2015, A$ 2,550 no-limit hold 'em -- High Roller; The Maylands Hotel, Maylands; $80,428
In 2005, I witnessed my first WSOP main event. Having made my own personal deep run (13th place), I had a ringside seat to all the action, playing with this gentleman on multiple days. After sharing this grueling experience together, Hachem and I became good “mates.”
“Where does it go? You just wake up one day and it’s been 10 years,” exclaimed Hachem. “I think about it a lot leading up to my 10th anniversary, I’m very nostalgic.”
The 49-year-old admits there was a lot of pressure, mainly self-imposed, during the initial years after his win.
“Winning the WSOP, there is so much pressure on you to go out there and prove that you weren’t a one hit wonder. Your world gets turned upside down as well," he said. "You are trying to reconcile your game, your home life, your public life, your sponsorship requirements.”
After his main event victory, Hachem had several close calls, including his runner-up finish to Dutch Boyd in the 2006 WSOP $2,500 short handed no-limit hold ’em event. In December of 2006, Hachem hit a memorable queen on the river for a one outer and a victory at the World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson North American Classic.
“It meant so much to me to go back and have deep run after deep run, but I had some crushing times and definitely wore my emotions on my sleeve. But I still remember Jack McClelland’s words at the WPT final table as they are etched in my brain forever, ‘Joe needs any queen of diamonds.’ That one outer at the WPT definitely did make up for all of it, that was for sure.”
Despite the crushing blows and tough times, Hachem still loved every minute of his fortunate journey during the early years.
“I was blessed to have such great people around me at the time," said Hachem. "Pokerstars always looked after us. Having Chris [Moneymaker] and Greg [Raymer] as my predecessors, amazing guys to be able to share the journey with. It may have been exhausting but how bloody blessed am I. All I did was win a poker tournament!”
Hachem’s popularity allowed another region of the world to experience its own poker boom. Utilizing his ambassadorship with his home casino, Hachem was integral in bringing the WSOP-APAC to his Crown Casino last year for the first time.
"We continue to try to grow poker in Australia and make poker more accessible to more people," he said. "It was also very exciting to have WSOP-APAC here. People in this part of the world who would almost never get a chance to go to the States and play in the World Series, had a chance at winning a bracelet.”
Away from the felt, Hachem utilized his fame for philanthropic purposes, joining efforts with Crown Casino and legendary Australian cricketer Shane Warne. Their charitable efforts focus on serving seriously ill and underprivileged children in Australia. To date, the duo has raised more than $5 million. He is also involved in charities revolving around autism, as his first cousin is diagnosed with the disease.
Poker is his passion and Hachem will be at the WSOP for nearly the entire summer looking for his second WSOP bracelet.
“It would be really nice," Hachem said of the possibility of more WSOP gold. "A sweetener to my résumé. I have come close a few times. However, right now, I don’t feel a sense of urgency. I may have five years ago. But if it happens, I know I would be very emotional.
"The game changes so fast, it is hard to catch up and be at the forefront of the game. I’m definitely behind the game, as I’m constantly trying to catch up. It’s hard to find the time to read forums but I do talk poker with friends over dinner or on the phone, about once a week. Overall, I’m happy and OK with this because my life is much more balanced.”
For the first seven years after his victory, Hachem traveled almost every two weeks, focusing on his commitments and appearances. The constant travel took its toll and these days, Hachem is more relaxed and comfortable in his championship skin, as he is focusing on a better balance in his life.
“I still love poker and love the game, but there are other things that keep me business at the moment. I’m in a better place, in a very happy place where I found a really good balance. I will always be up for representing poker, but today, I’m loving life.”