Editor's note: Watch the final table of the 2010 WSOP main event on ESPN, Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.
Out of the six final tables that I've covered for ESPN, I'm going to say that this was my favorite by far. Capped by the crowning of a new 23-year-old poker icon, the action and personalities that created this final table offered both the obsessed poker fan and casual home game follower a feeling of excitement and excellence. From the first hand of the action Saturday to the final card of the heads-up battle early Tuesday morning, being part of this experience is something I'll always remember.
But enough about me. This final table was all about our newest champion, Jonathan Duhamel. Unlike last year when Joe Cada came from behind time and time again at the final table to emerge victorious, Duhamel didn't take the lucky route to victory. Yes, you can argue that his hand against Matt Affleck in July was the pivotal moment of his tournament and that was his key to victory, but his performance of working through a final table filled with talented up-and-coming superstars was downright impressive.
Duhamel entered the final table with more than 30 percent of chips in play and he immediately faced adversity from the other eight, who looked to take a chunk out of his stack. With five players to go, Duhamel was fifth and his tournament was on the line against Michael Mizrachi. It was a race he'll never forget. Holding A-9 to Mizrachi's 3-3, hitting trips was enough to get him back in the game. From that point on he coasted, building his chip stack up to over the 90 million mark before getting involved in a hand with Joseph Cheong that will go down as one of the craziest and most memorable from the final table. After a six-bet all-in from Cheong, Duhamel called with queens and held against Cheong's A-7 to give him a chips lead he would never relinquish again.
Heads-up play offered 43 hands in less than an hour and a half. John Racener, down 6-1 in chips entering play, did his best to not only be patient and wait for a good spot, but tried a new strategy against Duhamel with hopes of outplaying him post-flop. The young Canadian quickly adapted and would have nothing of it. Duhamel countered with passive play of his own mixed in with perfectly timed aggression. He doubled up Racener just once, but those chips wouldn't remain in Racener's stack for long, as Duhamel chipped away and prevented any momentum for the 24-year-old Floridian.
After knocking Racener down to just 10 big blinds, Duhamel moved all-in from the small blind with A-J and induced a call from Racener holding Kd-8d. The board ran clean and the Penn and Teller Theater erupted with chants of "Doo-ahh-mel" and "Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!" Streamers filled the air as those who traveled to support Duhamel swarmed their friend, who clearly was emotional. After giving his mom a hug, Racener headed to the center of the stage to give Duhamel a handshake and a hug.
Duhamel had become the newest world champion, symbolically taking the reins as poker ambassador from Cada. Those in attendance remained on their feet as Duhamel gave numerous fist pumps of excitement, held his hands up high and thanked and waved to his fans. Sitting behind $8.9 million and holding the WSOP main event bracelet, he beamed ear to ear. It was his moment, and he had earned it.
Whether it has sunk in or not at this point, Duhamel will slowly realize that his life has changed forever. He has accomplished the dream of every poker player and won the greatest tournament in the world. On Tuesday, the poker world has welcomed a new superstar, and for the next year I'm excited to see what the champ has in store for all of us. Congrats, Jonathan, on an amazing finish to your incredible journey to poker stardom.
For all the action from the final table, click on the application below for the running blog.