Duhamel proving he has what it takes to be the champ

11 February 2011
It's been almost 100 days since Jonathan Duhamel won the Main Event at the 2010 World Series of Poker, and yet he says he's been home for just over a week since winning the $8.9 million first-place prize. Instead of relaxing at home, Duhamel has been travelling to make television appearances, film commercials for PokerStars, and play on the tournament circuit.
"I was home for a week over the holidays, and that's all," says Duhamel. "(Being the Main Event champion) is a lot more work than I thought it would be. It's a good thing now; I love travelling, and I've met a lot of nice people, so I can't complain at all. I'm happy and kind of still dreaming right now."
In addition to the week at home over the holidays, Duhamel was on hand to watch his hometown Montreal Canadiens play the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on Jan. 22. Before the game, he honored his pledge to give $100,000 to the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation. He was given a jersey with his name and the number 1, and met with Canadiens President Pierre Boivin and owner Geoff Molson.
"I brought my father, my mother and my sister," says Duhamel. "People were very happy about the donation that I made, and all the fans went crazy when they showed me on the big screen. I'm going to remember that night for a long, long time, that's for sure."
Duhamel, who was at Foxwoods Resort Casino this week to participate in a November Nine reunion event, was gracious and kind to each and every person who asked for his autograph and to have their picture taken with him — including Ben Hopkins, who knocked Duhamel out of a $15,000 freeroll tournament when he hit a six-outer on the river.
"Now that I've knocked you out, do you mind signing my hat?" asked Hopkins, who went on to win the event.
Duhamel laughed and penned "Pffff …." above his signature. Clearly comfortable in his own skin, Duhamel seems to be doing his best to make good on his promise to be an ambassador for the game.
The current champ's approach to his sudden fame stands in stark contrast to 2008 champion, Peter Eastgate, who never seemed comfortable in the spotlight. Eastgate released a statement last summer saying he was retiring from poker, but recently announced that he is coming back to the game.
"Prior to winning the WSOP in 2008, my life was very much a good solid routine of playing online poker and hanging out with my friends and family. Winning the WSOP changed that," Eastgate wrote in a blog post for PokerStars. "In the whirlwind that followed winning the WSOP I lost track of the most importing (sic) thing in my life, myself."
The 25-year-old Dane says that he always knew it was quite likely that he would return to poker, and that the break has given him the perspective that he needs to come back with a balanced approach that his life lacked in the immediate aftermath of his victory.
In fact, Duhamel's win may be playing a large role in Eastgate's return. Joe Cada, the 2009 champion, has struggled to build on his Main Event success. Since winning the Main Event, Cada has cashed in just one event. And as an American, he doesn't have the same cache in PokerStars marketing, which has been less and less focused on the United States and more and more focused on Europe.
While Duhamel isn't European, he is French-Canadian. He is very comfortable speaking in English, but is even more comfortable speaking in French. He is a very marketable player in Europe, and his win in the High Roller's Event at the EPT Deauville proved that his Main Event title was no fluke.
Eastgate's return to the game is good for poker. He is a humble, charitable person. (Say what you want about his decision to auction off his Main Event bracelet, there's no denying that the £100,000 its sale raised for UNICEF will do good work.) And perhaps, now that Duhamel is shining in the spotlight, Eastgate will be able to navigate the poker world in a way that suits him.

Aaron Todd

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Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.