History was made at this year’s WSOP Main Event Final Table when Canadian poker star Jonathan Duhamel held down the competition to take the coveted poker crown. Duhamel, born in Boucherville, Quebec, became the first Canadian to take home the WSOP main event final table crown.
Duhamel began playing poker with friends six or seven years ago. He became so adept at the game he left college and a burgeoning finance career behind to become a professional poker player, which would end up being one of the best decisions the 23-year-old Duhamel ever made.
He is quickly becoming a household name. Recently, TSN, the Canadian equivalent to ESPN, featured Duhamel on their primetime Sportscenter newscast. When asked how much the win would change his lifestyle, the humble Duhamel explained he didn’t think it would change his lifestyle all that much and added that he might travel more. You’ll do more than travel more sir!
Duhamel added that one of the first things on his list was to buy season tickets for his favorite hockey team, the Montreal Canadiens…He certainly is saying all the right things as far as Canadians are concerned. Saying the right things is something Duhamel had better get used to as he’ll become an ambassador for poker in Canada.
We asked Lance Bradley Editor in Chief of BLUFF Magazine about the effect that Duhamel’s win would have on the popularity of Online Poker in Canada. Bradley answered,
“Duhamel’s going to get quite a bit of media coverage, particularly in Quebec, and based on initial returns he’ll be able to handle whatever is thrown his way. He’s well spoken, articulate and funny in two languages. It can only be a good thing for online poker that there’s an ambassador bringing all that to the table.”
That’s pretty impressive; most of us aren’t even funny in one language, aside from our looks.
With Pokerstars as his sponsor, it remains to be seen how the company will portray Duhamel in the Canadian Marketplace. According to Bradley,
“Duhamel, at first glance, has similar traits to 2009 champ Joe Cada and 2009 BLUFF Player of the Year Jason Mercier – both are PokerStars Pros. They’ve used them both pretty wisely and Duhamel’s actually going to help them stay on brand with that young, hip, smart image. The fact that he’s going to be doing commercials in French will be huge for them. He’s got Franco-hero written all over him and he’s not what most people would label a ‘poker geek’.”
Duhamel has done something no other Canadian poker player has been able to do before him. So when compared to other great Canadian poker players like Daniel Negreanu, just how far will Duhamel’s star power carry? We very well might be seeing the new face of Canadian poker, if he plays his cards right. According to Bradley, that’s a tough one to predict.
“Negreanu’s image is based on a pretty long resume in the poker world. Duhamel has the one big win and will certainly be at the forefront of everybody’s mind for the next year, but beyond that, who knows? I’d be willing to make a small bet that inside Quebec Duhamel earns a stronger following than Negreanu for the next year or two. A good comparison might be how big Georges St. Pierre is in Canada vs. how big Randy Couture is in the U.S,” said Bradley.
Vice President for Bodog Network Jonas Odman had a slightly different take on whether Duhamel would surpass or reach the likes of Negreanu in noteriety,
“No, not a chance. The last five winners of WSOP Main Event have all been unknown before their win, and none of them is even close to the celebrity level of top players like Brunson, Ivey, Negreanu, and Hellmuth.”
Without question Pokerstars struck a Canadian goldmine with their sponsorship of Duhamel. There were rumors circulating that PokerStars had only bought Duhamel as a WSOP player after he made it to the final table. We wondered if there was any truth to that and if that was common practice at major competitions. Jonas Odman shed some light on this,
“Duhamel won a WSOP package online at Pokerstars, so he was a Pokerstars player from the start of WSOP Main Event. And he was already a professional (online) poker player.”
Odman did note that, “It is common practice though for poker sites to give sponsorship deals to players who reach final tables. In small but televised WSOP events a player can get $10,000 for wearing a Full Tilt cap during the final table and that’s the end of the deal. Unsigned players who reach the final table of the Main Event can get much more. But this wasn’t the case this year since Duhamel already had signed a contract with Pokerstars.”
When Joe Hachem won in 2005, it lit Australia poker on fire. Could we possibly see the same for Canada thanks to Duhamel? Lance Bradley thinks we should pump our breaks on that notion.
“Hachem’s ’05 win was big for poker in Australia and New Zealand. I’m not sure that you can expect a similar boom in Canada simply because the market is a lot more mature. PokerStars is already advertising in NHL arenas throughout Canada and the penetration of online poker in the public consience is much, much higher than 2005. Still, the younger generation – Duhamel’s age and younger – suddenly have a hero they can relate to, so it’s possible that we could see a wave of young guns coming out of Canadaover the next 1-3 years.”
But what about PokerStars? One would expect that having Duhamel on board would precede a jump in the local market for the company and bolster poker for other companies in the Canadian marketplace as well. Again, pump the brakes.
“In a mature market like Canada, it will not make much of a difference. Had it been in a new expanding market like Italy, it would have been another story,” according to Odman.
One thing is for sure, for the moment, Jonathan Duhamel is on top of the poker world and a Canadian hero and at least for the time being, he’s putting the Star in PokerStars.