Jonathan Duhamel: The Faceless Grinder Who Turned Into a Star

Jonathan Duhamel: The Faceless Grinder Who Turned Into a Star

Lee Davy sits down with the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event champion, Jonathan Duhamel, to talk about his ascent into the big time, the BIG ONE for ONE DROP and much more.

Jonathan Duhamel is playing in the first flight of the Millionaire Maker when I saunter over to his table for a chat. Before I can get to him, two players each ask for photographs to be taken.

Jonathan Duhamel: The Faceless Grinder Who Turned Into a StarWhat a star.

As I lean into his ear, the table starts laughing.

“Here comes another one,” a shout from the table.

It’s a tough table. He has Adam Levy on his right, and directly opposite to him is the man whose dreams he invaded for a long period of time, Matt Affleck.

When a player has agreed for a short interview, you cross your fingers and toes that they make it to the break. If they don’t, it’s bon voyage to the interview.

Before I walk away he gets it in with [8s] [7s] against pocket kings. My interview is hanging by a thread, as his tournament life. Fortunately, the former World Series of Poker (WSOP) champion hits runner-runner card-combos to hand him a straight.

Ironically, Matt Affleck leads the biggest chorus of laughter.

“Life is amazing,” Duhamel told me during the break.

My mind wonders back to the run up to the November 9, back in 2010. I am in the Hilton in London, and I am writing an article called “David & Goliath” based on my interviews with the chip leader, Duhamel and the short stack, Jason Senti.

This is the birth of the man that we know and love today. A few months earlier, he was just another faceless grinder. Today, he is the most successful WSOP Main Event champion of recent years.

“My life has changed a lot compared to a couple of years ago. The sponsorship deal with PokerStars means I can travel the globe and play in so many tournaments, meet so many wonderful people and have such a good time.”

The Canadian was primarily an online cash player before his big score. Since then he has become one of the best exponents of the tournament art in recent times.

“I keep trying to play in the biggest tournaments in the world. I am learning all of the time, and I am trying to learn how to play different forms of poker, which is a challenge to me. It’s really important to keep trying to better my game.”

One of the reasons I keep going back to Duhamel is his infectious attitude. He is your typical man on tour—the life and soul of the party. He always has a hand extended, a man hug in the waiting and warmth to emit.

“I think the other stuff is really important. It’s not a requirement. PokerStars don’t tell me to go out and take photo’s with people, but I love it. The people who are asking for photographs may never have another chance to play against me again. It obviously means a lot to them, and makes them happy, so that makes me happy too.”

The biggest game in the world is on the horizon. Duhamel took a seat the last time it played out, but are we going to see him dole out another chunk of change to play in the Big One for One Drop in 2014?

“I don’t think I am going to be playing,” said Duhamel. “I have a wedding in Montreal the same weekend. Also the buy-in is very big – let’s be honest – but I do want to be around, when the wedding has finished, and invite people to give as much to the One Drop charity as possible.”

As I end the interview, I watch as Duhamel follows the herd within the great corridors of the Rio—a place where he would have once been lost, but today sees his arm grabbed by fans that want souvenir photographs.

He is the one-time faceless grinder who turned into a star.