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It's not the Stanley Cup, but the WSOP bracelet will have to do

9 Nov 2010

By Aaron Todd
LAS VEGAS -- Jonathan Duhamel has been watching the Montreal Canadiens since he was two years old. And like many Canadians, he grew up dreaming of lifting the Stanley Cup for his hometown team.

While Duhamel knows that those dreams are out of reach, on Monday night he did get his hands on a piece of hardware that ranks second on his fantasy hierarchy: the World Series of Poker Main Event bracelet.

"This is like the NHL of poker right now for me," said Duhamel. "It's so big, it's so huge. It's a dream come true for me."

Duhamel, a professional poker player from Boucherville, Quebec, started playing the game just five years ago. He made the jump to professional poker two years ago, thanks in part to a French-language poker forum,
World Series of Poker Main Event champion Jonathan Duhamel addresses the press

World Series of Poker Main Event champion Jonathan Duhamel addresses the press (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

"There's a lot of good poker players in Quebec, a lot of young guns you play a lot online," said Duhamel. "They were all there to give me some tips when I needed it, to cheer for me and help me. I've got to give them a lot of credit for the victory. I learned a lot because of them."

Many of those forum posters were on hand inside the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, wearing Montreal Canadiens jerseys and chanting "Doo-ahh-mel! Doo-ahh-mel!" and singing "Olé, Olé, Olé, Olé," after Duhamel's key hands throughout play on Saturday and again during Monday night's heads up play.

"Every year there are a lot of people (from Quebec) who come to the World Series and we all hang out together," said Jonathan Menard, one of Duhamel's supporters. "It's a pretty tight community. All the young online players talk all the time on the French forums to help our game."

And while Duhamel certainly qualifies as a young online player, he appears to be much wiser than his 23 years. In March, 2008, Al Sorhaindo, another supporter on hand on Monday night, asked Duhamel if he was planning on playing in the WSOP.
Duhamel fans rocked the Rio with Montreal Canadiens jerseys and racous cheers.

Duhamel fans rocked the Rio with Montreal Canadiens jerseys and racous cheers. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

"He told me 'No, I'm not 21 yet,'" said Sorhaindo. "It surprised me because he always seemed so mature. For example, when he decided he was going to be a professional player, he had a very disciplined and serious approach as far as studying the game as well as playing. Of course he couldn't play that year, but he's made up for lost time."

Indeed. In addition to the WSOP Main Event bracelet, Duhamel took home a whopping $8,944,310 million first-place prize. And he's already displaying the maturity that will serve him well in the weeks, months and years ahead. At the post-tournament press conference, Duhamel said he plans to donate $100,000 to charity. And the lucky recipient seems completely appropriate: the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation.

"I'm very lucky to be here right now," said Duhamel. "I've got to give back. I'm going to continue to give back if I have other big scores, as well."

Duhamel, who still plays hockey three times a week, will never get the chance to lift the Stanley Cup at the Bell Centre. But if history is any indication of what's to come (Dennis Phillips throwing out the first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals game, and Darvin Moon being honored before a New Orleans Saints game), he just may get the chance to drop a puck at center ice before a game.
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