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Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Duhamel relishes newfound celebrity in Canada

15 November 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Hours after winning the World Series of Poker's Main Event, Jonathan Duhamel was more popular in Canada than hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky.

Newspaper headlines north of the border -- including his hometown Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, and Toronto Star -- proclaimed Duhamel, 23, the country's and the game's newest celebrity.

His victory Monday night in the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Hold 'em World Championship was worth $8.9 million. He was the first Canadian champion in the 41-year-history of the World Series of Poker's Main Event.

Duhamel celebrated his victory late into the night inside a Rio suite with several hundred friends and family members. Many wore red Montreal Canadiens jerseys they hadn't removed all weekend.

The next day, Duhamel did three dozen media interviews, including the CBC and newspapers and broadcast outlets from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

The interest put a smile on the face of World Series of Poker communications director Seth Palansky, who was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and grew up in Toronto.

The reach of poker, a game that grew in America during the mid-1800s in Old West saloons and on Mississippi River paddleboats, is now worldwide.

There have been six non-American champions of the Main Event. Mansour Matloubi, an Iranian living in London, was the first. Three of the past six winners are non-Americans.

The World Series of Poker celebrates its international flavor. A European version has taken place in London the past three years.

This year, participants from 117 nations played in 57 events. National anthem ceremonies saluted bracelet winners from England, Canada, Sweden, and the U.S.

Of the 7,319 players in the Main Event, one-third came from countries outside the U.S., including 482 from Canada.

Canadian pride was evident at the Rio. Eighth-place finisher Matthew Jarvis of Surrey, British Columbia, watched heads-up action wearing a Vancouver Canucks jersey. Canadian poker professional Gavin Smith supported runner-up John Racener but wore a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey to counter the Montreal influence.

Duhamel now vies for Canada's attention with Toronto native Daniel Negreanu, who owns four World Series of Poker bracelets and $12 million in lifetime tournament earnings.

Draped in Canada's flag, Duhamel wants to spur interest in the game in his home province.

"There are a lot of very good poker players in Quebec, a lot of young guns," he said. "I hope by me winning there is going to be a lot more poker in Quebec."
Duhamel relishes newfound celebrity in Canada is republished from