Two years ago, Jonathan Duhamel was a struggling college drop-out working at a factory in Montreal that manufactures aircraft engine parts.
This morning, he is flying high over the poker world as the new World Series of Poker Main Event champ.
The 23-year-old withstood a valiant effort by runner-up John Racener on Monday night in the heads-up portion of the November Nine, but in the end his hefty 6-to-1 chip advantage coming into the session proved to be too much to overcome. With the victory, Duhamel picks up a cool $8.9 million and makes history by becoming the first Main Event champion from Canada.
And, boy, did his spirited fan base let the Rio know they were from north of the border. In fact, the Penn & Teller Theater felt more and more like a hockey rink as the night wore on. The only thing missing was a sheet of ice, thanks to a hockey sweater-wearing Duhamel contingent that chanted everything from “Oh Canada” to “De-fense! De-fense!” to a hearty “Na, Na, Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye!” when it was all said and done.
The chants became deafening at times inside the jam-packed theater, where there was still a long line of more than 100 people waiting to gain entrance when Duhamel clinched the win, about 90 minutes after the cards went in the air.
The hand that ended it all came at 10:04 p.m. It was the 42nd of the evening and the 262nd of a final table that began with nine players on Saturday. Racener called Duhamel’s all-in for his remaining chip stack of 14.95 million and turned over K-8 suited. Duhamel was holding A-J and when the flop-turn-river came out 4-4-9-6-5, Racener was cooked, prompting Duhamel to leap into the welcoming arms of his table-side friends.
Duhamel and Racener, the gum-chomping 24-year-old pro from Florida who earned more than $5.5 million for his second-place finish, made up the youngest heads-up pairing in Main Event history and outlasted a field of 7,319 players that began play back in July hoping to end up on the Penn & Teller stage last night.
But in the end Duhamel, wearing cargo shorts, a black-hooded sweatshirt and flip flops, was the sole survivor, holding the Main Event bracelet up high over his head as confetti rained down upon him.
“This is, by far, the most beautiful day of my life,” he said as he stood in front of piles of cash that was poured onto the final table at the start of the night. “Now it’s time to celebrate. I hope you all come and join the party, It’s going to be a great one!”