Hanging in one corner of the Rio Convention Center’s Amazon Room is a banner with Jonathan Duhamel’s picture on it commemorating the best day of his life.
Duhamel got a not-so-subtle reminder of one of his worst early Tuesday when a member of his cheering section urged the professional poker player from Boucherville, Quebec, not to lose his latest World Series of Poker bracelet.
Ouch. With friends like these … right?
Duhamel has experienced a full spectrum of emotions in the past five years, ranging from the high of winning the 2010 WSOP Main Event to the low a year later when he was beaten and robbed in a home invasion that was masterminded by an ex-girlfriend.
Duhamel was back on top Tuesday, as he outlasted several top pros to win the $111,111 buy-in High Roller for One Drop tournament.
“I feel so amazing right now,” Duhamel said. “It doesn’t get any better than that. The biggest buy-in of the whole summer, for charity also — it’s for One Drop — all those things combined it’s an amazing day. It’s probably like my second-best day ever, after the Main Event. It’s so amazing. I feel so blessed, I feel so happy, so lucky to be where I am right now and to have done this.”
The High Roller for One Drop features the largest buy-in at this year’s WSOP and benefits the One Drop Foundation, which provides access to clean water in disadvantaged parts of the world. Duhamel topped a field of 135 entrants and collected $3,989,985 for his victory.
The tournament was delayed for 30 minutes during three-handed play after a male spectator collapsed at 12:31 a.m. Paramedics performed CPR for several minutes before he was taken to a local hospital.
WSOP spokesperson Seth Palansky said Tuesday afternoon there was no update on the unidentified 88-year-old man.
The medical emergency occurred as the flop was dealt with last year’s $1 million buy-in High Roller winner Daniel Colman all-in for his tournament life against businessman William Klein. Colman had to wait half an hour before the final two cards were dealt, and he was eliminated in third place.
Tournament director Jack Effel chose to continue with heads-up play, which resumed at approximately 1:10 a.m. Duhamel, holding pocket kings, eliminated Klein 20 minutes later.
Klein, from Laguna Hills, Calif., said he will donate his $2,465,522 earnings to charity.
“The whole room didn’t know what to think or what to do in that situation. It was really sad,” Duhamel said. “We all wish he’s going to be all right. It’s just a poker tournament, so when you put things in perspective, it was not that important in the end compared to what happened over there.”
Duhamel became the first Canadian to win the Main Event in 2010 and took home $8.9 million. That bracelet and more than $100,000 in cash was stolen on Dec. 21, 2011, when two men broke into his condo near Montreal.
Duhamel’s ex-girlfriend Bianca Rojas-Latraverse pleaded guilty in 2012 to breaking and entering, kidnapping and conspiring to commit robbery and was sentenced to 3½ years in prison.
Duhamel joins Joe Cada as the only players since 2002 to capture a bracelet after their Main Event victory. Duhamel has cashed in five events this summer and upped his career WSOP earnings to $13,796,281, which is No. 4 all time.
“Five years ago, I never thought I would win the Main Event. And then in 2010, I never thought I would win two bracelets,” Duhamel said. “The journey to get to where I was to where I am right now, it’s amazing. In life, it’s always going to be up and down. Everybody gets ups, everybody gets downs. It’s part of life, so you just have to deal with it.
“I had some highs, I had some downs like anybody else. It is a big high, that’s for sure.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.