WSOP Event #5: Hachem nearly grabs bracelet

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His walk was brisk, but still cool. Not cool like chilly. Cool like Joe. It was the kind of cool walk that dripped with confidence, even as Joe Hachem grabbed his wife's neck and pulled her in for a mid-stride kiss.

I watched all of this as Team PokerStars' Joe Hachem took a brief walk during a break from the final table of the World Series of Poker Event #6. When most people might be in a corner, strategizing with a mentor through a crackling cell phone, Hachem just walked, his wife at his side, and a bracelet in his eyes.

The field had been the cream of the crop. The $2,500 short-handed affair was stacked with top pros and it took every ounce of skill to make it to the televised final table. Hachem didn't care about being on TV. With a $7.5 million bankroll (courtesy of his 2005 WSOP championship win), even the $475,712 first prize wasn't that big a concern. All that mattered was the bracelet.



Photo Copyright Rob Gracie -- IMDPI

What was clear from the very beginning of final table play was that Dutch Boyd was going to be in control of the table. Boyd's massive chip stack and his brash, sometimes bullying style of play made it impossible for any of the remaining five players to gain a foothold. Even players who were used to captaining the chips found themselves playing defensive and waiting-game poker.

And that was how Joe Hachem got heads up. He waited. He waited for Boyd to push once too often, and then he started collecting chips. He doubled up once against Boyd with A8 vs A5. Then he doubled again with AQ vs KQ. Suddenly, Hachem was atop the leaderboard.

Boyd, however, would not back down and it was little surprise to anyone in the room that the final two players at the table were Boyd and Joe Hachem.


Photo Copyright Rob Gracie -- IMDPI

Despite parrying against Boyd all day long, Hachem still walked with confidence and even uttered, "I'm in the zone, mate."


Photo Copyright Rob Gracie -- IMDPI
Greg Raymer brings coffee to his mate

The room was equally divided. Boyd's supporters sat on one side. Hachem's sat on the other. Greg Raymer sat in the crowd and provided a sense of calm for Hachem when things got too crazy. Boyd was intent on craziness. The word around the room was that he had a pre-planned strategy. Chip away, chip away, chip away, and then get all-in at all costs.

That was exactly what he did. Over the course of the first half hour of heads-up play, Boyd attacked Hachem over and over, working up to a 5-1 chip lead. Hachem held firm, refusing to commit all his chips. Finally, Hachem chose his hand. It was ace-queen pre-flop. Boyd, after some thought, called with K3.

So much had happened in the tournament already, it was actually little surprise to see the flop come out J3J. Suddenly, Hachem's chances looked painfully slim. A ten on the turn opened up more outs, but still, Hachem looked like he knew it was over. Then a miraculous ten hit on the river to give Hachem the hand. Life exploded from the Aussie's face. He screamed. He knew then that he was on his way.


Photo Copyright Rob Gracie -- IMDPI
Hachem comes to life

It would be a precious few moments before Hachem's ascent hit its ceiling. It happened so quickly, the suspense barely had time to thicken. Hachem came in for a raise and Boyd pushed all-in. Hachem called in a shot, once again showing Boyd AQ. Boyd flipped A5. When the turn fell, Boyd had six outs for a chopped pot, and the three remaining fives for a win.

I suspect anyone with an ounce of poker radar knows what happened next.

The five fell, and no one with an ounce of feeling or compassion in their heart could stand to look at Hachem. He was a man on a mission and felt sure he would get there. This time he did not. This time, the cards got the better of him.


Photo Copyright Rob Gracie -- IMDPI

Poker may be the kind of game that can bruise a man's spirit. However, true players like Hachem never walk away broken. He will return soon and when he does, he will have the confidence in his walk, his wife at the ready for a kiss, and, once again, a bracelet in his eyes.