WSOP Main Event: "Aussie Aussie Aussie!" - Day 1D Begins
by Ali Lightman
All eyes are going to be on Joe Hachem today, and he knows it. Not only those of the other 2000-odd nervous contenders praying for an easy table, with Joe not on it, because it's also their first day of the Main Event.
There are some 2 700 who have made it through to Day 2 already, and about 3 300 whose dreams of winning the WSOP are over for this year at least.
There's the throng of supporters who queue as players enter the room, pointing out their favorites then waiting patiently, sometimes for hours, for a spot jamming the rails.
Hundreds of bleary-eyed reporters are camped at the Rio, feeding out the news to millions of poker fans around the world via the mainstream media and blogs like this.
Let's spare a thought for the marketeers poised with baited breath over their budget spreadsheets hoping Joe does, or doesn't, win it again.
And then there's Australia, his home, a nation that bets on two flies crawling up a wall. Poker exploded when Joe defeated 5618 people to win the bracelet, and $7.5 million, with his 7 3. Joe is big box office Downunder.
How did he sleep last night with all that pressure? Soundly, I am sure, with his wife Jeannie by his side and two youngest kids up the hall. The Joe I know will be thinking of his family.
He was doing so yesterday as his younger brother Tony and cousin, Billy, took their chances. Joe stayed in touch with both by phone, giving advice, and commiserating when Billy was knocked out late last night.
The Hachems are a close-knit extended family and it has been tough on them all, coping at home in Melbourne with long separations, as Joe worked far away playing tournaments and being roving ambassador for the WSOP and for PokerStars.
The forty year old has already proved he's no flash in the pan, with two final table finishes already under his belt in preliminary events to this year's big one. He finished 2nd in the $2 500 Short Handed No Limit Hold'Em ($256 800) and 4th in the Pot Limit Hold'Em ($90 482). No other reigning World Champion has done that since Scotty Nguyen eight years ago, when the fields were much, much smaller, and before the emergence of the internet player.
I don't know what it's like to face Joe across the baize. I do know what it's like to sit around the dinner table with him, and his family. We've spent several evenings together during this WSOP and back home in Australia.
He strikes me as a man happiest as the head of his family. Not in a Don Corleone way, waiting for supplicants to kiss him, but as a proud and contented family man who finds joy in simple things, like watching those he loves enjoy themselves.
Joe has found a serenity under pressure, you can see it in his eyes. But that has taken work. He's admitted in the past that, being a native of Lebanon, his blood is at boiling point when he's at rest.
But he will be patient today. That was the advice he gave his brother and cousin. He advised them to play each hand on its merits, and not to get involved in decent-sized pots with marginal hands. Don't be scared to re-raise, he told Billy and Tony, and use your position. Minimise what the hands are going to cost, stay calm, and enjoy it.
You can be sure Joe Hachem wouldn't say that if he didn't believe it, so I guess that will be the World Champion's game plan, today.
[Otis' Note: While Hachem may be the biggest Star of Day 1D, we'll still be keeping an eye on the remainder of our PokerStars qualifiers. Here's a list of the folks we'll be watching today:
For My Son