WSOP Main Event: A tale of two champions

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There's little difference in the process of flying to any EPT venue. The same airline, the same flying time (all EPT destinations are two hours away from London regardless of actual distance), the same early start. You also tend to spot the occasional player on their way to the same tour destination. In the case of the San Remo trip earlier this year that player was Peter Eastgate.

Nothing unusual in that only as we all stepped out onto the tarmac the flight attendant saw Eastgate and offered his congratulations on his win of last November. Eastgate was gracious but a little taken back at what was likely his first note of recognition from the civilian world. The process of adapting to being a World Champion had begun.

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Defencing champion Peter Eastgate


Cut forward a few months to Las Vegas this year and former World Champion Joe Hachem signing copies of his book Pass the Sugar for crowds of fans in line for an autographed copy and a quick photo for the album. One new World Champion learning the ropes, one more experienced and already aware of his obligations as ambassador for the game.

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Joe Hachem signing copies of his book


But while they may be at different point of that learning curve there's no doubting they both no what t means to be here as a champion.

"The money's great, I'd be lying if I said it's not" Hacham had said back in 2005. "But the bracelet is the thing. It's an honor and a privilege to wear it."

Proof of that honor came 12 months later. Returning in 2006 Hachem's title defence became one of the defining moments of the tournament - the long slog he knew it would be to defend his title and the exhausted look on his face the moment that back to back dream died.

Since then the World Series main event has become a matter of pride for the Aussie, the grand stage where he shot to fame and where great players before him have left their mark. As well as some self confessed pride Hachem is fired by a competitive spirit, one that suggests one main event bracelet might not be enough, one that inspired him to win the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic in December 2006. "Vindication" is what he called it. Vindication is what it was.

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2005 World Champion Joe Hachem


Flash forward to now and Hachem is working a stack of around 60,000, just under average. He picks up a few thousand here and there without risking much, making the most of circumstances, playing the man, playing position. It's too early for grand gestures something other younger players might not fully grasp where pot winners yell out and high five each other.

Eastgate sits one table along with a stack of 50,000, the same concentration, the same goal, banking opponents' mistakes for later reference while he plots his own advance. Two world champions, two tables apart, each trying what most think is statistically impossible - to win a second main event in the internet age. But you'd be hard pressed to find two more likely candidates and both will walk out of the Amazon room even more recognisable as before.


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OFFICIAL TOURNAMENT ADMIN OF THE HOUR

Current chip average: 67,440

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RAILBIRDS OF THE HOUR

Currently railing the ESPN secondary feature table: a priest and serial qualifier Stevie Chidwick.

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STICKIN' IT TO THE MOM MOMENT OF THE HOUR

"My mom doesn't want I play at poker... but I do it the same!" -- Sign pinned to the back of the PokerStars qualifier Brian Tailor's shirt

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EROS OF THE HOUR

PokerStars' Spanish blogger Ivan Marti, who explains: "In case you are interested in a marriage of the hour, a couple of minutes ago a guy on the rail asked me if I could please forward a message to one of the players. I said that I would do it and he pointed at Nghia Le. 'Please tell her that her friend is getting married now in Starbucks.' I did it, of course."

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WEDDING VENUE OF THE HOUR

Starbucks? Starbucks?

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BAD BEAT PHONE CALL HOME TO THE WIFE OF THE HOUR

"I got my money in so good. It's unbelievable. Ten high flop. I have queens he has ace-king. Unbelievable!"

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JOE GIRON'S PHOTO HOUR

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Dennis Phillips and Maria Mayrinck