Jonathan Duhamel packing chip lead for WSOP November Nine final

wsop2010_thn.jpgTen-handed play offered scant promise that it would ever end, and Jonathan Duhamel was just fine with that. He would play all the way through November if he had to.

As the night turned to morning, as the audience ordered pizzas, as chips went back and forth across the felt, it seemed a certainty that the 2010 WSOP Main Event would just go on forever, Las Vegas' ten-headed live version of Mt. Rushmore, a tourist attraction that could let travelers see the final ten players grow old, gray-bearded, and famous more for their longevity than their poker play.

"The November Ten" simply wouldn't work. It lacked the alliteration that made marketing easy. Plus the players needed their space. And so, play went on until such time that one Brandon Steven looked for his hotel key, the last man to go to bed without chips. Meanwhile, there stood a smiling Canadian who wished it wasn't over.

"I could have played the final table right there," Duhamel said. "I was so pumped up and so focused on my game. I was ready for another 15 hours of play."

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It was that man, that unshaven 23-year-old kid from Boucherville, Quebec, that walking advertisement for the Amsterdam Red LIght District (seriously, look at his shirt) who would walk away from the summer of 2010 as the WSOP chip leader.

The lights, the interviews, the fan recognition, they were all a long way from his one-time life as a finance student. He knew early on that the business world wasn't the life for him. He gave up school, gave up the student jobs that he deemed "not that cool to talk about," and focused on poker. He started on PokerStars and finished with the final table chip lead of the 2010 WSOP final table.

Along with the quick success came the instant fame at home. As he walks down the street today, people wish him luck, ask him questions, and generally make him feel a little weird. It took some time, but he is finally getting used to the idea.

"Now I have a chance to put my beautiful city of Boucherville onto the map, and I'll do everything I can to do it," Duhamel said. "I've lived there all my life. I would never trade that for anything.

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In the months since Duhamel rose from relative obscurity to the most coveted place in all of poker, the man from Quebec has traveled a bit on the poker circuit, but has spent the majority of his time playing on PokerStars and thinking about how he will play the final table. If not that, he's trying to remain the same guy he was before: a relaxed, life-loving, hockey nut.

In a matter of just a few weeks, Duhamel will arrive in Vegas with his sister, parents, and grandparents to fight for poker's biggest prize. While he has a giant chip lead over the field, he knows as well as anybody that anything can happen. He wants to prove that his success to this point wasn't a matter of luck. He wants to spend his life on the road, playing poker, and seeing the world. First, however, he wants to win.

There are no promises in poker. Duhamel is only guaranteed what he has earned so far and anything beyond that will be decided the first weekend in November.

"No matter if I win or not, I'll be back for more," he said.

The PokerStars Blog will provide coverage from Las Vegas during the WSOP final table November 6-9.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker