WSOP Main Event Day 8: Before they were famous

wsop2010_thn.jpgFour months from now, the names of the 17 players currently sitting about 10 yards from where I type will be known across the globe. The ESPN television broadcast will have made them all celebrities, and for a "lucky" nine of them, we'll probably also find out details of their lives, shoe size, sports team, high school indiscretions, former girlfriends, favourite colour and opinions on Atomic Fireballs (the official candy of PokerStars Blog).

Right now, however, no one in the Amazon Room really knows all that much about many of these folk. We've all stared at them for hours on end, but we've hardly exchanged more than two words with them. The last thing a player wants when they're playing for six or seven figures is a reporter badgering them for their grandmother's name and news of "what they'd do with the money if they won."

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ESPN feature table

Here's what Mad Harper has dredged up about three PokerStars players on the brink of history, including our current World Series chip leader.

Jonathan Duhamel, 22, Boucherville, Quebec, Canada

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Former finance student Jonathan Duhamel first came to international attention when he came close to making the final at the Season 5 PokerStars European Poker Tour event in Prague, Czech Republic. Up against players such as Andrew Chen, Nasr El Nasr, and EPT Barcelona champion Sebastian Ruthenberg, he made tenth place for €42,800. He has also competed at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo two years ago and the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas for the last two years.

Duhamel first came to attention at this year's Main Event when he was pictured on PokerStars Blog wearing at least ten PokerStars.net logos on his WSOP hoodie. Duhamel is one of at least 60 players who have won a seat to next year's PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas after cashing in the WSOP Main Event while wearing PokerStars branding.

Duhamel was enjoying success at the World Series even before this year's Main Event began, finishing 15th in a $2,500 NLHE tourney for $37,276 and 50th in a $1,500 NLHE Six-Max event for $5,724. Duhamel comes from the Montreal suburb of Boucherville.

Matt Affleck, 23, Seattle, Washington, USA

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This is not the first time that Matt Affleck has come close to WSOP glory. Last year he was chip leader when the Main Event was down to just 130-odd players but ended up busting in 80th place for $68,979.

Affleck, who graduated in finance from the University of Washington, took up poker playing with friends in high school. Affleck's best result to date was third place in the 2009 California State Poker Championship in May last year for $124,306. Earlier this summer, he min-cashed for $4,782 in the WSOP $2,500 NLHE Six-Max event.

Affleck has won seats to PokerStars tournaments all over the world including APPT Macau , LAPT Punta del Este in Uruguay and EPT London. One of his best live results came after he qualified on PokerStars for EPT Deauville in France. He didn't cash in the Main Event but managed a second place finish in the €500 side event for €36,900.

Brandon Steven, 36, Wichita, Kansas, USA

Brandon Steven - who celebrates his 37th birthday next Saturday - is one of the few amateur players among these final players. Together with brother Rodney, he runs a chain of health clubs and car dealerships in Wichita. The pair are also keen fundraisers - their own foundation The Genesis Foundation for Fitness & Tennis (GFFT) provides physical training funding for disadvantaged young people and up-and-coming athletes. They also run an annual charity poker tournament raising more than $100,000 a year. Steven was the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Man of the Year in 2007 after breaking their national fund-raising record. He and his wife Karen, 36, have five children aged one through nine-years-old. All the kids are here at the Rio, being cared for by their nanny while their mum rails dad.

Before this year's Main Event, Steven's best live result to date was 30th in a 2007 $1,500 NLHE event for $17,577.

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JOE GIRON'S PHOTO GALLERY

Here are a couple of other faces to watch:

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Brandon Steven, late on day eight of WSOP

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Du Ley enjoying some quality feature table time

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ELIMINATION OF THE HOUR

David Baker is out. Jonathan Duhamel had opened for 500,000 in middle position and was called by Matt Affleck and then Baker in the big blind. The Q♠2♠4♣ flop was checked by Baker but Duhamel bet again, making it 1,175,000 to go. Affleck got out of the way but Baker moved all-in for around 5 million chips.

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David Baker eliminated late on day eight

Duhamel snap called with K♦K♥ and was up against Baker's J♠7♠ flush draw. With the television pause complete the turn card Q♥ paired the board, making things harder for Baker. The River was the 4♥. No good for Baker whose Main Event comes to an end.

Duhamel, who now assumes the chip lead, came around the table to shake Baker's hand, rather than wait for him to pass by on his way to the cash desk, where he'll collect a cheque for $396,967.

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QUOTE OF THE HOUR

"I don't know who JC Alvarado is railing, but he's got a vuvuzela with him."

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ACCESSORY OF THE HOUR

JC Alvarado's vuvuzela.

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STATISTIC OF THE HOUR

Number of spectators watching the action from a position where only the dealer is in view: 7

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OVERHEARD CONVERSATION OF THE HOUR

"Is that Hassan?"
"No, it's not my son."

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PRICE CHECK OF THE HOUR

Price to watch MMA fight night in the Pavilion Room of the Rio: Tickets starting at $30
Prie to watch the final two tables of the 2010 WSOP Main Event: Free

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UM...WHAT...OF THE HOUR

"Good laydown, Grinder! Sharks don't eat fish! Sharks don't eat fish!" --One of Michael Mizrachi's railbirds

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EXPLETIVE OF THE HOUR

"(Expletive deleted)!!!!!!!!" --The Grinder's biggest supporter, storming from tournament area after the aforementioned hand.