WSOP November Nine: Duhamel the Destroyer books date with destiny

wsop2010_thn.jpgOn Friday afternoon in Las Vegas, the day before the final table of the World Series of Poker began, Jonathan Duhamel, chip leader, told reporters of his ambition for the coming weekend. "I am playing to win," he said. "I'm not going to be happy if I come second."

After 11 hours of play on Saturday, in front of a packed Penn and Teller Theater at the Rio Casino and Hotel, no one can doubt Duhamel's words. After seven of his adversaries fell by the wayside, Duhamel stayed in the hunt for the title and will return on Monday night to go head-to-head with John Racener for the World Series platinum bracelet.

Duhamel will either win or come second. Nothing else is now an option. But the PokerStars man is the overwhelming favorite, with a chip lead of more than six to one.

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Jonathan Duhamel, chip leader then, and chip leader now

This was an all-star performance from Duhamel, who will have won over any of the doubters who guessed he might have lucked his way to the chip lead in the summer segment of this tournament. He showed grit and stamina, focus and determination. He was pushed to the brink of elimination, but bounced back fearlessly. And then some.

On the day when poker began to resemble a boxing match (scantily clad "seat girls", Bruce Buffer on the mic, etc.), the shadow-boxing Duhamel put on a prize fighter's show. He started the day with 65,975,000, dipped to around 20,000,000, and then wagered it all with A♠9♥ against Michael Mizrachi's pocket threes. Duhamal won that race, then landed the knockout blow to Mizrachi with some cutely played aces.

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Jonathan Duhamel, keenly observed by a packed rail

But that was only the appetizer. Duhamel had been sparring most prominently with Joseph Cheong, and they had been three- four- five-betting one another with abandon, even as the field thinned. The first six-bet, however, will be remembered as long as people are playing poker.

Cheong and Duhamel had almost identically-sized stacks when they got them all in after a raising war to end them all. Duhamel's pocket queens stayed good against Cheong's A♠7♥ and the pot of more than 170 million, slid in Duhamel's favour, was the biggest in World Series history.

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Joseph Cheong and Jonathan Duhamel

Duhamel the Destroyer will come back on Monday night with 188,950,000, which is way, way ahead of John Racener's 30,750,000. Racener had sat in joyous disbelief as his two mightily-stacked opponents got involved in their ding-dong battle. Racener is going to need a lot of help to turn it around. But no one will be counting any chickens just yet, least of all the remarkably grounded Duhamel.

For Jason Senti, PokerStars' other final table ambassador, it was a far tougher ask to make it to the final two. But he too showed tenacity in ample quantity, and earned himself more than $1.3 million for seventh place.

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Jason Senti: Battler

Senti began the day with the tournament short stack, but put it to work early, shoving uncontested four times in the opening couple of orbits and gradually chipping up. All of a sudden, Senti had enough to eliminate Soi Nguyen in ninth, then to take a dent from Cheong when he doubled through his neighbor and countryman (Senti's K♦7♠ outdrew Cheong's A♣9♣.)

Matthew Jarvis was knocked out and Senti had more than 20 million with seven players left. But when he got it in with A♦K♦, he couldn't beat Cheong's pocket tens. Cheong ended up rivering a straight to send Senti to the rail.

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"I'm happy with the way I played and the way it turned out," Senti said. "I can't not feel anything but good after finishing seventh out of seventy-three hundred people. I'm feeling pretty good about poker right now."

It's fair to say that Jonathan Duhamel quite likes this game as well at the moment. Although he was put through the ringer and left clinging to the wreckage, he hauled himself heroically back into contention and set himself up for a famous night on Monday.

He can become the first Canadian winner of the Main Event and among the youngest ever to step onto the top of the podium. He also stands to join the clutch of fine PokerStars players with a Main Event bracelet: Moneymaker, Raymer, Hachem, Eastgate, Cada .... Duhamel?

Join us on Monday to find out. In the meantime, have a look back at all of today's coverage:

  • The final countdown
  • And so it begins
  • Senti starts the long climb
  • Jason Senti's courtship of Lady Luck
  • Duhamel takes the rough with the smooth
  • Duhamel loses his four-month chip lead
  • What's good for Senti is good for Duhamel
  • Ups and downs after dinner
  • Indigestion and the poker playing response
  • Senti sent packing in thriller
  • Beware the race
  • The 70 million chip curse
  • Mizrachi, Candio eliminated
  • Goodnight for now.

    Howard Swains
    @howardswains in World Series of Poker