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No Longer Your Average Joe

28 June 2006

As soon as Joseph Hachem busted out on the first day of Event #2 at the 2006 World Series of Poker (WSOP) at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino, it was time for the defending WSOP Main Event Champion to go to work.

After exiting in the fourth level of Tuesday's event, Hachem signed autographs, posed for pictures, shook hands and acknowledged random guys yelling "Hachem!" It took the Aussie 20 minutes to actually get to the rail.

It's a stark contrast from 2005 when Hachem walked into the WSOP as a relative unknown and took home the most prestigious title in poker. Asked if he minded all the attention and admiration, Hachem asked: "Are you kidding mate?"

Unlike many celebrities of the poker world, Hachem seems to have an appreciation for his amateur roots, taking the time to greet the fans and playing the role of top dog without complaint. But before you get the wrong idea about the gracious champ, he'll have you know that you're in his territory when you come to the 2006 WSOP events.

"This is my kingdom," Hachem said. "At least for another month or so."

It is the ultimate cliché to say this has been a life changing year for Hachem, but how can you not? Here are some comparisons between 2005 and 2006:

Last year - Hachem tagged along with his friends to the Main event because they had won seats online. "Why not go live out a dream?" he thought.

This year - Hachem walked into the Rio with multiple sponsorships, a multi-million dollar bankroll, and one of the most recognizable faces in poker.

Last year - Hachem played in two events, one of them only coming after he took home the $7.5 million prize in the Main Event.

This year - He plans to play in 15-18 events depending on how he feels and how much of his time is taken up by other business ventures.

Last year - Hachem was a mortgage broker, former chiropractor, and part-time poker player.

This year - Hachem is part of an advertising promotion for PokerStars.com with former champs Greg "Fossilman" Raymer and Chris Moneymaker that tells players they won't miss their day jobs when they win the Main Event.

Bottom line? Things have changed for Hachem and he loves every minute of it. Hachem is the type of champ the WSOP brand dreams about having. He isn't pretentious, he doesn't shy away from autographs and pictures, and he isn't afraid to come to the 2006 WSOP with enough arrogance to give him a chance to become the first back-to-back Main Event winner since Johnny Chan accomplished the feat in 1988.

'But fame and success haven't gone to Hachem's head either. He's realistic about his chances in a field expected to be 8,000-plus. He says he practices every day on PokerStars.com and has been working hard on his game in preparation for the 2006 WSOP. Even with last year's Main Event bracelet tucked somewhere in his luggage, the odds against him repeating are astronomical.

"I'd love to go into next year as the champion again," Hachem said. "I'm always serious when I play poker and I always play to win. The World Series is no different. The rest of the stuff around the table is fun, but when I'm sitting with cards, it's time to play poker."

Adding to the pressure in this year's event is the fact that everyone is gunning for the defending champ. Hachem said he's constantly facing re-raises and ridiculous calls because busting him has the added incentive of knocking out a world champion.

He tries to use the extra action to his advantage, but he said it becomes difficult when you're never in a pot alone. Still, he's not complaining.

"It's tough when you have a big old target on your head," Hachem said. "But I can't complain about the year ... what a year."

Conspicuously absent from Hachem's wrist is last year's Main Event bracelet. Several players at Event #2 were proudly displaying their golden bracelets from past WSOP conquests and many fans have asked to see the famous hardware, but Hachem said he wouldn't wear it until he makes a final table in a preliminary event. He said he also might wear it for the whole Main Event, but was undecided at this point.

"It's too much bling to just wear around," Hachem said.

Ryan McLane is a gaming industry reporter for Casino City and is assigned to the poker beat. Email your comments and questions to him at ryanmclane@casinocity.com .

No Longer Your Average Joe is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane

Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.
Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.