What is a surprise is that it’s the comments that have fallen out of the mouth of Joe Hachem that set the hares running and not (entirely) the play at the Crown Casino.
Hachem stepped up to the BLUFF plate and instead of relaying the usual about how exciting it is to see poker in his home country (...snooze...bore...blah...blah) he decided to get something off his chest.
Namely that Jerry Yang and Jamie Gold had "destroyed the legacy of the world champ."
Cue a myriad of op-eds, interviews and forum threads questioning the validity of the 2005 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event winner’s comments.
Hat Tip to Hachem for Speaking His Mind
I want to start by tipping my hat to Hachem. His comments sparked off a lot of interesting debate and poker needs this. There are not enough people who are strong enough to say what is on their mind, and that’s a crying shame.
But what Hachem did was drop a bomb and then walk off. By exposing both Jamie Gold and Jerry Yang as the legacy destroyers I was expecting him to give me the reasons why.
He never did - instead continuing his tirade with a rant about the harm younger players are doing to our game.
So, we are left to guess as to why the pair has been singled out. Is it because both of them decided to sell their WSOP gold bracelet?
I hope not, because a very reliable source once told me that the great Doyle Brunson never even bothered to pick half of his up.
Gold’s antics on the felt and his supposed dishonesty off the felt are reasons why that particular man has been cast as the villain. But what of Yang?
Yang Only Champ to Donate $1m of Own Money
The Oxford English Dictionary definition of an ambassador is as follows: A representative or promoter of a specified activity
Didn’t Yang do this when he declared on national television that he would donate 10% of his winnings to charity?
Let’s forget his troubles with the IRS for the moment and give this man a round of applause, because as he told PokerNews this week.
“As far as I know I have been the only champion that has donated $1 million of my own money to charity. I have personally raised another $800,000 on my own.
"I have not seen one other world champion that has done that. So from a charity point of view, and promoting the game we love, I think I have done my part.”
I think Yang deserves credit for giving away his money because that attracts attention and in itself is a form of promotion for our game.
I know the BIG ONE for ONE DROP attracts a lot of attention because of the $1m prize tag, and $18-20m first prize, but doesn’t the charitable element of the enterprise also hold sway?
Duhamel Gets His Due, Too
And what about those youngsters that Hachem says are like ‘watching paint dry?” The only youngster who received any sort of indication of respect was Jonathan Duhamel.
“Jonathan Duhamel is my favorite champ after me,” said Hachem. “I remember the kid was honored to have won and it meant a lot for him to win the world championships and not just the money.”
How does he know this? Has Hachem picked Jonathan Duhamel as the only youngster to have cared because Duhamel went on to become one of the most successful world champions since Carlos Mortensen back in 2001?
Duhamel was fortunate enough to be picked up by PokerStars during the smoke and mirrors of 2010 and that allowed him free reign to play in virtually any tournament in the world.
The more you play the more likely you are to win; and boy has Duhamel won some decent lolly since that $8.9m haul. But does that make Duhamel an ambassador for the game?
I think it does. Duhamel never shirks an interview, plays everything and shows the world through personal experience that you can be playing $1/2 online cash games for a living one minute and then representing the biggest online poker brand in the world the next.
But Jerry Yang has six children to look after. Jonathan Duhamel was a young wizard who could fly around the world shooting fairy dust out of his wand.
Both are ambassadors in my opinion, but in very different ways.
Merson an Ambassador of a Different Kind
Greg Merson … is he an ambassador?
Not according to Hachem, but according to my beliefs and values bloody right he is.
Merson was a former drug addict and drunk who had reached rock bottom before picking himself off the floor and producing a 2012 WSOP performance very few will emulate.
In a world where poker players shy away from talking about anything in front of the camera, it is hugely refreshing to sit down with Greg and talk about shit that people wouldn’t dream of.
Why does he do this? Because he is an ambassador who is promoting a way out of addiction and he is using poker as that vehicle.
So are Joe Hachem’s opinions correct? There's no answer to that question because opinions are just that … opinions. But I for one am glad that he had the nerve to air them.