First, there was Chris Moneymaker. Then came Greg Raymer.
As poker exploded into the the mainstream consciousness after Moneymaker's amazing win at the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event, it was well on its way to becoming an international sensation.
But even after another amateur, Raymer, won the Main Event title in 2004, it was still a predominantly American enterprise.
Then came Joe Hachem.
The first – and still only – Australian to win poker’s greatest prize, Hachem came out of nowhere to survive round after round of his very first World Series of Poker Main Event in 2005.
By the time all was said and done, Hachem had outlasted a field of 5,600+ players and won the $7.5 million grand prize. He also changed the course of the game in an entire country.
Hachem became an instant poker celebrity in his home country and has maintained his status as the face of Australian poker for well over a decade and counting. But his rise to fame was actually more gradual than it appeared.
Out of Chiro, Into Poker
Born in Lebanon on March 11, 1966, a young Hachem moved with his family to Melbourne, Australia, in 1972. Joe met his high school sweetheart, Jeanie, through family friends when he was 15 and she was 12.
They went on to marry and have four kids of their own including one, Anthony, who has played some poker himself - even winning an $1,100 buy-in event at ANZPT Melbourne in 2013.
The elder Hachem started playing poker for fun during his teenage years and it wasn't until the mid-1990s after watching the movie Rounders that he switched to Texas Hold'em and decided to try his luck playing live at the Crown Casino in Melbourne.
Around the year 2000, after a rare blood vessel disorder in his hands forced him to quit the chiropractic business he had run for 13 years, Hachem began working as a mortgage broker. He also started to devote more time to poker as a "semi-professional” and played regular live games in Melbourne and online at PokerStars.com.
The game became serious business in 2005 when the Aussie headed to Las Vegas with his brother, cousin, and $10,000 of his own money on a mission to win the "Big One."
Hachem tested the waters in Vegas first by entering WSOP Event 37, a $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em with re-buys tournament held on July 4. He placed 10th and earned $25,850.
His win turned out to be peanuts compared to the millions he won less than two weeks later on July 15 at the $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em World Championship final table.
He reached the final table after beating the record-breaking 5,600-plus playing field and secured his championship with 7-3 off-suit, one of the worst starting hands in poker. After calling a pre-flop raise with his 7-3 Hachem hit the best of all flops - 6-5-4 - to give him a straight.
On an Ace turn that gave heads-up opponent Steve Dannenman top pair plus a straight draw the money all went in and Hacehm's hand held to give hime the Championship. He was the first Australian to win the event and one of only four non-Americans to have won at that point.
First World Poker Tour title in 2006
After his WSOP title earned him $7.5m and a contract with PokerStars, which he maintained until 2011, Hachem became a regular on the tournament circuit and proved he was much more than a one-hit wonder.
With the newfound resources to travel to international tournaments he hit the road to find the best poker the world had to offer. That pursuit led him to many more cashes around the world including in European Poker Tour and Asian Poker Tour events as he represented to PokerStars brand.
2006 also gave Hachem his first World Poker Tour title at the 2006 Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship. It was a win that earned him over $2.1m.
He also joined the ranks of Brunson, Carlos Mortenson and Scotty Nguyen as the only players to win a WSOP Main Event and a WPT championship title.
Over $12m in Career Earnings
His World Series of Poker Main Event win remains by far his biggest career cash and his WPT title his second but Hachem has piled up plenty of results in other events.
He finished 11th in the 2008 EPT Grand Final main event, won an 8-game side event at EPT London in 2009 and final-tabled the $5k WSOPE PLO event in 2012.
He’s also represented himself very well in his home casino in Melbourne, cashing several times in the Aussie Millions championship and finishing 3rd in the Main Event in 2012 for over AUD$300,000.
All told Hachem has over $12.2 million in career live tournament earnings.
Dozens of Celebrity and TV Appearances
As one of the faces of the game both in Australia and around the world Hachem has spent his fair share of time under the camera lights. He's been a fixture on ESPN's World Series of Poker coverage and played on famed poker TV shows Poker After Dark, Poker Superstars and on the iconic High Stakes Poker.
Hachem also produced a reality TV show in Australia that set out to find the next "poker star."
Although Hachem's presence on the live circuit has diminished in recent years due to the high demand of travelling long distance from Australia he's still a fixture at the Aussie Millions Championship every year in Melbourne where he co-hosts a celebrity poker tournament with cricketer Shane Warne.
He also continues to play the World Series of Poker, where he cashed four times in 2018. His autobiography, aptly title "Pass the Sugar," was released in 2009.
Joe Hachem on Being a Poker Ambassador
One of the things Hachem prides himself on is being an ambassador for the game of poker and helping to provide a fun, enjoyable atmosphere to bring new players into the game and expand its understanding in the mainstream.
In recent years, however, Hachem has said the current trend of young math geniuses taking over and not talking at the table has hurt the game's appeal:
“A lot of these kids don’t have any manners or respect,” he said. “They live and die behind their computer screens so they don’t feel like they have to own up to anything.”
Still, he feels his impact on the game has had a lasting affect:
"I've had people coming up to me and just thinking me randomly saying 'Thanks man, I love you. You know why? My wife lets me play poker now.'"