Interview with Jonathan Duhamel

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Canada Poker: We met with Jonathan Duhamel from Boucherville, Quebec who is the WSOP November Nine Chipleader.

We’ve had the opportunity to meet you and also spend some time with you the past couple of days here at the Four Aces Open and not having met you before, you have shown us how you are a real down to earth and overall good guy. It’s good to see these qualities in poker players who have achieved some level of fame and success. We’ve also seen you in action at this smaller scale tournament and we can see that you are a very focussed player when it comes to tournaments? How do you feel about tournaments in general?

Jonathan Duhamel: I feel pretty confident but mostly I’m a cash game player.  Playing live is more fun than playing online because you get to speak with people during the tournament.  I’m always focused, that’s for sure!  That’s why I wear my hoodie so that I can keep focused and avoid making stupid mistakes.

Jonathan Duhamel Four Aces Poker OpenCanada Poker: I have heard in the past from other professional poker players that in order to be a successful tournament player, you also need to be a good at cash games. How do you feel about that statement?

Jonathan Duhamel: I think that’s very true.  It’s harder to be the greatest cash game player than it is to be the greatest tournament player.  When you play cash games, it’s a lot deeper.  When you master that and then go into tournaments, most of the time you have fewer chips and big blinds, and it’s kind of easier to adjust to that.

Canada Poker: Do you think a cash game player goes into a tournament with a more aggressive perspective, goes in there and build his chips up fast whereas a tournament player is thinking more long-term, playing slowly?

Jonathan Duhamel: I think it depends on the players, but yeah, maybe there’s a tendency that online players play more aggressive.  It’s going to depend on the player but as for me, I don’t want to make a mid-finish to the cash, I want to win the whole thing because that’s where the money is!

Canada Poker: Was this summer’s World Series your first WSOP appearance?

Jonathan Duhamel: It was my second.  I played four tournaments last year: The Main Event and three smaller ones.  I did not cash in any of them.  This was my second WSOP and I played a total of 17 tournaments, cashing in 3 of them.

Canada Poker: That’s obviously a very big investment.

Jonathan Duhamel: Definitely, but I wanted to do it.  I played online all year and saved as much money as I could to play in as many tournaments possible.  The other ones were in the $1,000 – $2,000 range so they weren’t as expensive as the Main Event.  After playing 16 tournaments, when you get to the Main Event you’re very sharp and in the zone.  I think it was a good idea to play a lot of tournaments as I was ready to go to war!

Canada Poker: It seems to have been a good idea.

Jonathan Duhamel: Yeah.

Canada Poker: But obviously practice, in anything you do in life always helps.

Jonathan Duhamel: Yeah you have to practice.

Canada Poker: Let’s talk a little bit about online poker now. Where do you play online?

Jonathan Duhamel: I play on PokerStars.  I play cash games a lot there and now I’m playing a lot more tournaments and sit n go’s to prepare myself for November.  This month there is the WCOOP which is a $50 Million Guaranteed series on PokerStars.

Canada Poker: Wow that’s serious money. Usually, you would need to play a Major Live Tournament to see that kind of action.

Jonathan Duhamel: Yeah, I’m definitely going to be playing in some of them because it will be really good practice.  There’s a lot of good opportunities to win a lot of money playing in the WCOOP and you don’t need to travel!  You can also play two big tournaments at the same time on PokerStars whereas playing live you can only be in one place at a time!

Canada Poker: Would you say that playing online on Stars helped you to be prepared for the WSOP?

Jonathan Duhamel: Oh yeah, for sure!  It helped my game a lot, and because of that I’m going to continue practicing there.  I like to be sure that I am sharp, and playing online at PokerStars is the best way to do it I think, being that I can play lots of tables at the same time.

Canada Poker: When players make the final table at the Main Event, they have a good chance of landing a sponsorship with an online poker room. You are sponsored by PokerStars. Tell us a little bit about that.

Jonathan Duhamel: Yes, that’s correct but in fact I was with PokerStars since the very beginning of the tournament and they’ve treated me very well.  PokerStars is the site I have played on for a long time and I am very comfortable there.  It made sense for me to be with Stars and I am very happy to be representing them in the WSOP.

Canada Poker: Do you consider poker a sport?Jonathan Duhamel

Jonathan Duhamel: Yes.

Canada Poker: In what way?

Jonathan Duhamel: Well, in the way that if you want to become the best you have to practice all the time.  I mean, Tiger Woods drives balls.  He plays five or six hours a day, seven days a week.  I try to do the same with poker.  Negreanu always plays, that’s why he’s on top!  If you don’t play, you’re not going to be that good.

Canada Poker: Do you find that it’s physically demanding because whether you play online or live, you’re sitting down for many hours at a time?

Jonathan Duhamel: It’s a mental and physical game because sitting for 12 hours a day, 8 straight days is very tough and challenging!  Because of that, you have to have a good heart and be healthy, eat well, and drink a lot of water.  It’s not very physical and it’s not a contact sport but it’s definitely a sport.

Canada Poker: Now that you’re famous, do your friends look at you differently with your new found fame?

Jonathan Duhamel: My real friends, no.  I have a couple of friends whom I have known since primary school so for them I didn’t change at all.  For my close family, I am just the same guy.  But for sure there’s a lot of people that look at me differently.  People that remember me from when I took the bus eight years ago and NOW they want to be my friends!

Canada Poker: Now you’re a role model to young poker players who want to be like you and achieve the same success you have. Is there any advice you would give to young poker players starting in this field?

Jonathan Duhamel: Well again, there’s two things I think that are very important.  First, if you want to be good there’s no other way – you have to practice and continue to play poker. Second, I think reading books and looking for strategy helps because you have to study also!  It’s like going to school, you have to read your books and you have to understand the theory of the game, then you go out and practice that theory.  You want it to be natural, like a reflex.

Canada Poker: Especially when you play online poker, you don’t just play one table and that’s the uniqueness of online poker…

Jonathan Duhamel: …yeah, I play 8 to 10 tables at a time!  Things have to come like a reflex.  When I started it was like one table at a time and then I added another table and another.  One table at a time and then I realized that playing 4 and 5 tables was too slow, so I added more tables.  Again, it’s just with practice, I put the theory into play and I practiced.

Canada Poker: You did a couple of years in University before officially turning Pro, do you ever plan to go back and finish.

Jonathan Duhamel: I probably won’t need to, but I want to finish it.  More for personal achievement because I only have 2 years left to finish a Bachelor’s degree.  I don’t know when, but probably in a couple of years.  Maybe I’ll go back part-time to finish it.

Canada Poker: How many interviews have you done since Las Vegas?

Jonathan Duhamel:  Over a hundred that’s for sure. I did a lot in Montreal, then I went to Toronto, Foxwoods so I did a lot of them.

Canada Poker: What do you plan to play leading up to the Main Event table.

Jonathan Duhamel: Well next week I’m going to London to play the World Series Europe and then the EPT London as well.   This is going to be good practice since there’s going to be a lot of good players there.  Then I will go home and have about three to four weeks that I will play online a lot.  I am not going to do much more live, just play a lot of tables on PokerStars.

Canada Poker: When you play the online tournaments, do you play cash games at the same time?

Jonathan Duhamel: I try not to mix cash games when I play tournaments.  I am just going to play tournaments, multi-table tournaments and sit ‘n go’s.  I am also going to play less tables, maybe six at a time.

Canada Poker: Just like other young players now may look up to you as someone they want to eventually become, do you have an idol or a role model who you followed in your poker career?

Jonathan Duhamel: Since the beginning it’s been Daniel Negreanu.  Everybody loves him, he is nice to everyone and he is a good poker player.  Because of this I even aspire to be like him!

Canada Poker: … and he`s Canadian too.

Jonathan Duhamel: Yeah that`s right… (laughing) but he cheers for the Leafs though. I cheer for the Habs (Montreal Canadiens).

Canada Poker: At which point in the Main Event, did you feel you had a shot at the final table?

Jonathan Duhamel: When I moved on to Day 6, there was around 78 players remaining and I was 16th or 17th in chips.  The day was going well and at that point I realized I have a real shot of making the final table.  My focus just kept growing higher and higher, so I just tried to concentrate as much as I could and things just went pretty well from there.

Canada Poker: We’re you at any tables with any poker celebrities?

Jonathan Duhamel: On Day 5 I played with Scotty Nguyen, so it was pretty nice and I played with Phil Galfond on Day 4.

Canada Poker: Does this change your perception when you’re playing? Do you think to yourself, I`m playing with someone who’s been on television hundreds of times?

Jonathan Duhamel: Well the thing is, you need to try to keep your focus and forget that he’s a big superstar.  You don’t want to change your game because of a poker pro, you just want to continue playing your game.  If you just continue to play the game you’re use to playing then no matter who you’re facing, your strategy will prevail.

Canada Poker: How do you find the poker scene here in Canada? Is it something you would like to explore more and see grow? And as a poker pro now, do you feel that you have to travel out of the country to catch a good game?

Jonathan Duhamel: For sure I’d like to travel all around the world, but I know there’s a lot of good tournaments in Canada.  There’s a very good one coming soon in BC.  It’s sad but there was a WPT in Niagara Falls that isn’t going to be there anymore.  It was a very good tournament that I only played once.  I wish there could be more tournaments in Canada because I like playing here.  We need one in Montreal also!

Canada Poker: I think it’s going to come. Poker is growing here.

Jonathan Duhamel: It would be good to have a Canadian league with 10 or 12 big tournaments across Canada, that would be cool.

Canada Poker: How can people who are not in Vegas be able to follow your progress? We`re going to do the best we can to follow and report your progress, but maybe you have a blog somewhere that readers can follow?

Jonathan Duhamel: I have a very good friend of mine who has a website, PrincePoker.com, who’s going to be standing near me in the VIP section at the Main Event, and basically he’s going to be blogging so you can follow what`s happening maybe with a couple of minutes delay.

Canada Poker: I heard you have a big following going to Vegas with you for the final table. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Jonathan Duhamel: There’s going to be at least 200 people that are coming from Montreal, Sherbrooke and all around the province of Quebec!  Maybe even some people I don’t know that will be there to cheer me on!  We will have a big crew with Habs jerseys on so people know who they are, and they will make a lot of noise!  It’s going to be a fun time!

Canada Poker: If you win, maybe the City can organize a parade on St-Catherine Street in downtown Montreal similar to the Stanley Cup victory. It would be nice to see something like that for you.

Jonathan Duhamel: Yeah I wouldn’t mind that, that would be very cool.

Canada Poker: Thank you very much Jonathan for taking the time to speak with us. Again congratulations for reaching this far at the WSOP. Good luck in the Main Event and in the next tournaments you are playing until November and bring the championship home.

Jonathan Duhamel: It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

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