"I lift you up, Jonathan, and I drop you in the middle of a Gambler's Anonymous meeting, what would you say?" That's one of the questions I dumped on World Series of Poker champion, Johnathan Duhamel, when he came into our studio today for an interview.
When I originally thought of the question, I had, evidently and perhaps inadvertently, partly climbed aboard the bandwagon crammed with cynical critics, all of whom are grumbling about the horrible and unrealistic example the new champion is setting. His win, they argue, pours fuel on the fire of false hope for obsessed poker players already in over their heads, destroying their own lives and, sometimes, the lives of their families. I thought the question was stark, provocative and potentially insightful.
When I asked the question today and, as Jonathan graciously pondered reasonable responses, I decided it was quite unfair. He's not 42 years old, neglecting two children, a wife and mortgage. It was too late, the question was out there. As he sat beside me at the interview desk, cameras rolling, making an honest attempt to answer, I thought to myself, "Jonathan, you're 23. You're really not supposed to know the answer to this question. Don't worry about it. Enjoy your win, take your money, stay healthy, try to make smart choices and have fun." Now, I wish I had shared those thoughts with him and our viewers.
Right now, he's a great kid! He's kind, patient, obliging and has an unassuming smile and handshake for all the people who were so eager to talk to him. Standing in the hall, he gladly and candidly shared stories about his nerves and his incredibly hectic schedule. He admitted to doing fifteen to twenty interviews every day since winning the title in Las Vegas last week! His interview with me early this afternoon was number seven on the day! He happily autographed two "Pokerstars.net" baseball caps, which I gave away, on-air.
Three years ago, he opened a $100 on-line account. At the World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas, he won $8.94 million US. To win the title, he beat the odds and 7300 other players! Jonathan is articulate, bright and bilingual. He plans to return to school to finish his university degree. He's already donated $100,000 to a foundation for children.
His parents, Luc and Johane, have reason to be proud, but they don't need me to tell them so. On Monday, Jonathan expects to ride the publicity whirlwind to New York City for some television interviews there.
I've never played poker. I never got past the card game, "Hearts", so I have to thank John, a former work colleague, for contributing a couple of poker-savvy questions.
The interview airs at 6:30 Saturday evening on our cable and satellite channels and, next week, will be available on the station website.
I'm not a fan of poker or gambling, but, if Jonathan has no objection to squeezing a heel onto the list, I'm certainly a fan of his!