What’s a poker champ to do?

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We have a new world champion in poker, and he’s barely old enough to enjoy the champagne they poured for him after his victory. Canada’s Jonathan Duhamel, at the tender age of 23, is the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event champion.

Clearly he has shown a penchant for handling pressure with a skill that’s far beyond his years, as evidenced by capturing the $8.9 million first prize. But what kind of public pressure will he be under? And should he be under that pressure? What should we expect from our world champion? Just because he can play hold’em better than most people on this planet doesn’t mean he will be an ingratiating champion or someone to admire.

The next time you’re playing at your local cardroom and you see a guy having one too many and getting belligerent with the dealer and other players, sit back and think, “What if this guy won it all?”

Can we hold him to the standards we usually reserve for a title as prestigious as world champion? And do we really have that right? After all, you don’t have to go through an extensive screening process to plunk down $10K to enter the main event. So how can we expect the champ to also be a generous, likable person?

Greg Raymer, the 2004 WSOP winner, is perhaps one of the greatest champions the game has had, both in diplomacy and ability. He had some interesting thoughts on the subject of being the ambassador for poker.

“I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to look at the winner and put him down if they don’t think he’s a good ambassador for the game,” Raymer said. “But it’s deserving of respect if that person does go out of their way to be that good ambassador. I’m not going to look down at a professional athlete if he’s not a good role model, but I’m going to look up to him if he is.”

Raymer embraces the grandness of the WSOP and always has been a great ambassador, promoting the game and being an incredible advocate under the Poker Players Alliance. He admits he misses being the reigning champ, but still takes his role seriously.

“It’s a lot more fun to be the champ than to have been the champ that’s for sure,” he said, “but it’s a lot like boxing. Once you’re the champ you’re always the champ, you’re just not the reigning champ.”

So what about Duhamel? What kind of champ will he be? Well, he’s the first Canadian (and French-speaking player) to win it all, so he will be able to reach that many more people. But is he willing?

“For sure. I’m going to do my best to try to be the best poker ambassador I can,” Duhamel said moments after defeating Florida’s John Racener heads-up for the title. “It’s a dream come true for me so I’ll do my best. I’m up for the challenge, that’s for sure.”

And what advice does Raymer have for our new champ?

“I would recommend he take as much time off as he can. If you get invited to be on Letterman then maybe you just go, but if it’s something that doesn’t need to be taken care of right away like that, then I would just give it a few days and think things through. Decide how you really want to do things. Take your time making your deal with whatever site that’s probably looking to make a deal with you. Do your research; make sure you’re making the right deal. . . . I mean they might be asking you to sign a two- or three-year contract. You don’t want to promise to travel all over the world for the next three years and then find out you hate it. Because you’re not going to be happy and you’re not going to be a good ambassador for the game.”

Spoken like a true world champ.

We’ll see you at the tables.

Christopher Cosenza and Scott Long