Poker Legend Joe Hachem shares his story with us here at RTR

Posted on by RTR Dennis

Joe Hachem - Joe Diamond

Team PokerStars Pro Joe Hachem burst onto the poker scene by winning the WSOP Main Event in 2005 for $7,500,000. Since then he has notched up many deep runs and continues to be a force to be reckoned with on the tournament circuit. Check out the interview below to learn how Joe stays on top of his game and maintains the hunger to win big.

1) Could you start by sharing with us a little about your background? Who you are, where you are from? (A lot of our readers are probably very familiar with you but don’t know much about your background)

I am a Lebanese born Australian, practised as a chiropractor for 13 years, before having to stop due to a medical condition with my hands. I have been playing poker since the age of 13. In 2005 I travelled to Las Vegas, and I won the WSOP Main Event for $7.5 million dollars.

2) Can you tell us how you first got involved in poker and when you decided to make poker your full time occupation?

As I said above, I started playing poker at the age of 13, mainly with my cousins and best friends. My passion for poker stayed with me throughout college and into my adult life. In 1998 I discovered Texas Hold’em, which wasn’t very popular in Australia at the time. Not long after this, I discovered tournament poker and found a new challenge. I was primarily a cash game player and I would visit Crown Casino Poker Room, in Melbourne, a few times a week and play in any tournaments they had running. We also used to play a lot of home games, whether it would be tournament or cash. 2005 was my breakout year, and it started off way before the main even victory. Even today, I am not a full time player, but split my time between family, business and poker.

Joe Hachem

3) When playing in Australia did you have any a-ha moments where suddenly things started to click and you realised you could outsmart almost all opponents?

From the very first time I played Texas Hold’em, I knew instantly that I was good at this game. The fact that we were using a 52 card deck and how difficult it was to make a hand was something that had really appealed to me, because it meant I could bluff my opponents off hands easily.

4) Can you tell us about your road to the WSOP victory? You had played previously too right? Did you always have the belief that you could take down a huge title?

My trip to Vegas in 2005 was my first poker trip abroad, and to be honest it was overwhelming at first. A true story that I would like to tell, is me entering the main tournament room of Day 1 of the tournament event, and literally freaking out at the enormity of seeing 2000 other players sitting around me, and wondering to myself how on earth am I going to do this, and what am I doing here. Then in one split second I snapped myself out of it, and reminded myself, that all I had to do, was worry about my own table and my own game.

5) What advice would you offer to recreational players looking to break into the larger buyin tournaments? E.g. jumping from $20 events online to their first WSOP side events and even the main event?

I guess the most important thing that I would like to remind people is to always have fun, and this means if the buy in hurts you then it can’t be fun. I would strongly recommend to anybody looking to play bigger buy in events, to become a very good satellite player and win their seat into the tournament, until their bank roll is big enough to withstand a few hits. That’s how I did it. Actually I bought into the main event of the World Series with $10,000 US dollars with my hard earned cash, but this money came directly from a healthy bank roll, that I had built up after four years.

6) Do you employ a different strategy against different levels of players? Or do you force all players to adjust to your own strategy?

No I think I am the one who needs to adjust to different players, and I try to do that in every tournament. For example, I would play an amateur much more straight forwardly than I would play a tricky seasoned pro.

Joe Hachem

7) We were interested to see your recent video interviews and your discussion about 5-bet bluffing all in against Randy Lew. Can you tell us about that and about your general approach against new young online players?

I think anyone who’s not working on their game, and trying to stay ahead, is going to fall behind quickly. Today’s young players are extremely talented and have a lot of courage. Out of respect, and as a matter of survival, I keep my skills up to speed to these young bucks. Once upon a time, the three bet was always A A OR K K, but today, the five-bet could be Q10 off, as it was in the hand with me against Randy.

8) We’d like to congratulate you on your awesome performance at the LA Big Event 2011from just a couple weeks ago, coming 2nd overall. Can you tell us a little about that tournament? Also, when you got heads up and took the chip lead did you think you had it in the bag?

Thank you very much. It was a very interesting tournament for me, because I had a flight out at the end of Day 3, and was in mind to get some chips or go home. Which kind of helped me a little bit, because it was a win-win situation. On Day 4 I made one of the calls of my life, for all my chips, with a pair of Kings no kicker, when we were down to 14 players. That was a very pivotal moment for me, because it gained my momentum and set me up to make a final table challenge.

Playing Victor heads-up was a lot of fun, and of course he is a good friend of mine and fellow Team PokerStars Pro, at no time did I believe that I would not win, I just felt so confident and was so happy with the way I was playing. But as lady luck would have it, it was not to be, and congratulations to Victor.

9) During that tournament we read that you were down to a very short stack at one point, but managed to grind back. Can you offer any advice on playing a short stack? Do you think it is a mistake to take your chances earlier and gamble with ~10 big blinds, instead of waiting a couple more rounds for better spots? Do you think this is part of your edge on the modern fields?

I think patience is totally underrated in today’s game. With 10 big blinds, I would still like to get my chips in with a hand that can work for me, eg. J9 suited versus K4 off. Poker is all about timing, and sometimes you can be too patient and other times you can lose all your patience. My advice is to always listen to what your gut tells you, and as long as you are happy with the way you played that hand in that moment in time, all else evens out.

Joe Hachem

10) Considering you already have a WSOP main event bracelet, what is the next title you would most like to add to your accolades? And how likely do you think it is you will succeed with that quest?

The two big titles that I had in my sites are: The Aussie Millions championship in my hometown Melbourne, and an EPT title. I have come close a few times, and I hope I can close it out soon. In saying this, I would be ecstatic at any win and any title.

11) Do you ever consider focusing on the cash game side of the poker world? It seems many of the top pros are also world class cash game experts and often there is a lot more money to be made in the side games.

I do enjoy playing cash games, and totally agree with your comment, however, I find it challenging to balance the amount of poker that I play with my family and business obligations.

12) Can you tell us about your support team? Do you find it difficult to balance family life while playing the tour or do you find it more of a support? Has your wife gone crazy from bad beat stories? (joke)

LOL. There is not much I would be able to achieve without the support of my family and friends, especially my wife. I definitely find having such a strong support team as an advantage in the poker world, over some of my colleagues who only have other poker players to console them. As a matter of fact, my wife tells me about her bad beat stories after playing $12 sit-n-go’s on PokerStars.

13) Are there any opponents in the poker world who always seem to have your number, who continue to get the best of you? Alternatively, are there any specific players you are always happy to see at your table?

You know what, I don’t really pay that much attention to who beats me and to who I beat, I have played that many hands of poker now, that usually the only time I remember something about a hand, is the specifics of the hands itself and not who was actually involved.

Joe Hachem

14) Could you share with us an amusing story from the poker world that we might not have already heard?

This is one of my favorite anecdotes. In November 2005, I walked into the Bellagio poker room looking for some No Limit action. The only game they had for me was a $10/$20 No Limit game, so I decided to take a seat. The ESPN coverage of my World Series win had not yet been televised, but everyone at the table knew who I was. When I sat down with my chips some guy, who looked like he’d had a few too many, piped up and said: “Here comes the champ, let’s take his money” and I thought to myself: “Blah blah blah. Here we go!” I sat down with about $10k and the very first hand I was dealt was two red Cowboys! I raised to about $80. Surprise, surprise the loud guy re-raised out of the big blind. I could have re-popped him right then and there, but I decided to play it slow and bust him on the flop. The flop comes, Jack high. He and I pushed all-in (he was all-in for about $2500). As it turns out he had Pocket Aces. I lost the hand. You should have seen the grin on his face. That’s poker. I played to bust him and not give my hand away, but at the end of the day he had the better hand. To make things worse he approached me later and said: “Excuse me Mr Hachem, would you mind if I took a photo of you holding up your KK and me with my AA so I can show my wife and family?” I felt sick but I did the honourable thing, smiled, and took that painful shot.

Then, not more than 40 minutes later, another hand came up where the same guy raises, and I decide to take a flop with 5 6 suited. We are three-way in the hand. The flop comes 6 6 4. He bets, I call, and the other guy folds. Fourth Street comes a blank, he bets, I raise and he calls quickly. Fifth street is another blank. At this point I have him on an overpair. He checks and I move all-in. He thinks about it forever. His desire to bust me is so great that he can’t concede that I may actually have him beat. He decides to call and shows QQ. As I’m taking down this massive pot of about 12,000 or so, he gets up and starts packing his belongings. I ask him politely: “Before you leave would you mind posing for a photo with your QQ and my 5 6?” How could he refuse? I figure “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.

15) If you had to or could change jobs with anyone in the world who would it be and why?

Are you kidding me, I have got the best job in the world baby.

Joe Hachem

16) If you woke up tomorrow and found you only had a $100 bankroll left what would you start playing and how long would it take until you were back playing the highest level games again?

If I had the heart, the energy and the mental state of mind to grind it back out again, I would start at 5cent-10cent limits, and would put in 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, and I would start moving up the ranks every time I had 100 buy-ins for that level. Of course I would expect to win the World Series Main Event within 3 years.

17) If you could offer just one steadfast rule for all new players to follow if they want to be a winning player what would it be?

Hate to bring up the obvious, but bank roll management is so important, it can never be talked about enough. I have seen too many great players go broke time and time again, until their spirit is broken because they did not protect their bank roll.

18) What does the future hold for Joe Hachem?

Joe Hachem will keep playing poker, and try to stay ahead of the field. Hopefully picking up some titles along the way, but Joe Hachem’s number one priority, always has been and will be his family. I would dearly love to make a season or two of my show, the Poker Star, in many countries.

19) Could you leave our readers with one piece of advice for both life and poker success?

Always always always, be true to yourself and those around you, and believe in yourself. In poker and in life, we got our teeth kicked in and knocked down so often, that if we don’t be true and have faith in ourselves, we will spend most of our time in the gutter. Thank you very much. Hope to see you all soon.

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