Hachem, Negreanu & Yang: 3 Views on a WSOP Champion’s Responsibilities

WSOP bracelet 2012 RakeTheRake

WSOP Main Event champions have always held a certain prestige within the poker community. After all, the Main Event was started by several legends back in 1970 as a way to crown the world’s best poker player. And while the field sizes have grown considerably since these early days, the ME champion is still a coveted title to hold.

But does winning the ME along with all of the riches that accompany it require one to fulfill some sort of ambassador obligation? 2005 WSOP champ Joe Hachem seems to think so, and his early-February interview with Bluff suggested that poker will die without Main Event champs stepping into the limelight. Others such as Jerry Yang and Daniel Negreanu didn’t whole-heartedly agree with Hachem’s comments. This being said, let’s take a closer look at all three of these players’ views on an ME winner’s duty to the game.

Hachem: “It is Their Responsibility”

Joe Hachem definitely wasn’t afraid to make waves during his interview since he began by saying that Jamie Gold and Jerry Yang “destroyed the legacy of the world champion.” He added that all of the champs since then have been under 25, and they don’t seem to feel a strong need to be ambassadors for the game. However, Hachem said that young champs like Greg Merson and Ryan Riess need to do everything they can to infuse personality into the game and draw more interest from casual poker observers. He even went as far as to say, “It is their responsibility.”

Negreanu: “Some People are just not Comfortable in the Limelight”

While Daniel Negreanu agrees with Hachem that it would be nice if more young champs heavily promoted poker, he also added that it’s not their duty. KidPoker stressed that freedom is one of the greatest things about the game, so there’s no obligation to be an ambassador after winning the Main Event. Plus, not everybody wants this role as Negreanu told Bluff, “Some people are just not comfortable in the limelight.” On the other hand, Negreanu believes that poker needs more interesting stories and pros who can connect with the younger generation.

Yang: “Charity is My Passion”

According to his interview with PokerNews, Jerry Yang seems to feel that a good Main Event champ will keep charity close to their heart. “As far as I know I have been the only champion that has donated $1 million of my own money to charity,” he said in response to Hachem’s putdown. “I have personally raised another $800,000 on my own…. Charity is my passion.” The 2007 ME winner also questioned Hachem’s charitable contributions by saying, “What has he done? What has he done from a charity point of view? I haven’t heard very much of him.”  With much of the discussion centering on what WSOP winners can do for poker, it’s interesting to hear a take on what the champs can do for those outside of poker.

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