Tony Hachem: no dud brother

I always like to keep up with what the people in my neighbourhood are doing. Tony Hachem of Northcote, our suburb, has just been knocked out of the biggest and most important poker tournament on the planet, the World Series of Poker, in Las Vegas. He has finished 37th in the huge field. The tournament continues.

Tony brings back $196,000. I like this. It’s good for the economy of Northcote.

I also like it because Tony Hachem, who they reckon is a real character, is Joe Hachem’s younger brother. Joe famously won the same tournament in 2005, from obscurity, and when you see the footage Tony is the excited bloke in the background going “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie”.

I recall the night Joe won. I was doing the Sunday morning show on 774 ABC Melbourne and when the news came through I thought we should lead with the story of Joe Hachem. Which we did. It was the arts show. Probably why I didn’t get asked back.

Joe’s is a terrific story. I hope he’s also from Northcote, but I think he might be from another train stop out. Only now he could buy the Epping line. His win was no fluke: he has gone on to succeed in many tournaments, and has won the respect of his opponents and the commentators and critics.

One of those commentators is Barney Boatman (who is also a player). I know Barney because I have played poker against him. On the wireless. This was another stellar moment in my radio career. I think this also occurred on the arts show. You might be forgiven for thinking that a visual pursuit like poker doesn’t really translate to radio, but that would mean you are unaware of the talents of Barney. As luck would have it I was dealt a black ace and a black eight, so I mentioned to Barney that I had ‘half a dead man’s’. He was impressed. But I thought everyone should know what Wild Bill Hickok had at the table the night of his untimely death.

I usually play poker with other reprobates, a few of them AFL umpires. We meet at the mansion of Derek Humphery-Smith which is so big that, like the painting of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is permanently under renovation. That’s why there is always a port-a-loo by the weeping cherry in the front yard. Derek invites me out of appreciation for Robert Clive and other imperialists: I come on the tram to contribute a few dollars. I usually bring a 6-pack of XXXX Gold and try to drink as much of his wine as I possibly can. When I’m having the first glass from a new bottle I like to screw my face up just to see the panic on his at the prospect of his perfectly-temperatured cellar producing a corked merlot. (He rarely serves shiraz). I once won a hand by snagging a full house on the river.

I sometimes talk poker with Julius Colman. Julius can play. He has done well in the Aussie Millions on quite a few occasions. He has also played at Las Vegas. He describes this tournament as ‘the real enchilada’. I like that phrase, particularly when applied to a poker tournament in the desert not such a long way from the Mexican border. The tournament, like poker generally, is full of tremendous characters. That could be a quirk of statistics when you have 6800 starters, each of whom has qualified through tournaments (real and on-line) or paid the $10000 entry fee.

The WSOP is on ESPN on Fox (508). Currently the field is down to 22. It will be reduced to nine over the next few sessions. Those nine will play off in November.

Tony and Joe Hachem won’t be there.

I hope to see them around High Street, buying a newspaper, riding the tram, checking out the Granny Smiths at the fruit shop.

I’d really like to see them at the Humphery-Smiths.


Check out the WSOP website






About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Adam Muyt says

    JTH, poker as a sport? A past-time, a part of gambling, but no real test of phyiscal prowess beyond perhaps the ability to stay alert and awake into the small hours. I’m suspicious of the recent ‘boom’ in poker, seeing it as another tool to suck money out of mugs in pubs rather than any celebration of a ‘game’ or ‘sport’. Interested in your thoughts.
    (My Granny loved card games. Back in the sixties I used to regularly play ‘Matchsticks’ Poker with her and my sister. Each matchstick was the equivalent of one cent. Granny usually let one of us win.)

  2. Derek Humphrey Smith probably has several unopened six packs of XXXX Gold in his house. No one actually drinks that crap do they?

    Good Merlots are hard to find. I mean, really good ones.

  3. johnharms says

    XXXX Gold is beautiful, especially from a stubby on a Queensland veranda.

    But you’re right, DHS has almost a carton’s worth now.

  4. johnharms says

    There are a few sports which have emerged the wrong way. By that I mean the merchandise has led to the sport. The extreme sports are examples. Wake-board manufacturers etc thought how do we create a bigger market and more exposure: turn each discipline in to a sport and have a home boy Olympics.

    There’s a bit of that in poker. The on-line poker industry is so lucrative that it can help prop up the economy of real tournaments, which are televised and so the whole thing grows.

    I’m not arguing for it as sport.

    Although I have been part of an email discussion via which Julius has been regarded as a world class sportsman (mainly hinted at by himself to chide the alpha males in the group – he is successful).

    My interest in poker is in loving cards (esp 500, Rickety Kate and poker), probability and othermaths, and in the characters it attracts. Even among my own mates I see character traits emerging at the table.

  5. Jared Newton says

    Poker takes a high degree of skill and mental alertness, I’m happy to consider it a sport. Many of the top pros take their fitness seriously claiming that physical fitness aids them at the tables. In saying that there are also some big fat, ciggarette smoking, beer drinking degenerates so it all balances out.

    If it’s on ESPN, it’s a sport, I never thought you could make a sport out of racing trucks but it’s on ESPN so it must be a sport. Besides poker gives failed AFL, Test Cricket, pro golfers and tennis players a genuine hope that one day you’ll make it as it takes all shapes and sizes and ages.

  6. Todd Allison says

    All this mention of Tony Hachem (as good a story as it was) and not one mention of Melbourne’s Andy Hinrichson coming 23rd. For shame.

  7. johnharms says

    My apologies Todd, but there is a good excuse: he has been listed all week as an Austrian, and finally the little flag signifying his origin was changed to the Australian. I don’t know too much abuot him. Is he from Northcote?

  8. Neil Belford says

    With a name like that no wonder they thought he was Austrian – He might be from Melbourne but Adelaide would have drafted him.

  9. I enjoy a good game of cards. Don’t play much poker but I have fantasised about entering those tournaments. The problem is I don’t have much of a poker face but in my fantasy, I come up with a full proof way of getting one.


    Just before the tournament, get a few squirts. Is that allowed? I fantasise that my frozen face would be one with weird eyes and a really creepy smile. To distract the other players. My fantasy scares me.

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