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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Tournament Success makes Poker Players Targets

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Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem are two of the most recognizable faces in poker. They're great ambassadors for the game, and have taken to that role with pride and aplomb ever since besting record-setting (for the time) fields to become the World Series of Poker Main Event champions in 2004 and 2005, respectively. But with that notoriety comes some unexpected consequences for these two family men, notably attempted robbery and death threats.

Raymer was attacked at the Bellagio hotel in December 2004 after a session of poker, and Hachem recently felt forced to buy a new home and relocate his family after receiving a series of death threats and obscene phone calls. This further highlights what actors and musicians have known for years, that life in the spotlight isn't always safe, and that it's just a small step from the adoration of thousands or millions, to the unhealthy and dangerous obsession of a few (or one).

Kevin Joy and Deem Cassim weren't interested in anything but the bankroll when they attacked Raymer in the hallway outside his room at the Bellagio in 2004, and they certainly didn't expect the former attorney turned poker superstar to fight back when they pulled a gun and tried to force him into his hotel room. Raymer used his size advantage and the narrow hallway to prevent the two men from forcing him into his room, and they fled the casino. They were arrested in May 2005 in Del Mar, California.

Raymer noted on a popular message board that "These guys never asked me to hand over my money. They quite clearly had a plan to get me into my room and tie me up. Now, once they did that, they may have just taken my money and left me there to be found a day or 3 later. Or, they might have decided that since I'd seen their faces, I should be killed to keep me quiet. I decided the chances that they would make this cold decision to kill me were greater than the chances that I would die in the act of fighting them off. Again, I may have been mistaken in that judgment, but I do believe it was a reasonable decision."

While Raymer's robbery was unnerving, what Joe Hachem has been through recently is downright frightening for any family man. Hachem revealed in an interview with Australia's Daily Telegraph recently that he and his family had purchased a new house after receiving death threats.

"We've just bought a house recently, more for security reasons because my address was public knowledge," Mr. Hachem told The Daily Telegraph.  "You get a few phone calls, you get a letter in the mail and you think, 'You know what, I don't need this'." Hachem is widely regarded, along with Raymer, as one of poker's finest ambassadors for his approachability with fans and pleasant demeanor. But with his fame came lifestyle changes that he was note expecting when he played on poker's biggest stage. "It was definitely life changing, but the funny thing is I didn't expect it," he said.  "I just thought I'd be world champion, get a nice endorsement and go back to my normal life. Bulls..t, there's nothing normal about my life these days."

Unfortunately these stories ring familiar to anyone who has followed the entertainment of the music industry for any length of time. Going as far back as 1980, when his obsession with Jodie Foster led John Hinkley, Jr. to shoot then-President Ronald Reagan, there has been a long history of celebrities being put in danger by their notoriety. Perhaps the most chilling example is the murder of Rebecca Shaeffer, actress on the television comedy My Sister Sam. Shaeffer was murdered on her doorstep by an obsessed stalker, prompting California to change its laws on access to MDV records, including addresses.

Obviously nothing has gone that far for these two great ambassadors of the poker world, but personal security and safety is something that now poker players, like professional athletes and all other types of celebrities, must keep in mind. Since television has yanked poker out of the backroom of Uncle Vinny's bar, and Phil Hellmuth is almost as recognizable as LeBron James (and only a little shorter), today's poker celebrities have to face the fact that they are as much in the public eye as actors and musicians, and must take steps to protect themselves and their families.

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