MONTREAL — A bloodied former world poker champ thought he was going to die when two robbers posing as couriers barged into his home and hand-delivered a violent beating.
Jonathan Duhamel broke his silence Friday about the pre-Christmas home invasion, sharing details about the attack with The Canadian Press.
Duhamel said he peered outside his Montreal-area condo on Dec. 21 and saw what looked like a parcel-delivery man standing at his front door, holding a box.
A yawning Duhamel, who had just woken up to the sound of the doorbell, had been expecting Christmas gifts he’d ordered for his family.
But as Duhamel cracked open the door the man suddenly charged forward and forced his way inside. In the same instant, a second, hidden assailant blindsided an already stunned Duhamel with a kick to the head.
The 2010 World Series of Poker champion said he tried to fight back, but the intruders quickly overpowered him.
That’s when the walloping really began. As did the death threats.
“I’ve played hockey all my life, so I’ve had some fights — but not one like this one,” Duhamel, 24, said in an interview Friday.
“They beat me up just enough so that they could control me… They threatened me for my life, they threatened my parents for their lives, too.”
Duhamel said his head, neck and back absorbed such a beating that he had no choice but to give in to their demands and open the safe in his house.
He said the men appeared to know where he kept his money. Duhamel instantly feared he’d been sold out by someone close to him. Four people have since been charged in the attack, including his ex-girlfriend.
Duhamel was forced to hand over a Rolex watch, his championship bracelet from the 2010 World Series of Poker, and a stack of cash from the safe.
After the men had stuffed the loot in their backpacks, Duhamel said they tied his hands behind his back and continued to clobber him with their feet, fists and knees: “They started beating me up pretty bad and I really thought at that point that I might just die right there.”
Duhamel said he doesn’t understand why the men, whom he didn’t recognize, continued to hit him.
“Maybe, like, vengeance and stuff like that,” Duhamel replied without elaborating when asked for a possible motive. “Who knows?”
After the invaders left, a bleeding Duhamel managed to untie one of his hands and get help from a neighbour. The men had swiped his cellphone and cut the wires on his home telephone.
Duhamel never lost consciousness during the 10-minute ordeal, but spent part of the day in hospital, being treated for wounds. More than a week later, he still had a bloodshot eye surrounded by a shiner.
He said he was later surprised to learn his ex-girlfriend was a suspect in the case.
That former girlfriend, Bianca Rojas-Latraverse, actually accompanied Duhamel last summer to Las Vegas for six weeks at the most recent World Series of Poker, which he did not win.
“I don’t know, it’s a crazy story, I guess,” he said.
In other media interviews, Duhamel has described some of the more turbulent moments from their four-month relationship, including a pregnancy scare that turned out to be a false alarm.
However, Duhamel told The Canadian Press that their relationship ended around five months ago on relatively normal terms.
“There’s no relationship that can end on good terms, so of course it was bad, but it wasn’t bad, like, real bad,” he said.
“It was just like normal bad, I guess.”
Duhamel rocketed to stardom in 2010 when he won US$8.9 million in a poker tournament in Las Vegas, making him the first Canadian to capture the Main Event at the World Series of Poker.
Police returned Duhamel’s stolen Rolex on Thursday. The cash remains unaccounted for.
But the most important item is still missing: his cherished World Series of Poker bracelet.
“It means everything,” Duhamel said of that item.
“It was a realization of a dream to me to win the biggest, most prestigious tournament in the world.
“It’s kind of like a Stanley Cup ring for me.”
The poker organization said Friday that it will make sure Duhamel receives some sort of substitute if the one-of-a-kind bracelet fails to surface.
“We reached out to Jonathan when this occurred to let him know we’ll be able to replace it if need be,” said Seth Palansky, a spokesman for the World Series of Poker.
“We’re not concerned with that yet. We’re going to let the police continue their investigation.”
Officers arrested Rojas-Latraverse, 20, last Saturday. She faces five charges, including conspiracy.
John-Stephan Clark-Lemay, 22, Andre-Robert Perron, 26, and Anthony Bourque, 20, were arrested in the Montreal region over the course of the following days.
The suspects face several charges, including break and enter, armed robbery, aggravated assault, unlawful confinement and receiving stolen goods.
“For now, I’m just happy that (arrests have been made),” said Duhamel, who didn’t sustain any fractures or serious injuries.
“I’m pretty lucky.”