World Series of Poker champ signs with Wm. Morris

Updated: November 18, 2005, 10:24 AM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

Joe Hachem, the 2005 World Series of Poker champion, will now join the ranks of Eminem, Neil Simon and Michelle Wie.

REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/R. Marsh StarksJoseph Hachem, right, was standing tall in what turned out to be the final hand in July.
That's because the 39-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, has signed with the William Morris Agency, a 107-year-old management firm that also represents sports stars, musicians, actors and directors.

As poker has grown, more players have signed with agents.

"So many people want a piece of you that you've got to be able to give the responsibility to someone else," said Hachem, whose July 16 win was broadcast on ESPN on Tuesday night.

Hachem already has an endorsement deal with the online gambling site Pokerstars and expects more deals to come his way.

"There are quite a few deals in the pipeline," Hachem said. "But nothing has been finalized."

Hachem was pursued by poker agent Brian Balsbaugh, who represents the likes of Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu, but in the end he was impressed by the appeal of the size of the William Morris firm.

"They are one of the biggest agencies in the world," Hachem said. "They can open so many doors because of who they are. And it impressed me that I would be their only poker player."

Hachem was first introduced to the agency through a chance meeting in August with Rob Markus, one of the firm's music agents who was in Australia with one of his clients.

Now, executives at William Morris are hoping to turn Hachem into a brand name.

"Poker is the new sport," said Lon Rosen, vice president of sports for the firm, who represented Magic Johnson during his playing days. "Joe has a great personality and we think he's going to have a successful career."

Although it isn't clear how mainstream corporate America will embrace poker, he says Hachem will keep the agency busy.

"We're looking at acting, merchandising and publishing," Rosen said. "Poker is a huge business."

And the fact that William Morris, an agency that once represented Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe, signed Hachem is further evidence of the boom.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.rovell@espn3.com.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

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