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A year ago, Joseph Hachem was a mortgage broker who surreptitiously played poker online to support his family. After winning last year's World Series of Poker main event and $7.5 million, the Australian says he's now treated like a rock star, with a price on his head.

Players are targeting him for the chance to say they toppled a giant, he says. That makes the likelihood of a repeat win this year very small.

"The reality is, the chances of me winning again are astronomical," Hachem said. "If I get crazies who are going to try to bust me and make ridiculous plays, I'll either have a lot of chips, or I'll be out of the tournament very early."

The mother of all poker tournaments, the World Series of Poker, kicked off the first of 45 events on Sunday at the Rio casino-hotel, as Hachem faced 26 other elite players for a two-day, $2 million prize pool Tournament of Champions.

Thousands of poker players from around the world are expected to come to Las Vegas over the next two months before the final table Aug. 10 in the $10,000-buy-in main event plays down for a grand prize that could reach $10 million.

The 40-year-old Hachem beat 5,618 players to win the main event last year. This year, organizers say seating will accommodate up to 9,000 players.

Hachem said he risked all of his chips, and elimination, seven times last year. He may have to face more do-or-die decisions this year as players seek notoriety by playing him head-to-head.

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