Jul 27, 2017
British Grandad Shows Poker Dream is Alive at 2017 WSOP
By RTR Dennis
Every year, the WSOP features great stories of amateur players rising above the pros. And John Hesp is the ultimate amateur story this year.
The British grandfather navigated through the 2017 WSOP Main Event's 7,221-player field and onto the final table.
The accomplishment alone is impressive enough. But Hesp's case is even more amazing because he's a true amateur.
Keep reading as we cover Hesp's poker background – or lack thereof – and how he arrived on poker's biggest stage.
Bucket List Wish Turns into 7-Figure Payout
John Hesp didn't travel to Las Vegas in search of poker glory like thousands of other players. In fact, he'd never even played in the event before.
The 64-year-old merely wanted to compete in the $10,000 WSOP Main Event since it's on his bucket list. Odds are that Hesp didn't expect to make it very far either.
“I’ve never played a big competition like this, but it’s one of the things I’ve had on my bucket list for a while now," he told The Sun.
A retired caravan firm boss, his experience was limited to social poker and small buy-in tournaments.
The Hull-area native had never spent more than £10 on a tourney buy-in. And all seven of his career cashes – totaling £1,700 ($2,200) have come at Hull’s Napoleons Casino & Restaurant.
This is a long way from the bright lights of Las Vegas' Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. But somehow, Hesp has traversed from these £10 events to a guaranteed $1 million payout (9th-place prize).
Of course, he'll be hoping for more than this because he's currently second in chips with 85,700,000.
Hesp was asked if he's feeling any pressure before the final table. After all, he's second in chips and the top prize is worth $8,150,000.
"No, not at all," he said. "And I don't mean that in a cocky sort of way. I have not really felt any pressure at all throughout the whole competition, which has really been good."
This makes sense because nobody expected Hesp to make it this far. And if it weren't for his multi-colored jacket and Panama Jack hat, few would've noticed him as the tournament moved closer to the 9-player final table.
"I'm really happy wherever I am because as far as I'm concerned, I didn't expect be here 5 days ago...4 days ago...3 days ago," Hesp admitted.
“And we're here today. It's been the most amazing experience of my life. And I have no other words to say about it. It's a complete surreal, unbelievable experience."
Hesp Uses His Own Poker Strategy
There's no shortage of poker strategy advice these days. And Hesp has received plenty after making his big WSOP run.
"My phone has just got lists and lists of [strategy] opinions," he explained. "I don't understand it, I really don't understand it at all."
If he hasn't dived into complex strategy yet, Hesp might want to stick with his current plan because it's worked so far.
"I've gotten my chips the way I play it," he said. "And I guess a lot of people would argue it's so unorthodox that they can't probably understand my sort of reasoning when I bet, raise, fold, re-raise, all these different things."
Hesp is a Pure Recreational Player
Not everybody who makes the Main Event final table is a skilled pro. But Hesp takes amateurism to another level.
"There is no history. Well, virtually none." he said when asked about his playing experience. "I play a small game in my local casino, which is Napoleon's in Hull ... I probably go there once, maybe twice a month on a Sunday evening and play a small tournament there."
What are Hesp's Chances of Winning*?
The 2017 WSOP Main Event final table has some outstanding players left. This includes 2011 WSOP POY Ben Lamb, online sensation Bryan Piccioli ($6.36m in online tourneys), and French poker pros Antoine Sauot ($5.55m in live winnings) and Benjamin Pollak ($2.97m live).
But these players are all missing something that Hesp has a lot of: chips.
Right now, it's looking like a two-man race between Hesp and Scott Blumstein (97.25m chips). These two have over 50% of the chips in play. The next-closest player is Pollack, who has 35.18 million chips.
Of course, chip counts can rise and fall in the span of a few hands. But it seems like Hesp is in good position to make a strong finish. Regardless of what happens, though, he'll be pleased with the result.
* this post was written prior to Main Event final table