Sep 13, 2017
Britain's John Hesp: Subject of Hollywood Poker Movie?
By RTR Dennis
British grandfather John Hesp was the story of the 2017 WSOP Main Event. The 64-year-old caught the poker world's attention with his combination of eccentric clothes, family values, and limited poker pedigree. Hesp didn't win the Main Event, but his fourth place finish and $2.6 million (£2m) payout completed an interesting tale.
Now, Hollywood is eyeing Hesp's story for a future poker movie. Let's cover the details of the film deal along with what he's doing in the aftermath of his big Main Event run.
Hesp's Poker Movie Deal is "90 Percent Through"
It didn't take long for Hesp to attract the attention of Hollywood. In fact, he got approached by multiple film producers shortly after his WSOP Main Event final table appearance.
"It's such a feel good happy story," said Hesp.
He spoke with the Hull Daily Mail about the details surrounding a movie deal.
"I got contacted by two or three producers when I was out in Vegas, including some Hollywood names," he said. "But I elected to go with a UK based company.
"The offer is formalized in writing, and I've just got my legal team sorting things out. It's about 90 per cent through."
Filming to Take Place in UK and Vegas
Hesp is a native of Bridlington, UK, and his big Main Event run took place in Las Vegas. So it only makes sense that filming will be divided up between the two locations.
"We are talking several million pounds worth of budget for this film and they are looking at filming 25 per cent over here in Bridlington and 75 per cent in Vegas," he explained.
"We've had a bit of a laugh and a joke about who might play me. Personally I would prefer George Clooney."
Life after the WSOP Main Event
A caravan salesman, Hesp rose to poker stardom over the course of several days. His amateur background, flashy outfits, and friendly personality connected with poker audiences.
But Hesp doesn't plan to live like a movie star. He's back in Bridlington with his wife, Mandy, and things have returned to normal…well, everything except his bank account.
"It has sunk in, but I still have to pinch myself every time I look at my bank account," he said.
"It was never about the money for me and to some extent, that is one of the reasons why I did quite well. I went there to enjoy myself and to satisfy and urge on my bucket list which I had had in my mind for a couple of years."
Limited Poker Experience
The WSOP Main Event used to feature a nice mix of amateurs and professional players. But nowadays, it's mostly the pros earning spots on the final table.
Hesp flipped the script, though, because he doesn't have a wealth of poker experience. In fact, the most money he'd ever won in a single poker session was a £700 prize at Napoleons Casino in Hull. All of his other small poker cashes had come at Napoleons Casino too.
This is a long way from the bright lights of the Rio Casino main stage. Nevertheless, Hesp found a way to compete with more-experienced players like Antoine Saout, Ben Lamb, Brian Piccioli, Benjamin Pollack, runner-up Daniel Ott, and the eventual winner Scott Blumstein.
For Hesp, it was surreal because he'd only earned $2,207 in tournament winnings before adding another $2.6 million to this total.
Honored at Napoleon's Casino Hull
The folks at Hesp's favorite casino wanted to honor him. So they held a special night just for him and unveiled the "John Hesp Poker Chair" – upholstered to look just like the jacket he wore during his tourney run in Vegas.
"It was a brilliant night," the 64-year-old said. "It was really nice of management to allow myself as 25 of my family and friends for a celebratory evening and a formal handover of the John Hesp chair.
"I really want to thank Napoleons for their hospitality and all my family and friends who have supported me all the way."
Sharing the Wealth
Now back in Bridlington, Hesp has been pretty generous with his poker winnings. He's already given financial gifts to family members and taken Mandy on a vacation to the Yorkshire Dales.
Hesp still has the majority of the original WSOP prize left. And he wants to use some of this money to bring a big poker tournament to his hometown.
"Bridlington has suffered in recent years with the decline of the mining and steel industry," he explained. "Workers used to come to Bridlington for their holidays but that has now all gone and then we had the recession which left businesses struggling."
He continued by discussing what this would mean for the community
"I want to help, and I think it would be great to bring a major poker tournament to Bridlington. It's firmly in my mind and there are a few people working behind the scenes but unfortunately I can't just wave a magic wand.”
Hesp added, "If this brings visitors to the town it will help tourism. And as Bridlington guy born and bred, I would like to think I can do something for the town as a whole."
It'll be interesting to see what kind of tournament Hesp can bring to Bridlington. But for the time being, he can continue celebrating his major poker triumph and finish the details on his future poker movie.