John Hesp gives this 51 year old renewed hope.

Hesp’s run to the WSOP Main Event final table – where he sits as the second deepest stack at $85M, trailing Scott Blumstein by only $12M (and ahead of third place by a whopping $50M!) – has been a welcome sight for all amateurs who, like myself, play small stakes cash or tournaments.  I want to take nothing away from the skilled young  professionals who tend to dominate the WSOP Main Event final tables. However, it is the deep runs of players like Dennis Phillips and Darvin Moon that breathe life into recreational players’ fantasies of WSOP glory. We dream that with some understanding of the game, some gamble in our soul, and a wave of luck, we too could be sitting at the final table with Ben Lamb staring us down while he contemplates what do with a stack less than a quarter of ours.

There is a reason that Hesp’s multi-colored jacket and unlikely run are eclipsing the incredible achievement of Lamb and Antoine Saout in making a Main Event final table for a second time. The odds of making two final tables, in an era where the starting pool has not dipped below 6,000 runners since 2006, are just so low that Lamb and Saout should be all that anyone is talking about.

How about this 64-year-old amateur from England! Click To Tweet

Fair or not, the knee-jerk reaction is a nonplussed “Yeah Lamb and Sauot are clearly great players…”

Followed by a giddy “But how about this 64-year-old amateur from England!”

We all know the poker axiom “No regular guy or gal with a good jump shot and tricky dribble can step onto a basketball court with LeBron and hope to compete, but on any given day a small stakes player could felt Phil Ivey.” It’s one of the many reasons for the wide appeal of the game. Poker’s mix of skill, luck, and opportunity is so enticing exactly for the unlikely outcomes it can produce. An unknown from Oklahoma wins a major televised WPT event when the tour blows through town. An accountant from Tennessee storms to a Main Event bracelet on luck and pluck. Over the long haul, the skilled players will eat us pikers alive, but on some special day the field of battle may be ours.

So today’s Knight of the Oval Table is John Hesp, a small stakes cash player from Bridlington, England who boned up for the Main Event by playing a lot of  $75 buy-in tournaments of 35 to 60 players at a place called Napoleons in Hull England. Napoleons is part of a small chain of restaurants which also happen to be casinos. Hesp cashed at Napoleons six times in the first half of 2017, and even won the whole thing once for about $1,000 by besting 50 other players. Not a bad run. He may even be slightly profitable. But his record is certainly not making Eric Seidel rethink his place in the poker world.

Like myself, nearly everyone is on the affable amateur’s side, even other players it seemed at times – save perhaps Randy Pisane who looked none too pleased when Hesp knocked him out 20th by 5 outing the turn. Hesp’s unapologetic sense of self and fashion, the daring to actually fulfill his bucket list and make something happen that most of us just muse about, is impossible not to admire.

Hesp is not heroic, or even unprecedented. However, he stands as an icon to all of us who daydream that the six table tournament we grind out on a Saturday afternoon could one day grow to several hundred tables stretched across multiple conference rooms at the Rio. And for even one hand, we could outplay a famous young pro running a multi-barreled bluff to perfection. And maybe, just maybe, we can keep it rolling right to the final table.

Mr Hesp, along with so many others, I’ll be rooting for you tonight.


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