WSOP Final Table
Around 6 PM Vegas time on July 20, 2017, John Hesp pulled himself into one of his brightly colored jackets, a straw Panama hat, and our hearts. This was the hour the WSOP Main Event final table went live.
A few days later we all watched in mild disappointment as he busted in 4th. Mild because he seemed thrilled to have made it so deep. And well he might. Once he’d punched in the IBAN for his UK bank account, the enormous heap of dollars ($2.6 million) came out to be about £2 million in Yorkshire money.
Three years on, people on both sides of the Atlantic are watching COVID burn democracy to the ground. The WSOP has moved online. And Hesp’s local newspaper the Hull Daily Mail checked in with him to see what he’d done with his poker roll.
Since you’ve been gone
The WSOP’s larger coverage and move to Poker Central seemed to cull a lot of the showboating types from the show. And in 2016, William Kassouf had just about broken the collective patience of the poker world for mouthy Brits.
So, the next year the extraordinary rise of John Hesp through the money was a welcome relief. Here was someone with his cheery, almost grandfatherly presence, distinctive choice of jacket, and charming Yorkshire brogue.
“I could have more or less had anything,” Hesp told the interviewers this year. “But I had everything. When I say everything, I had my caravan in the Yorkshire Dales.”
If Kassouf is a Guy Ritchie character, Hesp is out of Dickens.
“We didn’t need any fancy holidays or any big expensive toys or anything like that. So the money is still in the bank! We treated family, that sort of thing, so they had a few quid out of it but other than that, we haven’t really spent anything on ourselves.”
“The fun face of poker”
Hesp’s literary chops are growing too. There is a screenplay in the works about the story of his life. His run made him a poker celebrity. He dined out with Phil Hellmuth, and had one of his jackets turned into a chair in the Rio poker room.
“I had won when I got into the top thousand players,” he told the interviewer. “Anything else was a bonus. I was determined to keep on playing just as I had been doing at the start with a spirit of fun and enjoyment in the game. It was almost like I donned my jacket and my hat and became the fun face of poker.”
But does he uphold his sacred duty as the patron saint of fun any more?
Alas no. He no longer plays poker except in home games with select friends. Even the “couple of hundred quid” trips to the casino from before his win have dried up.
“In some way, I would say it is a bit of an act,” he said in the interview. “Getting into a character mode. As we got towards the final table, it became symbolic of the fun side of it.”
But even as he whiles away his time aboard his caravan. As he accrues his interest away from the card tables there is a brightly colored chair in the Rio that shall be forever England.