Amateur poker sensation John Hesp made it all the way to the final four of the biggest poker tournament in the world but no farther.
Hesp was relegated to the rail in the 2017 WSOP Main Event after he made a final stand with 9♣ 7♣ and French pro Benjamin Pollak called him off with A♦ J♠. The board bricked and that sent the Englishman off in fourth place to receive a consolation prize of $2.6m.
The gregarious Hesp had no regrets about his final table experience.
“If I’ve done anything with my life I think I’ve managed to show that this game doesn’t have to be boring and people can have fun,” he said.
Hesp left behind a final table that appears to belong to American Scott Blumstein as he has a staggering 226m chips.
His closest competition is fellow American Dan Ott with 88.3m and bringing up the rear is the aforementioned Pollak with 45m.
Action resumes at 5:30 tomorrow when the final three will play to winner and one of them will take home $8.1m and the title of World Champion.
Salas Busts First After Slow Start
It took more than two hours to find the first elimination of the day but once Argentinian Damian Salas busted that seemed to break the dam and a flurry of bustouts ended the day.
Salas, who was criticized for his slow play at the final table, made his last stand with A♣ T♥ on a A♥ 3♥ 2♦ board after Dan Ott shoved with 4♦ 4♠.
Ott hit a miracle five on the flop to eliminate Salas in seventh place. The Argentinian picked up $1.42m for his run in the tournament.
“It was a great honor for me to represent Argentina and Latin America,” said Salas through a translator after busting.
“I’m very proud of how I played. I hope that everyone in Latin America is happy with me.”
The energetic Bryan Piccioli had a huge fanbase at the final table but they were silenced when Piccioli ran A♣ 7♥ into Ott’s pocket kings.
Piccioli picked up $1.6 million for finishing sixth. The Allegany, NY, native, who hit a two-outer during the final-table playdown, was still smiling even after busting.
“I honestly feel kind of relieved,” said Piccioli. “I played Day 1a so I’ve been playing for like 13-calendar days at this point.”
Saout Busts Fifth in Second WSOP Main Event Final Table
Antoine Saout was amazingly one of two players at the final table who had already experienced the November Nine.
Ben Lamb busted in ninth place yesterday but Saout made it all the way to the final five players before busting today.
The French pro probably thought he was heading for a double up against chip leader Scott Blumstein when he rivered trip jacks with K♣ J♦ but Blumstein actually had the fortune of turning a straight with 5-3.
Saout hit the rail in fifth to earn $2m. It wasn’t quite the $3.4m he earned for finishing third in the 2009 WSOP Main Event but it brings his overall earnings in the Main Event to over $5m.
The finish also takes Saout up to second on the all-time French winner’s list with $8.5m. He now trails only Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier who has $13.3 million.
John Hesp: “I Want to Stay an Amateur Player”
For many fans the main attraction at the 2017 Main Event was 64-year-old English recreational player John Hesp.
Throughout the marathon tournament, Hesp constantly admitted how starstruck he was by the whole experience and showed a reverence for the game.
Hesp was a favorite at the final table and every player seemed to genuinely enjoy the Bridlington native, even though they were competing against him.
Don’t expect Hesp to go pro now that he has a $2.6m cash to his name, however.
“I play poker recreationally and I will continue to play it recreationally,” he said.
“I won’t be turning into a professional poker player. I want to stay an amateur and I want to keep having fun… I mean If I get invited to a few tournaments I’d be honored to do that.”
“I Hope My Personality Brings Some Light and Fun to This Game”
It’s been a whirlwind ride for Hesp, who prior to this 2017 Main Event had just $2,000 in lifetime live tournament earnings.
“The days have all been running together,” said Hesp.
“I had a ball though. I Googled my name three days ago and couldn’t believe it. Prior to that I would have been well down the results. It was only then I began to appreciate the international interest in me.”
Hesp was interviewed by a Chinese news team several days ago and was told the interview would be sent out to over a billion people.
“Who knows,” he said. “They may come on board! [with poker]”
Hesp won a staggering $2.6m but said it wouldn’t change much in his life.
“The money is nice but it’s secondary,” he said.
“Before I came here I wasn’t a multi-millionaire in any shape or form but you don’t need to have lots of money to be rich in life. I was rich in life before I came here and I’m richer now, even without the money.”
There’s no doubt that Hesp will not be quickly forgotten at the WSOP.
“I hope my personality — if you want to call it that — will bring some light and fun to this game,” he said.
Here’s a look at the results thus far from the 2017 WSOP Main Event final table:
4. John Hesp — $2,600,000
5. Antoine Saout — $2,000,000
6. Bryan Piccioli — $1,675,000
7. Damian Salas — $1,425,000
8. Jack Sinclair — $1,200,000
9. Ben Lamb — $1,000,000