"My jovial demeanour resonated with people" - John Hesp

Barry Carter catches up with the man who got the poker world talking this summer, amateur player and Main Event 5th place finisher John Hesp.

I looked at your Hendon Mob page the other day and it’s amazing, there is a $2.6 million cash sandwiched between two £10 rebuys in Hull.

John Hesp: That was actually the first tournament I played since coming back from Vegas, I got to the final table as well.

Do you feel like people are playing differently against you since you became famous after the WSOP?

John Hesp: It’s difficult to say, possibly but I don’t have any first hand evidence of that, you’d have to ask them. I played some good poker, I got some breaks and obviously I made the final table. I just felt I had to go back and play a little poker to get back into it.

How has life been different since the WSOP final table?

John Hesp: The celebrity status, it’s brought more of a celebrity status than poker fame. The media, the newspapers, the tabloids and TV. The day after I got back from Vegas I was on Good Morning Britain being interviewed live by Piers Morgan in London.

John Hesp's very unlikely Hendon Mob page
John Hesp's very unlikely Hendon Mob page

"ESPN put a ratings spike down to me"

John Hesp WSOP
John Hesp

I think your story really resonated with people because poker has become a very serious game and you reminded everyone it’s supposed to be fun. Did you get that sense at the time?

John Hesp: Towards the end by the time I had got down to the last 100 players, and the news media and TV got hold of me, I was beginning to realise my jovial demeanor was resonating with people around the world. It was only when people were telling me this and the ESPN production staff were saying that their viewing figures had spiked considerably which they put down largely to my presence at the table.

Did that put any pressure on you at all?

John Hesp: I don’t think it did really. When the final table came around I set the charge a little with the first three hands I played. I was showboating a little bit because by that time people obviously wanted to see what I would do so I decided to give them a bit of entertainment.

At the final table it soon became evident that all the supporters for the other players, when their individual wasn’t involved in the hand, they were all rooting for me. When Bryan Piccioli wasn’t in the hand I could hear his supporters chanting something, and when I asked somebody what they were saying it was my name, I couldn’t believe it. They said “they’re all cheering for you”.

In previous years the speed of the Main Event came under fire, we are here at a Shot Clock event, as a recreational player what are your thoughts on them?

John Hesp: A shot clock does not bother me in the slightest, I’m not a professional but in my mind there isn’t a professional on the circuit that doesn’t know within five seconds what they are going to do.

"A book and movie deal is on the table"

Chris Moneymaker poker DFS
Chris Moneymaker

What’s the latest with the potential movie deal?

John Hesp: It’s with the legal people at the moment. At the same time as the movie there is a book deal on the table. Apparently the movie people have said they want 25% of the book profits, my legal people have turned round and said no way. That’s where it is at the moment. When legal people start getting involved, things slow down.

How do you rate your own story compared to the Chris Moneymaker story, which also inspired a lot of amateurs to take up the game?

John Hesp: Chris Moneymaker was regularly mentioned by people like yourself in the news media. The big difference between myself and Chris was that he had probably played a lot more serious money events than me even though he was an amateur. He was a lot younger than I was, but that was another thing, my age, the fact I was a 64-year-old guy, it was unusual in itself.

Moneymaker’s is a good story within the poker world, I think my story has a ring to it outside of the poker world. A lot of the people who have been trying to connect with me online have been older people - because of this old man from Bridlington who went up against all the Young Guns!

Would you watch the John Hesp movie? Let us know in the comments:

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Comments (2)

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  • IvicaIliev77


    John Hesp - Thank You for making poker FUN for everyone and bringing new players to the game with your story and personality!
    Barry - Thanks for the interview, as always you deliver amazing value to Poker Strategy and whole community!
  • bookai


    If you want to go for POY you better play in Hull than Vegas :P