During a time where we’re all missing live poker, we’ve decided to delve into the vaults of some of poker’s biggest tournaments… and most surprising winners.
From the World Series of Poker Main to the European Poker Tour, and back home via the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, we’ve plucked five lucky hopefuls who went into their respective final tables as unknown names, but just a few hours later had carved their names into poker history.
We start with one of the most charismatic and charming poker players the world has ever seen.
1. John Hesp
At 64 years old, John Hesp was not the British player most poker fans expected to see at the final table of the yearly World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas. Three years ago, however, that is exactly what happened, as the self-proclaimed recreational player from East Yorkshire won £2 million for finishing fourth in the world’s most prestigious poker event.
Hailing from Bridlington, Hesp was the epitome of fun and frills throughout in his flower-power Hawaiian shirts and panama hat. The semi-retired businessman, who went on to play plenty of tournaments in the next few years after being credited for bringing back the fun element of poker, was living the dream in Las Vegas and his post-game interview comes across exactly as you’d expect.
2. Darvin Moon
Creating a log jam of opinion was every trucker’s poker pin up Darvin Moon. Largely forgotten if he’d lost to anyone else, Moon would be eclipsed (ahem) by 21-year-old Joe Cada in the heads-up, losing the chance to grab the bracelet.
The contrast between the two men was such that both became famous in the decade at the felt that followed. While Cada has since won other WSOP prizes at the final table, including another bracelet, Moon has drifted back to low-mid stakes poker. We’re betting he wasn’t heaving logs to and fro long before lockdown.
3. Sebastian Malec
“Just fold and I can go to the bathroom.” Said the diminutive poker player who was a self-confessed fanboy of the PokerStars EPT before he won one himself.
All-in and waiting for a call which he knew would end the tournament in his favour, the enigmatic Malec pretended to need the toilet and ending up getting the call of his life. The fanboy done good.
4. John Dibella
What holiday did you ever go on where you bossed around some top poker talent before cashing out for $1.7 million?
John Dibella did exactly that when the man who worked in stocks decided to take his family on a poker holiday to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. He ended up winning the Main Event, defeating a final table that included poker professionals such as Kyle Julius, Faraz Jaka and Xuan Liu. Incredible that may have been, but Dibella is now a really good player, albeit one who is happy to play at lower stakes.
Dibella is still capable of making great plays like this:
5. Chris Moneymaker
It’s hard to imagine a world where Chris Moneymaker didn’t win the 2003 WSOP Main Event. The former accountant won a satellite step ticket ranging from $37-$85 depending on which source you believe as he got to the WSOP Main Event on a fraction of the cost of many others.
Once he was in Las Vegas, Moneymaker went on the heater of a lifetime, winning a crucial pot against Phil Ivey just before the final table and eventually overcoming Sam Farha to win the $2.5m top prize. Moneymaker has never come close to winning as much again, but taking down a final table with players like Dan Harrington at the felt, Moneymaker became a legend as you can see in this documentary: