Some World Series of Poker hands will always be remembered not only for the drama that the cards brought, but the context within which they were dealt.
One such example of this came in 2017, when popular British amateur John Hesp, the Bridlington-based caravan salesman who had cashed for literally hundreds of pounds before winning $2.6 million in the Main Event of that year.
Hesp was, as many have doubtless regarded him in his time, a colourful character, both literally in the sense of his own personal dress code – all Hawaiian shirts and Panama hat – and his 4th-place finish left many hoping to see him again at such a level.
Sadly, that wouldn’t really be the case, Hesp barely returning to live poker and certainly not running deep in $10k-buy-in events, but that left this hand to be enjoyed forever and earmarked for poker posterity.
The hand began with a raise from Blumstein, holding pocket aces. Hesp just calls the bet of 2.3 million chips and the flop comes ace-high. A great card for both players, but Hesp’s check is followed by exactly the same action by Blumstein.
The turn card, of course, was a ten.
At this stage, could Hesp have realistically got away from it? Of course it’s tempting to claim ‘Yes! All he had to do was bet-fold!” or “Of course, he only has two=pair, it’s his tournament life!” but either of those respionses would be borne of hindsight and the ability to see the cards Blumstein is holding. In reality, as Hesp, he has no idea what Blumstein is actually holding and there are many factors that push him over the line.
The betting action saw Blumstein make it 3 million, Hesp check-raise to 7 million, then Blumstein make it 17 million. To this, Hesp committed his entire remaining stack of 74 million chips.
That action looks very aggressive and there are obvious trigger points to provoke a fold. Blumstein has played it extremely Mike McDermott in 1998’s Rounders. Check, check, check. Then call or raise. It’s suspicious. The raise to 17 million is almost willfully aggressive, but then Blumstein knows that and is playing on the image of being a big stacked professional to Hesp’s hopeful amateur.
Hesp can correctly claim that he’s playing off his own image when he bets, but the all-in comes so quickly, it’s hard to see the levels that should have gone into the forethought that needed to be there to make that move the right one.
As it was, he brought about his own demise. Drawing dead, the man in the Panama hat was already shaking hands by the time the river landed and a memorable World Series of Poker hand was consigned to history along with, it would seem, Hesp himself.
You can watch the whole hand in all its glory right here: