If there was a People’s Choice Award at the World Series of Poker, John Hesp would have been the overwhelming champion.
The 64-year-old Brit with the psychedelic blazers gained an increasing number of fans all the way to the very last table.
Liv Boeree was so impressed by Hesp that she developed “a crush” on him; many other pros did, too. But his game was sometimes as individual as his dress code.
The grandfather from Bridlington just wouldn’t bust. Instead, he went to the final table second in chips.
Flop to River
With 15 players left in the most important poker tournament of the year, every single decision can cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
At the time of this hand the feature table was led by British player Jack Sinclair, who’s held a massive chip advantage over the other players at the table. He had about 75 million chips while Pedro Oliveira, John Hesp and Antoine Saout had stacks of about 25 million.
All players are now sure to cash for $450,000. The next pay jump is at 13th place - $535,000. At the end of the line there’s $8.15 million for the winner.
The stakes are high, and so is the tension, but Hesp opens with a raise to 1.2 million. Blinds are 250,000/500,000/75,000.
Hesp has JJ. The chipleader in the small blind and Oliveira in the big blind both call. There's 4.2 million chips in the pot and effective stacks are around 25 million.
Flop: Sinclair and Oliveira check and Hesp checks behind. The turn is the J54.
Sinclair now leads for 1.8 million. Oliveira calls and Hesp raises to 4 million. Sinclair calls and Oliveira folds. We have 14 million chips in the pot and effective stacks are at 20 million.
The river is the 2. Sinclair checks and Hesp checks behind. Hesp wins the pot against the AJ of Sinclair.
Something kept Hesp from betting the river. What was it? He checked pretty quickly. Let’s have a look.
Pre-flop Hesp opens with a standard raise to a little under 2.5 bb and gets two calls. Jack Sinclair is the most aggressive player at the table and holds A-J, but decides to just call for pot control as he’s out of position.
Pedro Oliveira in the big blind has K-4s, which is a rather mediocre hand. But he gets outstanding pot odds so it’s worth continuing.
The flop is obviously a dream come true for Hesp as it gives him top set and there isn’t even a flush draw. The only drop of water in his wine is there isn’t an overcard that could have hit one of his opponents.
When Sinclair and Oliveira check, the action goes to Hesp and the question is, should he bet or not? Hesp opts for a check, and as the board is so dry that it probably didn’t help anyone else, that is certainly a viable option.
Which hands could call a bet on that flop? Pairs like T-T, 9-9, 8-8, 7-7, 6-6. 5-5 and 4-4 would have made sets, of course. Other hands that would continue are A-5, A-4 and some draws like 7-6, A-3 and so on.
Most of these hands, however, will not be able to call two or even three bets so a check is actually the best move here for Hesp.
Things Get Interesting
Three players go to the turn8♦ and Hesp doesn’t have the nuts anymore. The eight means that 7-6 is now the nuts hand.
It’s not very likely that anyone has it, but it is a hand in both Oliveira’s and Sinclair’s ranges.
Sinclair, who had been betting a lot, now takes the lead. He’s holding top pair, top kicker and he can get calls from a lot of hands.
Oliveira – sandwiched between the two other players – makes a rather loose call with his K-4. Apparently and understandably, he doesn’t trust Sinclair. But then Hesp re-raises with top set to 4 million.
Is this a good or bad move? There are two sides to the coin.
If Sinclair is bluffing, there are no additional chips to be won because Sinclair has to fold to the re-raise with Oliveira still to act behind him.
If Sinclair has a strong hand, the pot gets unnecessarily built up.
In fact Sinclair has top pair, top kicker, so he can never fold in this spot. Oliveira realizes that his low pair is definitely way behind everyone else.
The Weird Finale
Up to this point, this hand is easy to follow and Hesp has underrepresented his hand well enough to build a 14m-chip pot.
The river is a deuce, which improves unlikely hands like 6-3 and A-3. When Sinclair checks, Hesp has to consider the size of his next bet. These are his options:
All-in - a nonsensical move as the only hands that call are 7-6 or A-3, which beat him
Pot-size bet - can get called by few worse hands like 8-8, 5-5 or 4-4. These hands might even go all-in
Just over half of a pot-sized bet - can be called by a few worse hands like the last jack, T-T, 9-9 or A-8
Just under half of a pot-sized bet - will most likely get called by the worse hands mentioned above
So, Hesp should have made a bet somewhere around half pot as Sinclair’s call of the raise on the turn did make him look like he had a decent hand.
Hesp said afterwards that he didn’t want to be too greedy. He didn’t mention that he might have been afraid of getting raised and then not knowing what to do.
The chance of that doesn’t really justify missing out on a bet in this spot, though
Without putting a lot of thought into it fan favorite John Hesp misses a value bet that would have definitely won him quite a few extra chips.
As the range of the small blind player is very wide it does have winning hands like 7-6 in it. But it also has many more losing hands in it that would have paid Hesp off.