If January is a time for resolutions, then December is a time for reflection.
There’s a lot for British pro Ben Heath to reflect on from 2019. He won his first World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet (in a $50K High Roller, no less) for $1.48 million, and followed up that victory a month or so later with a third-place finish in a £100K buy-in Triton event for £1.35 million.
In total, he has cashed for more than $5 million throughout the past 12 months, but as Heath tells us during a break in play at EPT Prague, a Hendon Mob profile never tells the true story. Take Heath’s week in the Czech Republic, for example. He has reached the final table of two high rollers (the €50K Super High Roller and a €25K Single-Day High Roller, respectively) in the past three days, which have seen him bank €321K in total. But the results sheets always tend to omit the number of re-entries, even if players themselves never do.
“It’s been fine, but I think it always looks better than it is, sometimes because you just fire a lot of bullets,” Heath says. “My final table results [at EPT Prague] were for three buy-ins and seven buy-ins, so it’s not incredible.”
For all that, Heath seems satisfied with his achievements over the past 12 months.
“I’ve been super happy with this year though,” he continues. “Particularly with my work levels compared with other years. I don’t really look at things in years anyway though, I just look at each trip and then study before the next one.”
The bracelet alone saw him tick an important item off his bucket list and came after a lengthy period in which Heath questioned his career choice.
“[Winning the bracelet] felt good, especially as in 2018 I wasn’t sure about poker anymore,” he says. “I had gone straight from university into poker, and at that age, you haven’t really made many choices for yourself up until then. Even if you feel like you chose your university course, it’s usually pushed on you to a certain extent based on what you’re good at and what people want you to do. Then I went straight into poker, so I wasn’t sure how much I had chosen my career. It felt like I had just followed into it.
“At the start of the year I was thinking that I might not as play as much, so I took three months off before the WSOP to study a lot and get back into it. It felt good to get the win because of that. Then again, it’s always going to feel good to win something that big.”
It’s not unusual to see high stakes players leave the game for other pursuits. David Benefield famously took an extended break from poker to study at university, and more recently Heath’s good friend Charlie Carrel stepped away from full-time poker to dive into business and charity efforts. But while Heath considered a break, he’s not ready to stop just yet.
“I was tempted to look at other stuff, but I do really love poker,” he says. “A lot of my friends are in the game. The earnings are high for your age as well, so it felt that giving it up after having worked so far over the past few years would probably be a bad decision. But I don’t know. Maybe in five years.”
When he’s not at a poker stop, Heath used to return to his home base in Brighton in the south of England, where his family also lives, for his study sessions. But that’s all changed recently.
“At the moment it’s a little up in the air,” he says. “I recently started dating someone. I used to go back to Brighton, but for the past three months I’ve been staying in Madrid with my girlfriend where I’m now spending maybe five or six months a year.”
His relationship is also providing him with the perfect excuse to take much-needed breaks from poker.
“My girlfriend was here with me in Prague for four days before the first €10K started, which worked out well as we got to have a holiday together. But after that, there’s been no time off.
“I was planning on going to Australia for the Aussie Millions in January, but I don’t think I will anymore,” Heath says. “Australia for me was never really about earning money. It was just about going to play three or four games and having a paid-for holiday for a month. I don’t really want to do that anymore. I’d rather just be in Madrid.”
Relaxing and leading a happy life in Madrid? It seems like 2020 might be Heath’s best year yet.