Tear up the screenplay. Pinch the dreamers viciously on their arms. The fairytale story that ended with John Hesp becoming the most unlikely World Series of Poker champion since the tournament began has just turned into cruel nightmare.
The headline news from the past hour here at the Rio Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, is that Scott Blumstein has taken an overwhelming chip lead after winning a pot of more than 150 million against Hesp.
It has left the 64-year-old Brit with only 24 million, fifth of the eight remaining players. It is as though a heart that had been racing for nine days has been ripped clean out, leaving blood spatters across a multicoloured shirt and jacket.
It’s not over yet for Hesp, but the fist bumps have stopped.
This was a tragedy in three parts. First of all, Dan Ott picked up a sizeable pot from Hesp when he completed from the small blind and allowed Hesp to do most of the betting as he improved a measly 6♦4♣ to a full house.
Specifically, the flop was 9♠4♠4♦, Ott bet 1 million, Hesp raised to 3 million and Ott called. The turn was the 6♥ and Ott checked, Hesp bet 4 million and Ott raised to 9.5 million. Hesp was persuaded out.
Not long after that, Hesp opened to 3 million and Benjamin Pollak, who had been slowly accumulating over the preceding three hours, called on the button. Hesp led 3 million after the flop of 10♥6♦5♣, which Pollak called, taking them to the 4♠ on the turn.
Hesp bet another 3 million, Pollak called, at the 7♠ completed the board. Hesp checked and Pollak, with menace, bet 10 million.
Hesp took his time before calling, but then span away from the table with a wince when Pollak showed his 8♠8♦ for a rivered straight. Hesp’s A♥10♣ had been beaten. “Wow,” Hesp said.
That felt like it might be a turning point, or at least the halting of Hesp’s incredible momentum. For the first time, he seemed slightly out of sorts. But things were about to get a whole lot worse.
Only three hands later Blumstein raised to 2.2 million from under the gun and action folded around to Hesp in the big blind. He called. These were the only two players in the field who could really damage one another, but they had shown no particular willingness to get out of each other’s way.
The first three cards out on the table were the A♣7♦5♥ and both players checked. But then the 10♠ on the turn sent them both into a frenzy.
Hesp checked, Blumstein bet 3 million. Hesp check-raised to 7 million and then Blumstein added another 10 million to that, a re-raise to 17 million.
Hesp said that he was all-in–a covering stack of around 100 million. Blumstein called!
Blumstein was ecstatic. He tabled A♦A♠ for top set. Hesp was already drawing dead with his A♥10♥ and this massive pot went to Blumstein.
Hesp looked crestfallen. The wheels had suddenly come off his juggernaut.
Hesp wandered around the stage, a lost child amid surging emotions. Then he extended his arms in a “That’s poker” kind of gesture, sat himself back down and tried to get on with things.
Let’s say it again: Hesp is not out of this thing yet, but the sailing just got a little less plain.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.