Phil Ivey Shares The Spotlight With Poker’s New Hero, John Hesp

Written By Jessica Welman on July 22, 2017 - Last Updated on February 12, 2021

[toc]If you want to try and come up with a poker player as far removed from Phil Ivey as possible, John Hesp is probably your answer. Hesp is everything Ivey is not in the best way possible.

Ivey is stoic, serious, deadly at the tables, and emblematic of the skill required to master the game of poker.

Hesp is an amateur, flamboyant, fun, and a reminder that much of what makes poker great is that anyone can win on any given day.

The fact the two shared poker’s spotlight this week just reiterates how diverse the poker world can be. While Ivey’s preeminent skills garnered several newsworthy headlines this week, Hesp ended the summer of “making poker fun again” with a paisley exclamation point.

Phil Ivey dominates the news cycle

For a guy who rarely shows his face in public, poker pro Phil Ivey is certainly all over the news these days.

Currently Ivey’s attention is on the British Supreme Court. The group heard arguments in his pending lawsuit against Crockfords Casino in London this week. So far, the court has been on Crockfords side in the matter.

The same holds true for a similar lawsuit against Ivey filed by New Jersey casino Borgata. Both suits deal with Ivey playing Baccarat in the respective casinos while using a technique called edge-sorting.

Really though, the mastermind of the operation was not Ivey at all. A revealing new podcast from ESPN’s 30 for 30 brand interviewed Ivey’s partner, Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun. During the lengthy interview, Sun, a professional advantage player, discussed how they pulled off the big Baccarat wins.

According to Sun, a large part of the reason they succeeded convincing casinos to abide by their numerous strange requests is Ivey’s baller status. The notorious gambler leveraged his reputation to score millions with the help of Sun. However, now it is up to the courts whether or not they can keep their earnings.

In the meantime, Ivey does have one thing to celebrate. On Friday, the Poker Hall of Fame announced Ivey and late poker pro David Ulliott were this year’s inductees. This was Ivey’s first year of eligibility for the prestigious group.

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How outsiders made the WSOP interesting again

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) certainly did something right in order to post another record-breaking summer in 2017. Nonetheless, there is always room for improvement as well as cause for concern.

So, hot on the heels of a massive turnout in the WSOP Main Event, it is time to start dissecting what did and did not work about the summer. For example, appealing to young players is something the series needs to work on. The turnout managed to be solid without recruiting as many young players, but is this a trend that can last?

There were a couple of people that did draw some new attention to the WSOP this year though. The one fresh in everyone’s mind is Main Event fourth-place finisher John Hesp.

The affable Brit won over the poker world with his memorable attire, rags-to-riches story, and fun-loving spirit. During a WSOP where #MakePokerFunAgain frequently appeared on Twitter, Hesp did just that. The amateur clearly had a blast playing, which will hopefully convince other recreational players to give the Main Event a shot in 2018.

Hesp brought the fun to the Main Event final table, but it was Barstool Sports in the spotlight when the biggest tournament of the year got underway. The cheeky sports news site brought a couple of contributors to the Main Event to play this year. Their character-driven approach to their website is something poker media and the WSOP could learn a thing or two from.

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for A graduate of Indiana University and USC, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.

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