Reflections on the 2017 World Series of Poker by Robert Turner

john hesp

Reflecting back on this year’s WSOP Main Event, I believe it was a good move to change from the old November 9 format to playing it out in July.

This change created a lot of excitement and had people talking about the Main Event all over the gaming industry. I believe the broadcast changes contributed to the third largest turnout in WSOP history with 7,221 players.  

This  momentum kept building with so many storylines fueled by amatuer John Hesp’s Cinderella story. John Hesp, 64, from Bridlington England is a grandfather of seven whose biggest cash before the WSOP was first place for $1,000 in his regular Sunday rebuy tournament at Napoleons Casino & Restaurant Hull in June.

When he made the final 27 last Monday, he posted this on his Facebook page:

“Most people will know I seldom post on Facebook but I wanted to let you all know that I am having the most surreal experience of my life…I am truly “living the dream.”

John put the fun back into the game we love. He was polite, humble and ended up in fourth place winning $2,500,000 for his efforts.

The final three players–Scott Blumstein from New Jersey, Daniel Ott from Pennsylvania and Benjamin Pollak from Paris, France–returned Saturday with two of the three players having no real experience in the WSOP.

It was a very exciting finish with two twenty-five year old players going head to head.

Blumstein held a commanding lead all three days after his trip aces dealt a blow to co-leader Hesp who had the top two pair; that hand was the game changer.

Blumstein would go wire to wire to win the 2017 WSOP Main Event for over $8,000,000 beating out Daniel Ott who finished second for $4,700,000. The first player out on Saturday was Benjamin Pollak who was the only professional poker player in the final three. He won $3,500,000 for his third place finish.

This year’s World Series Of Poker brought back memories of my final table appearance in 1994 reflecting on how much it meant to me. Poker is so much bigger today than it was then.

No one could have imagined poker would become a global phenomenon it has become today. The WSOP announced a partnership with Tencent, the number one gaming publisher from China.

The WSOP-Tencent partnership will expand poker in Asia along with producing live events, training of staff and teaching future players. Tencent is now worth $300 billion and is now among the world’s top 10 most valuable companies, joining the likes of Apple and Google.

Years ago I had a vision of streaming cash poker games on the Internet. That led me to create the first live streaming of cash poker games at the Bicycle Casino, which became Live at Bike. That was fifteen years ago.

Now that vision has evolved into this year’s WSOP Main Event being broadcast and streamed from Day 1. Partnering with PokerGo, a digital video subscription service that gives fans access to exclusive live poker tournaments, added more media excitement.

They did a masterful job with this year’s WSOP. The broadcast team for streaming and TV kept it moving at a fast pace. I kept asking my wife to put the World Series on our TV; she just handed me her tablet instead.

ESPN commentator Norman Chad was very entertaining this year. He even dressed up as John Hesp to provide humor. The all-star broadcast team included Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Lon McEachern, and Kara Scott.

Others were David Tuchman who started on Live At The Bike. Antonio Esfandiari, Phil and Daniel are all great pros who provided color and insight of the game we loved.

It will be interesting to see the final number of viewers of the 2017 WSOP.

Lastly, I want to congratulate this year’s two WSOP Hall of Fame inductees Phil Ivey and David “Devilfish” Ulliott. They became the Hall of Fame’s 53rd and 54th individuals to enter poker’s most exclusive club.

First-time eligible Phil was a lock with ten WSOP bracelets to his credit and $23,856,034 in live poker winnings. He is arguably the most famous poker player in the world.

Ulliott, who passed away from cancer in April 2015, gets the ultimate recognition in poker for his role in growing the game in England.

His family commented on this year’s Main Event saying: “One thing we know he would be happy about is the progress of John Hesp in the Main Event, a regular at Napoleon’s in Hull, David’s home city in the UK. John represents what poker is all about–a true game of the people.”

I couldn’t agree more. Rest in peace.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiards/casino marketing expert. He is most well-known for introducing the game of Omaha poker to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995 and Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

Robert has over 30 years’ experience in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working as a casino consultant.

Robert can be reached at for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at and on Twitter @thechipburner.



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