An eccentric English grandfather who described himself as the “Donald Trump of poker” due to his inexperience has wowed the gambling community after winning £2 million at a prestigious tournament.
John Hesp, a 64-year-old caravan salesman from Bridlington in East Yorkshire, won the hearts of poker fans around the globe for his flamboyant style and happy-go-lucky attitude – an antidote to the traditional stony-faced nature of the World Series of Poker.
Mr Hesp’s name was trending on Twitter in the US as he became the unlikely hero of the competition, despite only ever gambling two or three pounds a time as an amateur during poker nights with his friends back home.
But his fanciful trip to Las Vegas to compete in the 10-day tournament ended in success after he made it to the final competition table and finished fourth out of 7,000 entrants, taking home a 2.6 million dollar (£2 million) prize.
His friends and colleagues at the Bridlington Caravan Centre said their boss is deserving of his success and new-found fame.
Karl Smalley, general sales manager, told the Press Association: “It doesn’t surprise me – John’s a nutter.
“He has harebrained schemes, he has a DeLorean in the garage, and when he said he was going to Las Vegas to compete in this competition because it was on his ‘bucket list’, we all said: ‘yeah, alright John’.
“But he’s brilliant. He phoned us a couple of days ago and said that although he was having the time of his life he wanted us to know he was thinking about us and missing us.
“It could be easy to be slightly jealous of someone for winning £2 million on the poker, but not John – he’s an absolute English gentlemen.
“He’s lovely – a real character – and he’s just as easy talking with the travelling community as he is with the Queen.”
The married father-of-four and grandfather-of-seven has played poker for fun for more than 20 years, but has never taken it seriously.
In an interview with PokerNews.com, he said: “I am to poker what Donald Trump is to politics – an amateur.”
Mr Smalley said his boss has been taken aback by the interest in his story, which saw him inundated with invitations to parties from big names within the poker fraternity.
Mr Smalley, 45, from Beverley, said: “He’s been swamped. He can’t leave his hotel room and he said yesterday that his phone is going flat within two hours of being charged because people are desperate to get hold of him and invite him out.
“He’s being treated like a celebrity, but he’s just a down-to-earth guy – really humble. We don’t know yet when he’ll be back because he’s gone to ground a bit to take it all in. But he’ll get a big welcome from us – we’ve already got the banners made.”