It feels like a while since we wrote anything about John Hesp. Losing pots worth 150 million, as Hesp did yesterday, tends to leave a player slightly muted.
But over the past hour, Hesp has found reason to go dancing around the stage once again. There’s a pep in his step. A pump in his fist. And, at one crucial moment, a pair of black aces in his hand.
More importantly even than that is that Benjamin Pollak found A♥K♠ at the same time, which gave him all the reason in the world to call. Pollak opened, Hesp shoved for around 19.5 million, Pollak called. But this Anglo-French battle was over by the turn after the dealer put the 4♠2♠2♦10♦ on the felt.
Hesp and Pollak stood next to one another in conversation as the cards came down, before Hesp dashed back to his seat and a stack of more than 42 million. We questioned yesterday whether Hesp would be able to come back from crashing top pair into Scott Blumstein’s aces, but he’s certainly not dead yet.
It’s been a comparatively rough hour for the two French players in this final, even after Saout doubled towards the end of our last look-around. Dan Ott’s aggression pushed both Saout and Pollak out of hands, before Pollak made what must also have been a pretty tough fold to the tournament’s outright short stack Damian Salas.
In the first of those hands, Ott raised to 2.7 million, Saout three-bet to 7.2 million and then Ott jammed, getting an instant fold from Saout. Not long after, Pollak opened, Ott jammed for about 14 million again and Pollak folded what we later discovered was pocket eights.
ICM issues are clearly huge now, with none of the overnight short-stacks having yet been knocked out after two hours of play. Many armchair commentators piled in on Pollak for what they said was a tight fold, but he remains in second place, behind Blumstein, despite the buffeting of the last hour. Pollak continues to back the decision-making process that has got him this far.
Salas is also resolutely playing his own game despite his chip stack now reaching beyond critical levels. The last remaining Argentinian in the field, who was the tournament chip leader at the end of Day 4, returned with only 13 big blinds this evening and didn’t immediately find any hands worth risking everything with.
He dwindled all the way down to 6.975 million–not quite five big blinds–when he first shipped them in. The decision passed all the way around to Pollak, who was still licking his wounds from the Hesp double. Pollak agonised over the fold but then let go what we later discovered was 9♠6♦.
Salas didn’t take all that long to move in again, this time for 7.375 million, and Ott seemed to be most tempted to call. He didn’t, though, and so Salas again survived.
Some online commentators, including Daniel Negreanu, have pointed out that Salas is taking too long over easy decisions, such as when he took 16 seconds to fold Q-6. But Salas has clearly opted to take the same amount of time over absolutely every pre-flop move so as not to give anything away about his shoving range.
Having speculated earlier about whether we were going to go boom-and-bust in the early levels, or if players were going to sit tight and attempt to ladder up, we now have our answer. This table is playing cute.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.