This year’s version of the $1,000 Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship attracted a staggering 3,752 players, all of whom packed the Rio to the rafters on Day 1 to set a new record for an opening day field. The bustouts came fast and furious on the first day of action and thousands of seniors hit the rail in succession.
After nearly four thousand hopeful seniors converged on the World Series of Poker looking to win the Seniors Championship, we have crowned a new champion. James Hess, who hails from Encino, California, navigated the record-setting opening day field to make the final table. Once he got there, Hess used a combination of pressure poker and modern strategy to exert his will on the rest of the competitors. After claiming the chip lead halfway through the final table, Hess never relinquished it and used his big stack to punish his opponents for the rest of the night.
Hess defeated Richard “Dick” Harwood in a relatively quick heads-up contest, after dispatching no less than five other players from the final table. A one-man wrecking crew, Hess was the most aggressive player in the room for the entirety of Day 3, using three-bets and re-steals to bully his opponents into submission.
Hess told us early on in the day that his trip to South Africa was weighing heavily on his mind, even with glory of a WSOP bracelet so close at hand. When asked why this flight was so important, Hess became emotional as he told us about his father-in-law, who currently lives in South Africa. With this 1st place finish occurring on Father’s Day, Hess will undoubtedly be able to give a very special gift: a WSOP victory dedicated to him.
With his stack shrinking by the minute, Craig Koch new he had to make a stand at some point. After folding his way to a stack of only 400,000, good for just four big blinds at this level, Koch heard James Hess raise to 300,000 and knew it was time to take the plunge. Koch, which we are told rhymes with "luck," made the call with his and hoped to have live cards.
Hess ended those hopes when he turned over , his hand having Harwood's outkicked. The final board ran out and Koch was eliminated in 3rd place. He will take home $248,971 for his run through this massive Seniors Championship field.
In two subsequent hands, Richard Harwood and James Hess found themselves all in against each other, and both times, they had the same hand and chopped the pot. Once was with and another time with . A very uncommon occurrence three-handed, to say the least.
After raising to 500,000 from the button, James Hess watched as Richard "Dick" Harwood shipped his stack into the middle. The reraise was for 1,350,000 more and Hess could easily have the laydown, but with the dominant chip lead he decided to take the risk.
"It's a stupid call, but I call" said Hess as he turned over his . When he saw the held by Dick Harwood, Hess simply shook his head in confirmation and waited for the dealer to spread the board.
The flop of was as dry as it gets for Hess and he said "nice hand sir" while still shaking his head. The on the turn left him drawing dead, and after the meaningless on the river, Hess shipped nearly 2,000,000 to the revitalized Harwood.
Since our last elimination, James Hess has noticeably opened up his play, using aggressive re-steals to accumulate chips.
In a recent hand, Hess watched Joseph Bolnick raise to 275,000 from the button and Craig Koch make the call from the small blind. Rather than let the two men settle the score, Hess simply shoved his stack into the middle and forced the folds, earning more than 550,000 chips with the power poker move.
While Hess may be simply responding to conditions on the felt, another pressing concern has also caused him to shift things into high gear. Hess told us that he is expecting to board a flight sometime tomorrow in order to visit his ailing father in South Africa. While the pursuit of gold and glory here at the WSOP is certainly important, caring for his father is priority number one for James Hess.
If he can bully his opponents into submission during this last level of play, James Hess will have nothing to worry about tomorrow as he flies the friendly skies a half-million dollars richer.