This time last year John Hesp was a complete unknown to the poker world. He traveled across the Atlantic to play the World Series of Poker Main Event after playing tiny buy-in events back home and became a mainstream media sensation. Daan Hoogendijk is hoping to follow in his footsteps.
“It’s a lot of money. I’m the kind of that plays, sometimes I play an $800 somewhere. If you look at my Hendon Mob my total cashes is a few thousand here, a few thousand there, but nothing like this,” said Hoogendijk, who now lives in Beveren, Belgium with his wife and daughter.
The most recent cashes on his Hendon Mob profile came from a €53 event in Belgium and a €100 event at King’s Casino in Rozvadov. Just before the start of the WSOP Main Event, he played the $888 Crazy Eights event and finished 433rd for $2,702. That event gave him the chance to get comfortable with the WSOP.
“It was okay. It was just an exercise to feel out the room and chairs and the players. It’s a little tighter than Europe over here,” said Hoogendijk.
It was seven years ago when Hoogendijk decided he was going to play the World Series of Poker. While bodyboarding on vacation, Hoogendijk was overtaken by a wave and crashed hard on his head.
“I broke my neck. I was supposed to be dead. I was in rehab for a year. I always liked poker, so I said ‘I’m going to live my life’. So for the last six years, I’ve been working up to this and here I am,” said Hoogendijk, who has watched the WSOP on TV for as long as he can remember, including during his long rehab stints following his accident.
“I actually wanted to come because in 2011, I was lying in bed for a long, long time because of rehab. (The WSOP) was on and I saw all of these banners, the big, big banners in the room and I thought, ‘Wow, that would be cool to have my stupid head on one of those one day?’. So that’s when I decided I want to do this,” said Hoogendijk.
So seven years ago Hoogendijk decided he was going to save up and work towards one day getting to Las Vegas to play the WSOP. It was a matter of saving the money, but he also needed to convince his wife.
“She’s like ‘if you don’t bring home any money, you’ll find the locks on the door are changed’, but that’s not true at all,” joked Hoogendijk. “She’s back at home, super supportive all the way – my daughter too.”
Even though he doesn’t play poker often now, he doesn’t feel like he’s going to be overwhelmed or outmatched by the other players in the field.
“Not at all. I have studied hard, I have three guys at the poker club that have coached me for the last few days, and I made sure I was fit because it’s going to be long days,” said Hoogendijk.
With an expected field of some 7,000 players, Hoogendijk is hopeful for a deep run but realistic about his overall chances.
“I just want to come here and play and have a good time. Of course, I want to win it like everybody else, but there’s a lot of runners.”