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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – John Hennigan

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

John Hennigan may not be the most popular player among fans and part-time players of poker, but among his professional peers he is considered one of the best.  If he’s good enough to be called one of the best cash game players in the world by Daniel Negreanu and Gavin Smith, then he’s good enough to be considered among the very best poker players in the world.  Like many other poker players, Hennigan found poker by accident while pursuing a career in something else.  But, once he made that transition he has found success players can only dream of.
John Hennigan was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the “City of Brotherly Love,” but from an early age the only thing Hennigan wanted to do with his fellow brothers was gamble.  Hennigan has earned the nickname “Johnny World” from his fellow poker players because his willingness to bet on anything, but Hennigan was doing that long before he played poker.  

We’ve had chronicled some pretty epic gamblers in this series, such as Ted Forrest, and it should be noted that Hennigan would be near or at the top of that list.  Hennigan’s main way of gambling as a teenager was pool.  Hennigan would hustle at the pool halls in Philadelphia and as he got older, and better, turned his attention to the tougher pool halls in Atlantic City.  The hour and a half drive was one Hennigan got used to, as he started spending almost all of his free time there.  Many of the people he played against in the pool halls noticed Hennigan was a much better player than just a “hustler,” and encouraged him to join the professional ranks.  Also, because he was wiping all his fellow hustlers out of their cash, the only reason he would make money from pool is to turn professional.

Hennigan joined the professional pool circuit with solid results, but while touring around America there was a lot of free time.  “Johnny World” craved action in any way he could get it.  Wandering around the casinos that held the pool events, Hennigan eventually stumbled upon a poker room.  Noticing that one pot was often more than their entire prize pools, Hennigan knew he had found a game right up his alley.  Slowly Hennigan started playing less pool, and more poker.  Hennigan is still considered the best pool player among poker players, a status that has made him a lot of money in bets over the years.

With his need for action, it would be natural to think that Hennigan took too many chances just to get an adrenalin rush, but that simply isn’t the case.  In numerous interviews fellow former pool hustler Negreanu has said that Hennigan simply thinks at a higher level than almost all players, and when he’s on his game he’s simply the best in the world.  Hennigan has largely focused on high stakes cash games, but when the “poker boom” hit he decided to try his luck, or in Hennigan’s case, his skill, in the bigger tournaments.
Before the poker explosion Hennigan had only played in a handful of tournaments, but with pretty good success.  In 1999 he finished 19th in the World Series of Poker Main Event, which up until that point was only the second event he placed in.  In 2002 Hennigan started focusing on the tournament circuit a bit more, and immediately put his name atop the list of best in the world when he won the $2,000 H.O.R.S.E tournament for his first bracelet and $117,320 dollars.  At the end of that year, he won the $7,500 No Limit Main Event at the United State Poker Championships, for $216,000.  In 2004 Hennigan won his second bracelet in the $5,000 Limit Hold’em event for $325,360.  While Hennigan hasn’t been able to win another bracelet since then, he has came close a number of times, finishing in the money 10 times.  Not bad for a player who is a cash game player first, tournament player second.

Success away from the WSOP has come in droves though for Hennigan.  In January of 2007 Hennigan took down his biggest prize yet when he won the World Poker Tour’s $9,700 No Limit Hold’em Championship event for $1,606,223.

A few times the “Johnny World” part of Hennigan has nearly gotten him over his head.  In 2005 he made a bet with Barry Greenstein that would span over two years.  For every golf tournament Tiger Woods won he would owe Greenstein $19,000 and for every event Woods didn’t finish first in Greenstein would owe him $5,000.  Woods promptly went on to win 5 out of his first six tournaments, setting Hennigan back nearly 100k in six weeks.  Luckily Greenstein was feeling generous and allowed Hennigan to settle the bet for an undisclosed amount.

Hennigan also played the role of  Ralph Kaczynski in the movie Lucky You.

Hennigan still calls Philadelphia his home, but makes frequent trips to Las Vegas.  One of the only reasons Hennigan’s name isn’t up there with the Ivey’s, Hellmuth’s and, Negreanu’s of the world is because he wants to keep it that way.  Despite willing to bet on anything, Hennigan prefers to keep a low profile, and in his case it has probably helped him earn more money because of unknowing strangers being more willing to sit with him at a poker table.  However, as long as Hennigan keeps posting results such as those listed below, it won’t be long before Hennigan won’t be able to hide anymore.

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