Sao Paulo born Vivian Saliba has grown up with poker around her, first playing the game at 12-years-old and then accompanying her father to card rooms for the first time at the age of 17.
Primarily a Pot Limit Omaha cash game player, but no stranger to poker tournaments, the Brazilian has put in strong performances during various years of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Most notably in 2017, she made the money in three No Limit Hold’em events and two in her specialized game of Pot Limit Omaha.
But it would be a PLO hand, a game that has allowed her to amass a small fortune, that still gives Saliba nightmares to this day.
“By the end of 2015, I decided to quit college and follow my dream as a professional poker player. The beginning of my career was a real rollercoaster and even though in 2016 I played WSOP events for the first time, I didn’t actually play that many tournaments,” Saliba said.
So, 2017 was the first time playing in her dream tournaments and marked a special year for her as a poker player. The tournament in question was WSOP Event #54 and was the most important tournament for her at the time due to the buy-in and what was at stake.
“Back in 2017 during the WSOP in Las Vegas I was playing my first ever $10,000 buy-in event. That was a PLO event, my main game at the time, and still is nowadays. The tournament had 428 entries and I managed to finish it in 11th place.”
Despite making it to the final two tables and winning $47,923 for her efforts but busting that event negatively affected her feelings as there was a strong desire to make It as a professional poker player
“That tournament seemed to be the perfect opportunity, giving the high level of the competitors, price of the buy-in, prize pool and it being WSOP bracelet event.”
Playing five-handed, holding an average stack of 30 big blinds, and playing her strongest poker variant, it was almost a certainty that Saliba would make the final table and be in with a chance of claiming the $938,732 prize. But of course, nothing is guaranteed in poker.
Defending her big blind with following a raise from the button, Saliba smashed the board making top set on the 2x flop.
“I check-raised the flop with my top set and my opponent re-raised so that all the money is in the middle, he had 8x for an overpair and open-ended straight draw.”
The turn card brought a jack, leaving Saliba pretty much dead as only the case nine on the river would have saved her from elimination.
“If I had won this hand, I would be up to top-3 stacks of the tournament and also would bust my opponent. I was left with 3bb and on the next hand I end up busting. Looking back that is nothing I would do differently at that specifically play but I would definitely take it easier with myself,” she said.
“I literally had nightmares with this hand for months. I believed that I would never get so close to a WSOP final table ever again.”
Despite the setback, in November of that same year she became part of the 888poker team, which was one of her poker career ambitions.
Shortly after, the Brazilian recalled another hand that would make anyone shudder, but this time the 888poker ambassador was on the more fortunate side of lady luck.
Playing Event #64 – $888 No Limit Hold’em – Crazy Eights in the 2019 WSOP with six players and eight big blinds remaining. Saliba ended up getting it all in for her tournament life with ace-four versus Ireland’s Patrick Clarke‘s ace-ten.
Despite being dominated and in horrific shape, she out-drew her opponent to secure the full double up and keep her WSOP bracelet ambitions alive.
“I won and he was left with a couple of big blinds and busted a few hands after. That bad beat gave me the chance of cashing for $131K more.
“I imagine that my opponent must have felt very bad in this situation giving that he had me dominated, it was a huge event with a huge prize pool and we were all so close to the bracelet so the stakes were that much higher!”
Vivian narrowly missed out on securing her first-ever WSOP gold bracelet, instead finishing in 4th place out of a field of over 10,000 entries for the biggest payday of her career for $308,888.