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It’s not often that one gets a second shot at greatness. Very few have been afforded that opportunity when it comes to becoming the World Series of Poker Main Event champion. So when Damian Salas, who just three years ago finished in seventh place at the WSOP Main Event, found himself in a position to win the championship bracelet that eluded him in 2017, he leaned into his passion for the game and his desire to be known as one of the very best finally reach his championship goal. “Taking into account my experience in 2017, I didn’t see it as a rematch, I took it as a new opportunity granted by this beautiful mind sport so that I could win the World Championship,” said Salas. “I felt great and highly motivated. I’ve worked with tons of persistence during these last eight or nine years of my professional career, so I can give my very best in times of extreme pressure. I felt like I could make it and that was a determining factor to becoming the champion.” It may be that Salas, the Argentinian lawyer turned poker pro, made a name for himself in poker with his seventh-place finish 2017 Main Event when he won $1.425 million but as he mentioned, it was by no means the start of his poker journey. Salas has made the trip to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker for over a decade and prior to his first Main Event, final table appearance had posted a string of impressive results on the biggest poker tours in Latin America including the LAPT and BSOP. If Salas’ journey had essentially ended with his seven-figure score on ESPN it would be a poker success story by nearly every metric. However, for Salas, a few minutes in the spotlight was not what he was after. It still isn’t. “I don’t play for the money, that’s not my goal. It’s not what drives me,” Salas said. “It is great, taking those results into account, as it is paramount to meeting other ambitions in my life. But my basic motivation is to become better and better every day and remain a member of the world-class poker elite.” “As I’ve mentioned many times before, I don’t think winning [the Main Event] makes me the best player in the world, but I am worthy of the achievement since I believe I could compete for many years now with the world-class poker elite. That’s an honor I’ve earned, and it is my greatest challenge and motivation day in and day out - to remain a member of the world-class poker elite.” To get to where he is, Salas has embraced the grind. With live poker events essentially put on hold in 2020, Salas dove into online poker and quickly became the #1-ranked player in his native Argentina. He broke through into the worldwide top-20 with the help of a pair of impressive scores in some of the year’s biggest tournament series. First, he took third place in the first-ever WPT World Championship Main Event on partypoker which came with an $814,664 payday. Then he took home a PokerStars EPT Online title with a victory in Event #20 ($1,050 NLHE) for another $117,475. The success was paving the way to a run in the WSOP Main Event. “Honestly, I was having a great year,” he said. “So I wasn’t surprised by the [WSOP win] because I felt in great shape, I was really prepared. Obviously, it was incredible and even spectacular to close the year this way.” The path to the WSOP Main Event title was unlike any in years past. First Salas has to navigate the field of online entrants on GGPoker, then travel to the Czech Republic to play down the final table at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, and finally make his way to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to compete against Joseph Hebert, the winner of the domestic leg of the WSOP Main Event, in a for-broadcast heads-up match. “I can say that the online elements against international players at GGPoker were impressive. The poker world’s elite played in that tournament and I had to face them all,” he said, looking back on the tournament as a whole. “It was highly difficult. The clash was really hard from the beginning.” When he made the live final table he was third in chips but one of the toughest challenges awaited. Brazil’s Brunno Botteon, the current #1-ranked player in the world, held the chip lead and was also having a career year. “At the final table were at least five elite representatives of poker including Bruno Botteon, whose quality is extraordinary. And, well, the confrontation demanded my very best,” he said. “I was really inspired at the final table, where I took certain creative lines which I could capitalize in my favor. In the end, while I believe I also benefited from some good cards and good luck, I think those creative hands were responsible for my success.” Salas walked away with the win after defeating Botteon heads-up, which brought him a new career-high score of $1.55 million. It also put him in line to battle heads up for the championship bracelet. “Then came the heads up with Joseph [Hebert]. Either one of us could have won, really,” Salas said. But even after losing some key pots and being on the brink of finishing in second, Salas fought back. “I think I played with discipline, with concentration, with metered quantities of matured aggressiveness that was very efficient,” he said. “It is a great privilege because I understand I was very lucky. However, I also know I have done all I could so that I could meet my goal and that fills me with joy.” In the aftermath of reaching his goal, one might expect Salas to take some time off, perhaps enjoy a few of the finer things with his bonus $1 million payday he received for winning the bracelet. While some new doors are opening for the new World Champion, Salas insists that the main goal of being elite never stops. “Being totally honest, my daily routine has not changed much. As I always say, I’m not driven by money. There is another motivation, that’s to belong to the world elite. Added to the fact that I truly enjoy what I do and I do love playing poker, so my routine remains practically the same…I’m the World Champion, and that’s great, but understanding I’m the same person I was before the tournament.”
A flurry of tournament wins in the middle of the month helped Jonathan ‘luckyfish89’ Clark pick up an early holiday present in the form of winning the PocketFives Monthly Leaderboard for the month of November. Clark, currently the #3-ranked player in the United Kingdom, hit a career-high ranking of #18 in the world last month after racking up 95 cashes for just over $330,000 in earnings. Much of those earnings was due to Clark’s fast start in the month, especially on November 2, when he crushed the GGMasters $1,050 High Rollers as the runner-up which earned him a career-high $118,941 score and 659.75 PLB points. At the same time, Clark was making a deep run in GGPoker’s Battle of Malta Event #3 ($215 Kings of Tallinn Main Event) where he picked up $37,360 and 382.78 PLB points. Clark was nowhere near done racking up results though. He picked up another nice score during GGPoker’s High Roller Week Event #12 ($1,050 Deepstack) where he finished in seventh for another $19,754 and 269.09 points. In the middle of the month, the BBZ Poker coach went on a heater, collecting PLB points in bunches during the Battle of Malta Online series side events. He first won the Bounty Hunters Malta High Roller for $8,044 and 242.38 points on November 16. Five days later he won again, this time in the $315 Bounty Grand Master Side Event for another $22,132 and 378.29 points. He closed out the win with yet another victory in another $315 Bounty Grand Master Side Event, this time picking up $7,858 and 267.49 points. Clark’s 16 PLB-qualifying cashes was just enough to deny Dan ‘SmilleThHero’ Smilikovic back-to-back Monthly PLB titles. Smilikovic, who took down the October title, comes in a close second after another incredibly productive month that saw him rack up 136 results for roughly $387,144 in earnings. Currently sitting ranked at #7 in the world, Smilikovic held his elite status in the top 10 thanks in part to a resume-building victory in GGPoker’s marquee Sunday Major tournament, the $150 buy-in $500K GTD GGMasters. The Austrian battled his way through the 4,172-entry field to lock up the victory and $82,223 and 758.77 PLB points in the process. He continued to add to his accolades during PokerStars EPT Online after he finished in fifth place in Event #6 ($10,300 NLHE, 8-Max, High Roller) for $87,274 and 397.49 PLB points. He backed that up with another EPT Online score, this time he went the distance in Event #7 ($2,100 NLHE 8-Max, High Roller) and added the $54,451 first-place prize to his career totals which skyrocketed past $3 million in November. The November PLB top three is rounded out by perennial online crusher Bert ‘girafganger7’ Stevens. ‘Giraf’ didn’t put in quite the same amount of volume as Clark or Smilikovic, racking up just 60 results. However, when it came to earnings the online pro had a career month, taking in just over $1,191,000. ‘Giraf’s heater started on November 9 when he took down the GGPoker Battle of Malta High Roller Championship for $439,747 and 1,573.21 PLB points, the second-largest online score of his career. He followed that up with a three-tournament set that included a final table appearance in EPT Online Event #6 ($10,300 NLHE, High Roller) for $51,445 and 324.83 PLB points, a runner-up finish in GGPoker’s High Roller Week Event #7 ($10,300 NLHE) for $262,470 and 752.24, and finally an outright win in EPT Online Event #8 ($2,100 NLHE) for another $96,144 and 707.11 PLB points. To add to all of those scores, ‘Giraf’ also took down EPT Online Event 15 ($10,300 NLHE, Turbo High Roller) for $186,238. The score contributed to his leap to over $12 million in total career earnings, placing him 15th on the All-Time Online Money List. It also helped him return back to being ranked #1 in the world, which he held on the week of December 5 for the first time since 2017. November PocketFives Top 10 [table id=142 /]
In a career that has spanned more than 12 years, 888poker ambassador Dominik Nitsche has evolved from a small stakes online grinder to one of the most prolific high rollers in the poker world today. The results of his hard work speak for themselves as Nitsche has amassed more than $6.5 million in online earnings and an amazing $18.65 million in live earnings, a total which places him 32nd on the Hendon Mob’s All-Time Money List. Even after so much success, Nitsche continues to grind. A successful week at the online tables helped Nitsche surge 27 spots in the online poker worldwide rankings to #68, one of the biggest moves inside the top-100 for the week. The rise in rankings helped him take over the #1-ranking in Germany and close in on a career-high spot of #60, which he last hit back in 2009. As Nitsche continues to climb the rankings, it makes for a good time to look back at some of the biggest scores in the DTO private poker coach’s history, including his most recent victory which added a major title to his long list of accomplishments. 2019 PokerStars WCOOP Just over a year ago, Nitsche booked the biggest win of his online poker career during the PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker when he made a deep run in Event #25-H ($25,000 NLHE, 8-Max, High Roller). The tournament drew 90 entries and generated a prize pool of over $2.2 million fueled by some of the toughest competition the poker world has to offer. Nitsche battled his way to the final table, outlasting the likes of Chris ‘Big Huni’ Hunichen, Tim ‘Tim0thee’ Adams, and Mustapha ‘lasagnaaammm’ Kanit, all of who made the money. In the end, Nitsche ended up falling in fifth place walking away with $188,139. Timofey ‘Trueteller’ Kuznetsov ended up winning the event for more than $527,000. 2017 PokerStars SCOOP Two-and-a-half years prior to his big risk, big reward run in the 2019 WCOOP, Nitsche entered another high roller looking to take home a massive score. The field size in the 2017 Spring Championship of Online Poker Event #15-M ($2,100 NLHE, 8-Max, High Roller) was a good deal larger as 772 entries drove the prize pool to just over $1.5 million. Again, Nitsche made a deep run to the final table where he battled the impressive online poker talent of Ami ‘UhhMee’ Barer and former #1-ranked Calvin ‘Cal42688’ Anderson. Nitsche finished in fourth place that day but locked up a massive $115,800 score for his efforts. $5K High Roller One of the very first high roller tournaments in 2018 took place on January 3 that year and featured a who’s who of top online poker talent. The $5,000 No Limit Hold’em High Roller was littered with notable screen names that finished in the money that day. Ludovic ‘ludovi333’ Geilich, Mike ‘telks’ Telker, Chris ‘Apotheosis92’ Kruk, and Stephen ‘stevie444’ Chidwick all picked up huge scores that day. Nitsche surpassed all of them though and notched himself a podium finish with a third-place score of $82,445 which helped him get the year off to a good start. In the end, Damian ‘pampa27’ Salas bested ‘DEX888’ for the win and the $139K first-place prize. 2020 PokerStars SCOOP It seems that Nitsche only gets better with age as two of his top 5 all-time scores were won in 2020. The first of which took place on May 22 in the 2020 PokerStars SCOOP when Nitsche fired in the $500,000 guaranteed Event #87-H ($530 NLHE). The field swelled to 956 entries but Nitsche outlasted every single one of them, booking the win and adding the $82,365 first-place prize to what was, at that time, $5.8 million in online earnings. 2020 EPT Online Cup Nitsche’s latest major online score proves that while he may be known for crushing the small field, nosebleed buy-in tournaments he still has what it takes to work his way through a massive field MTT and get the win. On November 14, just over a week ago, Nitsche nabbed himself a title in PokerStars’ first-ever EPT Online series when he outlasted the massive field of 2,833 runners and took down EPT Online Event #14 ($215 NLHE, EPT Online Cup) for $82,093. Along with the major online title, Nitsche picked up 752.73 PLB points which sent him sailing past Germany’s ‘nilsef’ in the rankings and has positioned himself to reach ranking heights he hasn’t seen in over a decade. Since taking home the gold in the EPT Online event, Nitsche continues to add to his PLB point total, grabbing another 169.49 points with his runner-up finish in the $215 Fast Friday just last week. If Nitsche continues to grind the kind of volume he’s been putting in as of late, he’s a favorite to hit a new career-high ranking by the end of the year. Players can qualify for the online poker worldwide rankings by adding their screennames to their PocketFives profile.
The PokerStars EPT Online series wrapped up on Thursday after Sweden’s ‘WhatIfGod’ was crowned the champion of the $5,200 NLHE Main Event and walked away with the $1,019,082 million first-place prize. The first-ever EPT Online looked to bring players similar offerings to that of one of their popular live stops which have been understandably postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And over the past two weeks, some of the world’s top online poker talent packed the PokerStars lobbies to battle for a piece of the $21.1 million in total prize money that was spread out over the series’ 20 events. The Main Event After four days of play, the final nine players reconvened to fight for the biggest prize of the series and the right to be called EPT Main Event Champion. The first three eliminations happened in short order as ‘vip25459’ fell was the first to fall, busting out ninth place for $78,797. Soon after busting ‘vip25459’, online poker legend Jon ‘apestyles’ Van Fleet hit the rail in eighth place ($97,344) when he lost a huge flip holding [poker card="as"][poker card="kd"] against ‘VbV1990’s [poker card="js"][poker card="jd"]. Then Andreas ‘daskalos20’ Christoforou busted in spectacular fashion when he got his [poker card="ad"][poker card="as"] all in preflop against David ‘MissOracle’ Yan’s [poker card="ac"][poker card="ks"]. The flop came [poker card="ks"][poker card="9c"][poker card="4c"] and when the [poker card="3c"] hit the river, Christoforou was drawing dead. He settled for seventh place and $136,147. Play slowed down at six-handed until Enio ‘Bozzano JNR’ Bozzano suffered a bad beat in sixth place ($190,419) as Yan again came from behind and cracked Bozzano’s [poker card="kd"][poker card="ks"] with his [poker card="qh"][poker card="qd"]. Russia’s Viacheslav ‘Vbv1990’ Buldygin was the next to exit when he moved all-in with [poker card="ac"][aj] and was called by ‘WhatIfGod’s [poker card="8h"][poker card="8d"]. The pocket eights held and Buldygin was eliminated in fifth place for $266,323. Not long after, ‘tikidiii’ busted in fourth place when he open-shoved his [poker card="js"][poker card="th"] into Timothy ‘Tim0thee’ Adams who showed down [poker card="8d"][poker card="8c"]. Adams’ pocket eights flopped a set and held through the river as ‘tikidiii’ fell in fourth place for $372,485. The experienced final three players battled for roughly thirty minutes before Yan became short-stacked after he was called on a bluffed missed flush draw. Unlike earlier in the tournament when he was able to chip up from the short stack, Yan was unable to recover. He shoved his remaining 16 big blinds in the middle holding [poker card="td"][poker card="th"] against Adams’ [poker card="ac"][poker card="4s"]. Although the tens held to the turn, the [poker card="as"] spiked on the river, shipping the pot to Adams and sending Yan home with a third-place $520,966 payday. Despite both being deep-stacked, Adams and ‘WhatIfGod’ had a brief heads-up battle of just seven hands. It came to a head when Adams raised the button with [poker card="as"][poker card="9d"] and ‘WhatIfGod’ three-bet with [poker card="ad"][poker card="tc"]. The flop came [poker card="ah"][poker card="6s"][poker card="4h"] which brought a bet from ‘WhatIfGod’ which Adams called. The turn came the [poker card="8s"] and ‘WhatIfGod’ checked it over to Adams who put in a bet of his own. ‘WhatIfGod’ called. The case ace, the [poker card="ac"], fell on the river and ‘WhatIfGod’ checked again. Adams then shoved his remaining stack and was called by ‘WhatIfGod’ who used his [poker card="tc"] to outkick Adams and clinch the championship. Adams earned $728,633 as the runner up and ‘WhatIfGod’ locked down the seven-figure $1,019,082 first-place prize. EPT Online Main Event Final Table Payouts [table id=123 /] Series Highlights The series got off to a fast start as EPT Online Event #1 ($1,050 NLHE, Arena Championship) racked up a total of 2,426 entries to shatter the $1.5 million event guarantee to the tune of a $2,426,000 prize pool. After four days of play, ‘DON JOHAN’ walked away with a $356,769 payday setting the stage for a series that promised players big-time payouts throughout. While not the first tournament numerically, EPT Online Event #3 ($5,200 NLHE, 8-Max, High Roller) was the first to reach the finish line and, in the end, it was David ‘MonkeyBausss’ Laka that became the answer to the trivia question “Who was the first EPT Online Champion?” Laka outlasted a talent-packed final table that included former #1-ranked pros Chris ‘ImDaNuts’ Oliver and Artem ‘veeea’ Vezhenkov as well as current #2-ranked player from Croatia Ivan ‘zufo16’ Zufic to lock up the $143,567 score. After a three-handed deal was made in EPT Online Event #4 ($530 NLHE), former PokerStars Team Online member Tatiana ‘Mysters_Y’ Barausova took home a trophy, surviving the field of 1139 runners and earning herself $74,951 in the process. The final table of EPT Online Event #6 ($10,300 NLHE, 8-Max, High Roller) was a who’s who of online poker. Belarusian crusher Mikita Badziakouski and Mathias Eibinger made a deal heads-up that saw both players take home just over $221,000 but it was Badziakouski who will receive the trophy. 2020 WSOP NLHE PPC Champ Christian Rudolph finished in third place on a final table that included October PLB winner Daniel ‘SmilleThHero’ Smiljkovic, Canada’s #1-ranked pro Mike ‘SirWatts’ Watson, Timothy ‘Tim0thee’ Adams, and current #1-ranked player in the world Conor ‘1_conor_b_1’ Beresford. Also at the final table of Event #6 was high-stakes pro Bert ‘girafganger7’ Stevens who finished in seventh place for $51,445. A good result to be sure, but it was the beginning of a few days that found him locking up not one, but two EPT Online titles. First, in EPT Online Event #8 ($2,100 NLHE, 8-Max) he struck a deal with Greece’s Alexandros ‘Pwndidi’ Theologis heads up which locked up a $87,984 payday and the trophy. Three days later he bested Michael ‘Imluckbox’ Addamo heads up in EPT Online Event #15 ($10,300 Turbo, 6-Max, High Roller) to take home another $186,238 score. EPT Online Event #10 ($25,000 Super High Roller) had 81 entries fighting over a piece of the $2,000,000 prize pool. Finnish pro Eelis ‘EEE27’ Parssinen denied the victory to likes of Christian Rudolph, Benjamin ‘bencb789’ Rolle, Joao Vieira, and Artur Martirosian and took home $539,819 for first, the largest prize outside of the Main Event. PokerStars popular 6+ Hold’em (aka Short Deck) was on display in EPT Online Event #13 ($10,300 6+ Hold’em, High Roller) when Canadian crusher Sam Greenwood topped the small field of 41 entries to add $177,599 to his more than $11.6 million in lifetime career online earnings. One of Brazil’s best and brightest online stars, Pedro ‘PaDiLhA SP’ Padilha blasted through the 818 entries of EPT Online Event #18 ($1,050 NLHE, Turbo) to capture the $138,358 first-place prize, a top-5 career score for the longtime grinder. In the final event of the series, former World Series of Poker final tablist Damian Salas used his last chance to pick up a six-figure score by winning EPT Online Event #20 ($1,050 NLHE Last Chance) for $117,475, the second-largest online win of his career. EPT Online Event Winners [table id=121 /] With the big buy-in tournaments of the EPT Online behind them, PokerStars next series caters to the other side of the poker pyramid. The MicroMillions series kicks off on November 19 and runs through November 29.