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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.”
When the United States leg of the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event reached the final table two weeks ago, Louisiana native Joseph Hebert was the chip leader. Having two weeks to prepare for the biggest moment of his poker career, Hebert admitted that the nerves got to him as he took his seat at the Rio on Monday night. "The pressure was overwhelming for sure. When I sat down I was uncomfortable for sure," Hebert said. Hebert didn't break under the pressure though and late Monday night he was the last player standing and was $1.5 million richer because of it. The day began with news that Upeshka De Silva had failed a COVID test and was disqualified from the final table and awarded a ninth place finish. That left just eight players vying for the $1.5 million first place prize and the opportunity to play International leg winner Damian Salas for the bracelet and additional $1 million in prize money. Gershon Distenfeld started the final table with the third smallest stack but lasted just six hands before being eliminated. Ron Jenkins raised to 375,000 from middle position with [poker card="qd"][poker card="qs"] before Distenfeld shoved for 1,430,000 from the cutoff with [poker card="kc"][poker card="jc"]. Jenkins called and sweated the [poker card="9h"][poker card="3s"][poker card="2h"][poker card="th"][poker card="5h"] runout to eliminate Distenfeld in eighth place. Distenfeld plans to donate his $125,885 winnings to charity. Seven-handed play went on for another 55 hands of play before the next elimination occurred. With blinds of 125,000/250,000, Shawn Stroke shoved his last 975,000 from TG+1 with [poker card="3d"][poker card="3s"], from his immediate left, Harrison Dobin moved all in over the top for 4,200,000 with [poker card="ah"][poker card="ks"], and Jenkins called all in for 3,280,000 with [poker card="qc"][poker card="qd"]. The [poker card="td"][poker card="2d"][poker card="2s"] flop kept Jenkins in front and neither the [poker card="th"] turn or [j] river changed anything and Stroke was eliminated in seventh. Down to just four big blinds, Dobin only got to see two more hands. From the button, Hebert raised to 500,000 with [poker card="kh"][poker card="2d"] and Dobin called off his last 750,000 from the big blind with [poker card="5d"][poker card="3h"]. The [poker card="kc"][poker card="9c"][poker card="2h"] flop left Dobin in dire straits before the [poker card="qc"] river sealed his fate. The [poker card="9s"] completed the board to send Dobin out in sixth. Hebert was responsible for the next elimination 11 hands later in a blind vs. blind situation. Tony Yuan moved all in for 2,830,000 from the small blind with [poker card="ah"][poker card="th"] and Hebert called with [poker card="4d"][poker card="4h"]. Yuan found no relief on the [poker card="5h"][poker card="3d"][poker card="3s"] flop and could only collect his things as the [poker card="7d"] turn and [poker card="9h"] river left Hebert to rake in the pot and bust Yuan in fifth place. Jenkins went back to work eliminating opponents 19 hands later. Action folded to Jenkins in the small blind and he moved all in with [poker card="as"][poker card="jd"] and Ryan Hagerty called all in from the big blind with [poker card="ah"][poker card="8d"]. The [poker card="js"][poker card="8s"][poker card="2h"] flop gave both players a pair but left Jenkins in front. Neither the turn or river card saved Hagerty from being eliminated in fourth place. Six hands later, the tournament entered the heads-up portion of play after Hebert sent another player to the rail. Hebert opened to 600,000 from the button with [poker card="ac"][poker card="ah"] and Michael Cannon responded by moving all in from the small blind for 4,800,000 with [poker card="kc"][poker card="qd"] and Hebert snap-called. Hebert was well in front and stayed there as the [poker card="ts"][poker card="6s"][poker card="5d"] didn't gave Cannon any real extra outs and he was eliminated in third. Hebert held a 2-1 chip lead when heads-up play began and it took just one single hand for him toe garner all of the chips in play. From the button, Hebert raised to 700,000 with [poker card="ac"][poker card="qs"] before Jenkins raised to 2,300,000 with [poker card="qc"][poker card="qd"]. Hebert clicked back all in and Jenkins called with his tournament life on the line. The [poker card="ad"][poker card="kd"][poker card="7c"] flop gave Hebert top pair and left Jenkins hoping for running straight or flush cards or the case queen. The [poker card="4h"] turn meant only one card in the deck could save Jenkins and the [poker card="8c"] river was not it. Hebert eliminated Jenkins in second place and banked the $1,553,256 score while Jenkins had to settle for runner-up status and $1,002,340. Hebert now waits for Salas, winner of the international leg of the tournament, to arrive from Argentina to play him heads-up for the bracelet and an additional $1 million. Salas was apparently denied entry to the United States this week after traveling to Europe in the last 15 days. Hebert plans on spending the next few days learning as much as he can about the former November Niner in preparation for their match. "I really don't much about him. I need to read up on him a little bit more. I was trying to focus on this final table first," Hebert said. "I'm super excited and I can't wait to face him." The finale is expected to be played next Sunday. Final Table Payouts Joseph Hebert - $1,553,256 Ron Jenkins - $1,002,340 Michael Cannon - $529,258 Ryan Hagerty - $387,130 Tony Yuan - $286,963 Harrison Dobin - $215,222 Shawn Stroke - $163,786 Gershon Distenfeld - $125,885 Upeshka De Silva - $98,813
The 71 players who survived Day 1 of the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event on WSOP.com returned to the tables on Monday to battle for a seat at the December 28 televised live final table and a shot at the $1,553,256 first-place prize. The Final Nine After roughly seven hours of play, only nine players remained with Louisiana’s Joseph Hebert taking a commanding chip lead into the final table. Hebert was involved in a number of key eliminations down the stretch and ended the day with 13,052,534 in chips, more than 2.5 times anyone else in the field. New York native Shawn Stroke wrapped up the day sitting in second with 5,252,000 in chips, followed closely by New Jersey's Ryan Hagerty in third with 5,071,572. Ye Yuan (4,829,459), Michael Cannon (4,408,847), and Gershon Distenfeld (3,475,481) make up the middle of the pack. Southern California's Ron Jenkins (2,476,746, Day 1 chip leader Upeshka De Silva (2,151,969) and short stack Harrison Dobin (1,581,392) complete the final table. Final Table Chip Counts [table id=145 /] Early Eliminations It didn’t take long for the bustouts to begin as mere moments after the start of Day 2 one of the shortest stacks in the field, Julian Parmann, hit the rail at the hands of Dan Zack after Parmann’s [poker card="js"][poker card="ts"] couldn’t hold against Zack’s [poker card="ac"][poker card="kh"] after the [poker card="th"][poker card="4h"][poker card="3s"] flop. The [poker card="3c"] turn looked good for Parmann but the [poker card="ks"] on the river helped break the dam on the flood of eliminations that occurred before the final table. Parmann wasn’t the only player to exit in the early going as he was joined by the likes of Ryan Laplante, Barry Hutter, and Farid Jattin, all of whom turned their $10K into an $18,274 payday. Of course, the hits kept coming in the first half of the day as the dream of taking down the Main Event ended for some of the most notable names in the field. Nick Schulman (55th, $20,304), Aram Zobian (52nd, $22,334), Darren Elias (50th, $22,334), 2013 WSOP Champ Ryan Riess (47th, $22,334), and Freddy Deeb (46th, $22,334) were among those whose Day 2 was cut short. Big Name Bustouts Bracelet winners fell in bunches at the half-way point. After three-time WSOP bracelet winner Scott Seiver busted in 39th place for $25,718, Mohsin Charania (35th, $29,779), Joseph Cheong (33rd, $29,779), and Jason Somerville (32nd, $29,779) all exited in short order as well. Taylor Von Kriegenbergh (23rd), Maria Ho (22nd), and Jared Griener (20th) were among those who picked up a $35,194 payday after being eliminated with three tables left. March To The Final Table With just two tables remaining, half of the field still needed to go broke before the final nine could celebrate. Unfortunately for WSOP bracelet winner Sean Swingruber, he would not be among them. After Stroke and Yaun flat called, Swingruber shoved his short stack from the small blind with [poker card="as"][poker card="tc"]. Stroke reshoved his stack holding [poker card="kh"][poker card="ks"] and Yuan, who had everyone covered, called with his [poker card="ac"][poker card="kc"]. The board ran out [poker card="9h"][poker card="8d"][poker card="4c"][poker card="3d"][poker card="js"] to give the pot to Stroke and sent Swingruber home in 18th place. Moments later Michael Hahn made his move by open-shoving his ten big blind stack with [poker card="ah"][poker card="6h"]. Dan Zack made the call from the small blind with [poker card="as"][poker card="qs"] and then Clayton Maguire, who had both covered, three-bet shoved holding [poker card="ac"][poker card="kc"]. Maguire hit his king on the [poker card="kd"][poker card="js"][poker card="5s"] flop, but the [poker card="th"] let Zack hit his gutshot straight. Hahn was drawing dead to the [poker card="9d"] river and he fell in 17th place. After Distenfeld opened, Keith Dovovan three-bet his final ten big blinds holding [poker card="as"][poker card="4s"] only to get called by Yuan in the big blind who has [poker card="ad"][poker card="qc"]. The board came [poker card="ad"][poker card="9d"][poker card="6h"][poker card="9s"][poker card="8d"] allowing Yaun’s kicked to play and sending Donovan home in 16th place. It was a rough exit for Rody Collazo who got his stack in the middle with [poker card="jd"][poker card="jc"] against Hebert and his [poker card="td"][poker card="ts"]. The [poker card="8s"][poker card="4h"][poker card="3c"] flop looked good for Collazo, but after Hebert spiked the [poker card="tc"] on the turn, Collazo was down to two outs. The [poker card="9h"] was not one of them and Collazo left in 15th place. A huge hand when down after Stephen Graner raised nearly his entire stack holding [poker card="ad"][poker card="td"] only to be jammed on by Maguire in the small blind with [poker card="as"][poker card="jd"]. Then Hebert, the largest stack of the three, re-jammed over the top with [poker card="ac"][poker card="kh"]. After Graner put the rest of his stack in, the three watched a board of [poker card="kd"][poker card="9h"][poker card="7s"][poker card="4c"][poker card="8d"] run out. Hebert’s big slick won the pot and eliminated both Graner (14th) and Maguire (13th) in one stroke. Hebert wasn’t anywhere near finished. Next, he got involved in a hand with Martin Zamani where Herbert raised from early position with [poker card="ks"][poker card="jh"] and Zamani defended his big blind with [poker card="js"][poker card="8h"]. The flop came [poker card="tc"][poker card="ts"][poker card="9c"] and Zamani checked it over to Hebert who put in a bet. Zamani then check-raised all-in, which Hebert called.The turn came [poker card="ah"] and the river was the [poker card="6h"]. Both players missed, but Hebert’s ace-king high hand was good enough to take Zamani out in 12th place. Hebert then mixed it up with WSOP bracelet winner Dan Zack. After Zack put in a raise with the [poker card="kd"][poker card="9d"], Hebert flat called holding the [poker card="ks"][poker card="kh"]. The [poker card="kc"][poker card="9c"][poker card="3c"] flop meant there was going to be plenty of action. Zack checked his two pair and Hebert put in a bet with his top set, which Zack called. Zack checked the [poker card="jd"] turn and Hebert shoved, putting Zack to the test for all his chips. Zack made the call, which ended his tournament in 11th place before the [poker card="qh"] hit the river. With just 10 players left, Anthony Spinella was sitting on just two big blinds. He moved all in from the button with [poker card="kd"][poker card="jc"] and Stroke put in a three-bet with [poker card="as"][poker card="8c"], allowing for the pot to be heads up. The [poker card="ad"][poker card="ts"][poker card="5c"] flop put Stroke in the lead, but gave Spinella outs to the gutshot straight. The [poker card="js"] produced a few more outs for the WSOP Online bracelet winner, but the [poker card="5s"] was not one of them and Anthony Spinella finished in 10th place, bubbling the final table of the 2020 WSOP Main Event. Payouts 18-10 [table id=146 /] Now the final nine have two weeks to prepare, and quarantine, in preparation for the live final table that will take place at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino on December 28 where one of them will not just earn the over $1.55 million first-place prize but a date to battle the international Main Event winner in a $1 million heads-up contest that will determine who the history books will recognize at the 2020 WSOP Main Event champion. Final Table Payouts [table id=143 /]