Finished what he started
With sincerest apologies to Sir Paul McCartney, the long and winding road has finally come to an end, as Damian Salas won the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event over the weekend. What began online culminated Sunday with a heads-up match between Argentina’s Salas and the Louisiana’s Joseph Hebert for both the Main Event bracelet and an extra $1 million in prize money.
Not only does the win cement Salas in the WSOP record books as part of the elite Main Event champion fraternity, he is also one of the few people to make multiple Main Event final tables, having finished seventh in 2017. Granted, this tournament was different than those of years’ past, but I think we can count this is as an official final table.
Salas is also the first player from a Latin American country to take down poker’s most coveted title.
Brutal heads-up slog
It is probably a good thing that Salas and Hebert only had to play heads-up Sunday, rather than build to that point the same day, as their battle was one of the longest one-on-one matches in World Series of Poker history, with the two men going back and forth for 173 hands. The record is 199 hands, set by John Cynn and Tony Miles in 2018.
“Joseph was a very hard opponent, and he played really well,” Salas said in his post-game interview. “In a few instances, he was about to win, it was a real fight and he never slowed down. Going into the championship, I felt all the energy and support from my family and friends in Argentina tonight, and that helped me.”
As we have discussed several times before – and as my friend, Earl Burton has lamented – the 2020 Main Event was an odd hybrid online/live tournament (I almost said “this year’s Main Event,” but we’re in 2021 now, aren’t we?). Salas played in the “International Bracket,” which began in late November/early December on GGPoker.com. He won the bracket’s live final table at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic to advance to the heads-up finale at the Rio in Las Vegas.
Similarly, Joseph Hebert won the “US Bracket” on WSOP.com, just for players located in Nevada and New Jersey. He won the live final table at the Rio last week.
The two players were supposed to meet on Wednesday, December 30, but Salas’s coronavirus travel exemption was rejected by officials in both Miami and Dallas, even though he had tested negative for COVID-19, preventing him from flying into the United States on time. Thus, the heads-up match was moved to January 3.
Both players won about $1.55 million for triumphing in their respective brackets. Salas then won an additional $1 million for the heads-up victory.
In all, 1,379 players paid the $10,000 entry fee for the Main Event, a far cry from fields of years’ past, but 2020 was a strange year. The prize pool was $13.238 million plus the extra million. Everything was split fairly evenly between the two brackets, with WSOP.com fielding 31 more players and the associated additional prize pool than did GGPoker.com.