A poker pro on the verge of playing for game’s must coveted prize instead endured heartbreak after testing positive for COVID-19.
Upeshka De Silva qualified for the final table of the American leg of the World Series of Poker Main Event as one of the final nine players out of a field of 705 competing in the $10,000 buy-in event.
But the no-limit Texas Hold ’em final table started Monday without him.
De Silva confirms that he’s out
Following a report late Sunday from poker player and podcaster Joey Ingram that De Silva had been disqualified because of a positive COVID-19 test, De Silva confirmed the news on Twitter Monday.
“I tested negative on a nasal swab pcr test saturday the 26th, but positive on the official mouth swab pcr test at the rio on the 27th,” De Silva tweeted.
Without naming De Silva, a Caesars Entertainment spokesperson confirmed in a statement that a player had been disqualified due to “COVID precautions.”
“As a result of the COVID precautions implemented by the company to help protect the players and team members, one of the nine players will not be able to participate in the U.S. final table,” the statement read.
De Silva was the only player of the final nine not present at the table Monday.
Brutal bad beat for De Silva
De Silva was slated to start Monday with a short stack in eighth place out of the nine remaining players. He would have been the most experienced and accomplished player at the table as a three-time WSOP bracelet winner.
According to poker database Hendon Mob, De Silva has more than $3.1 million in lifetime poker earnings. He would have been a force to win the event despite his short stack.
COVID’s impact on poker
The player and prize pools this year are significantly diminished due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2019 Main Event saw 8,569 entries and a $10 million first prize paid to Hossein Ensan. Like other casino activities, live poker has suffered a big hit during the pandemic, with most of the nation’s poker rooms shuttering in 2020.
Poker has primarily moved underground or online with the WSOP hosting most of its 2020 bracelet events online instead of at the the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. This year’s Main Event was held via a modified format with separate tournaments for American and international players. The bulk of the American flight was held online before the final table commenced in person at the Rio on Monday.
Hebert will take on International Tournament champion Damian Salas with an additional $1 million and the Main Event bracelet on the line.
Some in the poker community suggested delaying the event until De Silva was medically cleared or to continue to hold the event online. The final table instead went on without him.
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