On Monday afternoon, the World Series of Poker played out the final table of the domestic half of its unusual $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em World Championship, aka the WSOP Main Event.
After just under 100 hands, Louisiana player Joseph Hebert emerged as the winner.
Hebert earned a tidy reward with a first prize of $1,553,256. He also claimed a spot in next week’s heads-up finale against Damian Salas of Argentina, winner of the international half of the event.
The winner of their duel will pocket another $1 million and the title of WSOP Main Event World Champion.
Hebert dominates rapid final table at the Rio
The 38-year-old from Metairie, near New Orleans, dedicated the win to his mother, Linda, who passed away in September.
His plans include buying a new car for his father and a pet bird for his son. He also intends to return to the Galley Seafood Restaurant, where he has worked in the past for a celebration.
“This is a life-changing experience,” Hebert said afterward. “It feels like a dream.”
Hebert outlasted a 705-player field to earn the victory. The first part of the tournament took place in mid-December via WSOP.com, which was accessible only in Nevada and New Jersey. After two days of action online, just nine players remained. Those nine received invitations to the Rio in Las Vegas to play an in-person final table with an ESPN crew taping the action for presentation at a later date.
One of the final nine, three-time WSOP bracelet winner Upeshka De Silva, was ruled ineligible to participate Monday after testing positive for COVID-19. De Silva was awarded ninth-place prize money. The final table went quickly, finishing in a little over four hours.
Hebert enjoyed a large chip lead to start the final table, with over twice the stack of his nearest competitor.
He continued to pile up chips while knocking out competitors as the field whittled from eight players to three. Then, after using pocket aces to knock out Michael Cannon of Massachusetts and his king-queen, Hebert enjoyed a 2-to-1 chip advantage over Ron Jenkins of California to start heads-up play.
As it happened, heads-up lasted only a single hand. Hebert four-bet shoved with ace-queen, and Jenkins called all-in with pocket queens. An ace flopped, and Hebert’s better pair held through the turn and river to give him the title.
Hebert to face Salas in to determine WSOP Main Event champ
A similar scenario played out for the international half of the tournament. In early December, players gathered online at GGPoker, the global online poker site available in many countries outside the US.
From a field of 674 players, the final nine received invites to play a live final table at King’s Resort in Rozvadov, Czech Republic. There, too, one of those who made the final table did not participate. China’s Peiyun Sun decided against making the trip to Rozvadov. Like De Silva, Sun won ninth-place money.
Poker pro Damian Salas made a WSOP Main Event final table once before, in 2017, when he finished seventh for a $1.425 million cash prize. On Dec. 15, Salas won the live final table by defeating Brazilian Brunno Botteon heads-up. Like Hebert, Salas earned just over $1.55 million for winning the international title.
Heads-up showdown for Main Event world title
The heads-up finale will also take place at the Rio and will be taped for a later broadcast.
Originally scheduled for Dec. 30, the showdown was delayed until Jan. 3 as a result of “unforeseen travel complications presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The winner will win an extra $1 million added to the prize pool by WSOP and GGPoker. In addition, the winner also earns the title of “2020 WSOP Main Event World Champion.”
That came as news to Stoyan Madanzhiev, the Bulgarian player who in September won a 5,802-entry, $5,000 NLHE tournament on GGPoker that had also been titled the “WSOP Main Event.” Madanzhiev earned more than $3.9 million and a bracelet for his win.