To call the conclusion of the 2020 World Series of Poker (WSOP) an epic marathon would be an understatement. The heads-up finale between Damian Salas and Joseph Hebert, sporting an 888poker patch, lasted a lengthy 173 hands!
Both players put themselves in a position to win the bracelet, $1 million top prize, and title of Main Event champion.
Salas had won the WSOP international leg. He topped a 674-player field to win a $1,550,969 top prize. Meanwhile, Hebert bested a 705-player field to win the WSOP.com domestic portion. He qualified for which via a $300 satellite, good for a $1,553,256 payday.
Per the online-live hybrid format, the winners of each tournament were slated to battle heads-up on December 30. The winner would walk away with –
- An added seven-figure prize
- A shiny gold bracelet
- The title of 2020 WSOP Main Event champion
That match was ultimately postponed until January 3 due to a travel delay related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
2020 WSOP Main Event Early Action
Eventually, both players made it to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino to play heads-up. Both players started with 500,000 in chips (1,000 big blinds in play at the start) and played 20-minute levels.
After nearly six hours of play, the blinds were so high that there were only 20 big blinds in play between both players!
As a result, things were shallow, and every hand had massive implications. Ultimately, Salas defeated Hebert to become world champ.
But the latter certainly gave a valiant effort and represented 888poker with great poise, solid play, and a steadfast determination to make his mother proud.
It Was All For Linda!
For those who don’t know, Hebert, was playing in his mother’s memory after she had passed away unexpectedly over the summer. His last communication with his mom, Linda, was that he hoped to one day win a bracelet.
Her response was that she was hoping and praying for him, and that “What will be, will be.”
While a bracelet wasn’t in the cards this time, there’s no doubt Hebert’s mother would’ve been extremely proud. He did it #ForLinda, and in many ways he’s a champion in his own right.
Here’s a look at four of the most influential hands Hebert played during his heads-up match against Salas.
Hand #71 – Hebert Takes Big Lead
On Hand #71, which took place in Level 8 (4,000/8,000), Hebert raised to 20,000 and Salas called to see a K♥Q♥K♠ flop. Salas checked and Hebert bet 10,000.
Salas then woke up with a check-raise to 28,000. Hebert just called to bring about the 5♦ on the turn.
Salas bet 52,000, Hebert called, and the 7♣ completed the board on the river. Salas thought for a bit before betting 139,000 and Hebert called with the K♦4♦ for trip kings.
It was good as Salas had a queen for two pair. With that, Hebert pulled out to a more than 3:1 chip lead.
Hand #83 – First All-In and a Call
Hebert would go on to extend that to a nearly 9:1 lead before the first all-in pot on Hand #83, which took place in Level 9 (5,000/10,000).
Salas was down to just 102,000 and jammed holding the A♦2♣ and Hebert called with the K♦2♣.
Salas was ahead but Hebert held two live cards. Unfortunately for him, and much to the delight of Salas, the board ran out J♦A♥4♠6♣4♣ to give the Argentinean the double.
Salas proceeded to score another double not long after, before setting about evening the stacks.
Hand #170 – We Have a Kicker Problem
Salas took the lead on Hand #136, and with the blinds so high, things got swingy. Hebert doubled with ace-seven against king-queen on Hand #153 to retake the lead, which would change hands several times.
On Hand #170, which took place in Level 15 (25,000/50,000), Salas was down to 390,000. He moved all-in, which Hebert called.
The latter had the A♠8♦ but he had a kicker problem as the former rolled over the A♥10♦. The board ran out a lowly 5♦6♠5♣5♠3♥ and the kicker played to give Salas a near 4:1 lead.
Hebert doubled back to even the very next hand, but two hands later it was all over.
Hand #173 – The Final Hand
In Level 15 (25,000/50,000), Hebert jammed for 390,000 holding the A♦Q♠ and Salas called with the K♦J♠. Hebert got it in good, but he fell behind when the 5♣K♠8♠ flop paired Salas.
The running 5♦ turn and K♣ river improved Salas to a full house, and Hebert’s incredible run came to an end.
He was disappointed not to take home the bracelet, not to mention another seven-figure score. But Hebert was grateful for the life-changing experience.
The family man from Louisiana certainly made a lasting impression in 2020
We’re sure we haven’t seen the last of him in the poker world.