Despite some bumps along the way, the 51st World Series of Poker $10,000 Main Event wrapped up on Sunday at the Rio in Las Vegas. After some major changes to the event that included initially playing online, Damian Salas claimed the title and championship bracelet.
A native of Bueno Aires, Argentina, emerged as international champion on GGPoker. He then battled WSOP.com US champion Joseph Hebert of Metairie, Louisiana, on Sunday.
Along with the title and bracelet, Salas won an additional $1 million courtesy of Caesars Entertainment and GGPoker. The heads-up duel capped a unique Main Event in a quite a unique year.
Another WSOP Main Event final table
No stranger to poker success, Salas made his second trip to a Main Event final table. In 2017, the 45-year-old finished seventh for $1.4 million but now has an even bigger finish.
Getting there wasn’t easy. Salas and Hebert battled back and forth for almost six hours over 173 hands. The final hand saw Salas call Hebert’s all-in before the flop with King-Jack against Ace-Queen.
Salas flopped a pair of Kings to take the lead. The turn card was no help to Hebert, and the river card sealed the deal with another king to solidify Salas’ victory. Afterward, the new champion complimented his opponent’s play.
“Joseph was a very hard opponent, and he played really well,” Salas said. “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.”
Coming into the heads-up match, Salas said he didn’t go through any special preparation. A lawyer by trade, he’s also a poker regular and said he wasn’t feeling too much pressure coming into the duel.
“I take every challenge like a new opportunity and to enjoy this poker passion that I have,” he said.
Salas said winning his first bracelet would be a dream come true. He now has a version of the title that no other Main Event champion can claim. That includes a shiny diamond and gold encrusted WSOP bracelet.
The road to the Main Event bracelet
With his second final table appearance, Salas finds himself in elite company. He’s one of only a few players to ever make it to the final table more than once. Salas also becomes the first Latin American champion.
Despite the winnings, Salas remains passionate about his day job practicing law and has no plans to quit. A family man, he posed for photos afterward with the championship bracelet and a homemade version his daughter created.
Salas won GGPoker’s international Main Event leg after defeating Brazil’s Brunno Botteon heads-up at King’s Casino in Czech Republic.
The journey for Salas’ counterpart was no easy feat. The 38-year-old Hebert dominated the Main Event’s domestic leg in chip count from start to finish. He earned $1.55 million after defeating runner-up Ron Jenkins at the live final table on Dec. 28.
Hebert has been a long-time grinder mostly in smaller stakes, regional tournaments. He won a WSOP.com $300 satellite to earn his Main Event seat.
“Both these men are champions in their own right and were a pleasure to host for this unique match,” executive director Ty Stewart said. “We thank everyone who participated in this chapter of WSOP history and can’t wait to see you in Las Vegas later this year.”
ESPN is expected to air full coverage of the Main Event in February.
Inside the numbers
Here’s a complete look at the Main Event numbers:
- Entries – 1,379
- Prize pool – $13.2 million plus an extra $1 million for the heads-up match
- Entries at WSOP.com – 705
- Prize pool at WSOP.com – $6.8 million
- Entries at GGPoker – 674
- Prize pool at GGPoker – $6.5 million