Joseph Hebert Wins US 2020 WSOP Main Event in Vegas

The second half of the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event has a champion!

On December 15, the 2020 WSOP Main Event found its international winner at King’s Casino in the Czech Republic. That tournament started on GGPoker and ended with a live final table and Damian Salas in the winner’s circle.

The United States portion of the Main Event started a couple of weeks ago on WSOP.com. They played to a final table and invited the nine finalists to Las Vegas to play for the win. Eight of them played, and one player with a particularly touching story became the other 2020 WSOP Main Event champion.

US Players in Two States

The American version of the WSOP 2020 Main Event began on WSOP.com. Players had to be located in New Jersey or Nevada to play. And they turned out in record numbers on Sunday, December 13:

  • 705 total players
  • $6,768,000 prize pool
  • 107 paid players
  • $14,890 minimum payout

They played down into the money and stopped with 71 players remaining. Upeshka De Silva was the chip leader. Those competitors returned to the tables on Monday, December 14 to play for final table spots.

Some of the bigger names in poker who didn’t make it to the final table were Nick Schulman, Galen Hall, Darren Elias, Ryan Reiss, Freddy Deeb, Scott Seiver, Joseph Cheong, and Maria Ho. And when Anthony Spinella busted in tenth place for $77,832, action stopped.

The nine final table players, in order of chip counts, were:

  • Joseph Hebert = 13,052,534 chips
  • Shawn Stroke = 5,252,000 chips
  • Ryan Hagerty = 5,071,572 chips
  • Ye “Tony” Yuan = 4,829,459
  • Michael Cannon = 4,408,847
  • Gerson Distenfeld = 3,475,481
  • Ron Jenkins = 2,476,746
  • Upeshka De Silva = 2,151,969
  • Harrison Dobin = 1,581,392

Final Table of Eight?

Nine players did make the final table, but one player tested positive for Covid-19 in the days leading up to the trip to Las Vegas. Despite having quarantined, De Silva had to report the positive test. And according to the coronavirus disclaimer that accompanied the original tournament announcement, it meant that De Silva – the player with three WSOP bracelets – was disqualified from the final table.

He had to accept ninth-place money.

The other eight players gathered in a ballroom at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. It was set up with ESPN cameras and lights, complete with a crew to record it all for television. (It is unclear when the episodes will air.)

After a quick “shuffle up and deal,” action began and escalated quickly. Dobin doubled through Distenfeld, and the latter then moved all-in. Jenkins eliminated him in eighth place, and Distenfeld pledged to donate all of his final table winnings to a group of charities.

Stroke couldn’t keep the momentum and exited in seventh place. Dobin tried to double again, but Hebert pushed him out in sixth place. Yuan did double through Hebert, but the latter then ousted Yuan in fifth place. Hagerty made some moves, but the final one resulted in an exit, courtesy of Jenkins.

Three-handed play didn’t last long. Cannon pushed his short stack all-in, but Hebert and his pocket aces sent him out in third place with a consolation prize that exceeded $500K.

Heads-up play began with Hebert holding 26.8 million chips and Jenkins looking down at 13.3 million.

That match lasted all of one hand, which pitted Jenkins’ pocket queens against the A-Q of Hebert. With an ace on the flop, Jenkins settled for second place.

Hebert, a 38-year-old poker pro and part-time waiter from Louisiana, won the tournament. He did so for his mother, Linda, who had supported his career and died unexpectedly of a pulmonary embolism this summer. Hebert was emotional upon his victory but also a gracious winner, happy to have his fiancée and eight-year-old son nearby, not to mention winning more than $1.5 million.

  • 1st place: Joseph Hebert ($1,553,256)
  • 2nd place: Ron Jenkins ($1,002,340)
  • 3rd place: Michael Cannon ($529,258)
  • 4th place: Ryan Hagerty ($387,130)
  • 5th place: Tony Yuan ($286,963)
  • 6th place: Harrison Dobin ($215,222)
  • 7th place: Shawn Stroke ($163,786)
  • 8th place: Gershon Distenfeld ($125,885)
  • 9th place: Upeshka De Silva ($98,813)

New Date for Heads-Up Finale

There is an international winner and a US-based winner. The next and final step in the journey to finding a 2020 WSOP Main Event champion is for them to battle it out on the felt.

The original plan was for Salas and Hebert to compete for the $1 million – offered up by GGPoker and the WSOP – and the special World Championship gold bracelet on December 30.

However, Salas experienced difficulties in gaining approval to enter the United States from Argentina. Codigo Poker, a Latin American media outlet, reported that the US prohibited Salas from entering the country until he had been out of Europe for at least 15 days. (Europe is a notable hotspot for Covid-19 and the general location of one of the new strains of the virus.)

Salas had not known about the new rules for visiting the US, nor did the WSOP. Luckily, Salas found out about the delay before boarding his first flight, one in a journey of more than 24 hours to arrive in Las Vegas. The WSOP provided an exception certificate for Salas and several friends and family members to be in the US, but that didn’t override the 15-day rule.

At this point, Salas seems to be on schedule to fly to the US on the first day of 2021. The new date for the heads-up match against Hebert is now January 3 at 5pm PST.

PokerNews will provide live updates of the action. There will be no livestream, as ESPN will film it for a future broadcast.

 

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen

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