On Monday night, the 2020 World Series of Poker (WSOP) $10,000 Main Event domestic tournament – which played its first two days on WSOP.com – saw the final eight players of a 705-player field gather at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to play down to a winner.
Even before play began, three-time bracelet winner Upeshka De Silva was deemed ineligible to proceed with participation after reportedly testing positive for COVID-19 (published rules stated that any player who tested positive would be disqualified and receive ninth-place money of $98,813).
The other eight players battled it out for a $1,553,256 top prize and the opportunity to compete for an additional $1 million and the gold bracelet in a heads-up showdown against Damian Salas, the winner of the GGPoker international portion of the WSOP.
After approximately four hours of play, Louisiana’s Joseph Hebert, who began the final table as a big chip leader, came out on top to win the tournament for $1,553,256, the trophy, and a heads-up shot at the bracelet and another seven-figure score.
Not too shabby for a man who got in via a $300 satellite on WSOP.com.
"I was just really confident," Hebert said. "I was excited to play and it was just a battle. It wasn't easy, I tell ya that much. The guys played great. It was just a battle the whole way through."
2020 WSOP Main Event WSOP.com Final Table Results
|5||Ye “Tony” Yuan||$286,963|
|9||Upeshka De Silva||$98,813|
He’s Doing It #ForLinda
The 38-year-old Hebert, who had $667,664 in lifetime earnings prior to the win according to The Hendon Mob, had been vocal that he was playing the tournament for his mother, Linda, who died over the summer following a pulmonary embolism.
He explained: “I texted her, ‘Man, one day I hope I can win a bracelet. It’s something I always dreamed of and I just don’t know how many more chances I’m going to have to do that.’ She texted me back and said, ‘I keep hoping and praying that what will be, will be. Things will work out.’ That was our last text, she passed away three days later.”
An emotional Hebert came to tears after the final card hit the felt.
"I really felt like I was dreaming," he said. "And I thought about my mom, and I know that she was here and this was for her. She would be so excited to see it, so I'm just so happy I got it for her."
Final Table Action
Hebert didn't come out firing too hard despite his big lead, and he admitted he had an adjustment period to getting back to live poker, particularly when the first stages of this tournament had been played online.
"I'm really not that great in front of cameras," he said. "It was really tough to actually get into the environment and play. It took me awhile to get used to the chips, the lights, the players, everything. It was an experience I'll remember forever."
Action got underway at the 75,000/150,000/150,000 blind level and it only took six hands for the first player to fall. First, the short-stacked Harrison Dobin doubled up with queens against the tens of Gershon Distenfeld. The very next hand, the latter three-bet jammed with king-ten suited only to see the initial raiser, Ron Jenkins, call with queens of his own. The ladies held once again and that was all she wrote for Distenfeld, who planned to donate the $125,885 he received for eighth place to charity.
It took 55 more hands until the next elimination. That is when Shawn Stroke, who began the final table second in chips but never got anything going, got his short stack in with pocket threes against both queens and ace-king. The ladies of Jenkins held and Stroke was ousted in seventh place for $163,786.
Dobin, who had the ace-king in the above hand, was left short and bowed out just two hands later after Hebert had raised the small blind. Dobin three-bet what little he had left holding five-three and failed to get there against Hebert, who called with king-deuce.
Not long after, Wisconsin’s Tony Yuan exited in fifth place after jamming his short stack from the small blind with ace-ten only to have Hebert wake up with two red fours in the big. The small pocket pair held and Yuan had to settle for $286,963 in prize money.
New Jersey’s Ryan Hagerty was the next to fall running ace-eight into the ace-jack of Jenkins, and six hands later his good friend Michael Cannon followed him out the door when he three-bet jammed king-queen smack dab into Hebert’s aces.
Hebert took a 2-to-1 chip lead into heads-up play against Jenkins, but despite the deep stacks, it took just one hand for Hebert to close it out. It happened after Hebert four-bet jammed with ace-queen only to have Jenkins call off with pocket queens. An ace spiked on the flop and Jenkins exited in second place, albeit as a poker millionaire himself thanks to the $1,002,340 in prize money that awaited him.
"The gentleman had been raising a lot and three-betting a lot, so I went with it," Hebert explained. "It was definitely my mom [that brought the ace]. Hashtag for Linda. I know it was."
Heads-Up Match With Salas to take Place Jan. 3
Hebert will now rest for a few days before going heads-up against Salas for the bracelet and an additional $1 million prize. He's already earned quite a windfall for a part-time waiter, but he said even the potential for more than $2.5 million in winnings won't be enough to peel him away from the restaurant completely.
"I'll definitely go back and tell my customers hi because I love that place," he said. "I've been there for 20 years off and on, and I wouldn't change that for the world. I do wanna give a shoutout to the restaurant, The Galley Seafood in Metairie, Louisiana."
Hebert said he's aware of the reported delay in the match with Salas, originally scheduled for Dec. 30. In the mean time, his fiance and son are in town, so he can at least enjoy the victory with them.
PokerNews will bring updates from Hebert vs. Salas on Sunday, Jan. 3 at 5 p.m. PST, when the overall champion of the 2020 WSOP Main Event is crowned.