Better Late Than Never: Damian Salas Wins 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event for $2.25 Million

Posted on: January 4, 2021, 12:06h. 

Last updated on: January 4, 2021, 01:59h.

Damian Salas of Argentina defeated the USA’s Joseph Herbert heads up to win the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event Sunday evening in Las Vegas. The 46-year-old amateur player turned $300 into $2.55 million after qualifying for the event via an online satellite.

Damian Salas
Damian Salas, seen here, is no stranger to the WSOP final tables, and there was no WSOP stranger than this one. (Image: World Poker Tour)

A grueling six-hour heads-up match at the Rio All-Suites Casino that began as a war of attrition ended in fireworks.

They say you have to run good to win the Big One. Salas had clawed his way back after facing an 8:1 chip deficit. Now, on hand #172 with the blinds forcing the action, the Argentine called his opponent’s jam all-in, only to see his K-J needed help against Herbert’s A-Q.

Help duly arrived in the form of a king on the turn and river — cruelty for the American, and rapture for Salas.

WSOP Like No Other

This was the climax of the most unusual installment of poker’s biggest event, which had been shunted online and split asunder by the pandemic.

The WSOP Main Event usually attracts thousands from across the world, each paying $10,000 to compete for eye-watering prize pools. But a tournament that packed thousands of people into a room to pass chips back and forth to one another was never in the cards.

Instead, the competition was divided into two distinct online flights. The first for players in the US and those in the rest of the world — separated by US online gaming laws.

The two flights played out quietly last month. The international leg attracted 674 runners, while the US leg, which was only available to players physically located in Nevada or New Jersey, saw slightly more, 705.

It was a far cry from the 8,569 players who participated last year. But with a combined prize pool of over $13 million, this was still a big deal, especially for an online tournament.

The two fields were whittled down to two live final tables of nine, which played out mid-December in Las Vegas and Prague. Salas and Herbert were the last men standing from their respective flights.

The heads-up finale was scheduled to play out on December 30 but was postponed because Salas’ arrival in America was delayed by coronavirus travel restrictions.

Who is Damian Salas?

If this 46-year-old Argentine lawyer’s face looks familiar, it’s because he has been here before. Salas, from the city of Chascomús, made the final table of the 2017 WSOP Main Event. He finished seventh for $1.4 million.

Salas has cashed 31 times in WSOP events since 2009 and has gross lifetime live tournament earnings of $5.2 million. He is only the second South American to win the WSOP main event, after 2001 winner Carlos Mortensen, who was born in Ecuador, but partly grew up in Spain.

“Going into the championship, I felt all the energy and support from my family and friends in Argentina tonight, and that helped me,” Salas told reporters on Sunday night.