Weekly Poker Update: December 21, 2020

Weekly Poker Update Text and Stoyan Madanzhiev

The World Series of Poker has proven quite resilient in this difficult year of 2020. When it became clear that live events with large groups of people would be difficult to imagine, there was concern that there might not be a WSOP at all. An online poker version of the event helped to disavow that notion and drew an impressive number of players to compete for bracelets, including one handed out for an online Main Event.

World Series of Poker Dissapoints Some

But that didn’t quite satisfy some World Series of Poker enthusiasts, including those who felt that the online Main Event didn’t capture the true spirit of the tournament. For one, it allowed players to buy back in after being eliminated, something that doesn’t happen in the typical WSOP Main Event. On top of that, there was no live element to it, and it didn’t look like that could happen considering health concerns.

Little did we know that the World Series of Poker had something in store for us. That turned out to be a hybrid Main Event format, one that would indeed satisfy those who posed the aforementioned complaints. First of all, there would be no buybacks, which would mean that the ultimate winner would have to stay afloat all the way through the event.

WSOP 2020 Online Gold Bracelet

In addition, the hybrid format meant that, after preliminary flights online, the Main Event final tables would be held by the last players standing in a live format. And no, the fact that we used the plural “tables” is not a misprint. That’s because the WSOP decided to split these Main Events into international and United States events.

This past week saw significant process made in both of the Main Event tourneys. The international Main Event winner was crowned. And the United States finished up its preliminary flights and now have their own final table set.

International Poker Final

To recap the action, we first have to head out to the Czech Republic, which is where the international final took place this past week. While nine players officially made the final group, only eight appeared at King’s Casino in Rozvadov to close it out. Peiyuan Sun, who made the final group after the preliminaries online, decided not to make the trip due to concerns about travel restrictions.

The remaining eight took to the final table to play Texas Hold’em , facing each other in person instead of digitally through a computer screen. Brunno Botteon headed into the final table with the chip lead. But the Brazilian would have to take a back seat on this day to Damian Salas of Argentina.

Pro Poker Player Damian Salas

Salas started off the final table in the third position. But by eliminating a pair of all-in challenges early on in the action, he quickly soared to the top of the leaderboard. When the field had been narrowed down to four, Salas had tripled the chip total of everybody else in the field.

After knocking out third-place finish Marcel Ruivo, all that stood between Salas and the title was Botteon, still hanging on but at a chip disadvantage. After briefly taking the lead back, Botteon found Salas pulling further and further away. Botteon’s desperation bluff on the final hand was called, and Salas was there to call it and finish it off for the title.

Salas’ win earned him over $1.5 million. Botteon didn’t do too badly himself, pocketing just over a million. Even eighth-place finisher Hannes Speiser walked away with over six figures in earnings, proving that it was a profitable final table indeed.

US Final Poker Table Set

While Salas was ruling over all on the international side of things, the United States part of the World Series of Poker Main Event was just getting underway. 704 entries ponied up the $10,000 buy-in amount. The turnout had to be reassuring to event organizers while silencing any doubters about how players would respond to it on the heels of the online-only events held at the end of the summer.

The United States players had to be located in either New Jersey or Nevada to take part. When the dust had cleared, nine players were still standing. They’ll move on to the final table, which comes up on Monday, December 28th at The Rio in Las Vegas.

Rio Casino in Las Vegas

When they do reconvene, it will be Joseph Hebert in the catbird’s seat. Hebert, who has enjoyed some tournament success in the past, is still somewhat of a surprise in terms of potential chip leaders. His lead is a sold one as well, as he has two-and-a-half times as many chips as second-place Shawn Stroke.

Eighth-place Upeshka De Silva is probably the biggest name out of the remaining players. In particular, he has been effective in playing Texas Hold’em no-limit events. But he comes in knowing that he has to climb way up the leaderboard to have a shot at winning it all.

Just as was the case with the international portion, there is some serious money on the line for the finals of the American event. The winner will be looking at purse winnings of over $1.5 million. It will be interesting to see if any of the guys who are bit more inexperienced players in that last nine can make a dent on Hebert’s lead.

There is still work to be completed to finally put this year’s World Series of Poker action to bed. After the US champ is crowned, there will be a head-to-head battle between Salas, the international winner, and whoever emerges out of the American group. The Rio will also host that head-to-head battle, which will lead to another $1 million in purse doled out.

It’s all happening pretty fast now, and a few people are going to get much richer in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. There has been a lot of excitement generated by this World Series of Poker hybrid, which certainly came into the picture when it seemed like chances were slim of it still taking place.

Better late than never, as they say! Or, in this case, better to have several WSOP Main Events than none at all.