Better late than never, eh? The hybrid version of the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event came to fruition late into the fall of 2020. The regular 2020 WSOP, which was expanded to 101 bracelet events, had been postponed and pushed back to the fall when the pandemic hit earlier in 2020. The suits running the WSOP hoped the public health situation would improve but during the summer they decided to move the WSOP online and host 85 bracelet events by letting Americans play bracelet events at WSOP.com and non-Americans got a shot at winning bling at GGPoker. The summer passed and the WOP hosted a successful calendar of online events, including a "Main Event" that wasn't actually the real Main Event because at the end of the fall, the WSOP determined they would host a Main Event Championship to continue the continuity of service by using a hybrid tournament structure. The global audience would earn a shot at GGPoker, while Americans would get a shot at the gold bracelet at WSOP.com. Thus, the two legs of the WSOP began several weeks earlier with the final tables played live at the King's Casino in RozVegas, or the Rio Casino in Las Vegas. The winners of each final table would meet in a heavyweight championship heads-up battle to determine the bracelet winner with an additional $1 million left on the table for the champion.
Yes, instead of a blank on the WSOP wikipedia page, there will now be an asterisk next to 2020.
Damian Salas from Argentina outlasted outlasted 674 runners at GGPoker to win the international or global leg of the 2020 WSOP Main Event. Salas flew to RozVegas, where he outlasted a final table of international players that included... Manuel "robocup" Ruivo (Portugal), fullbabyfull (Lichtenstein), Hannes "BlackFortuna" Speiser (Austria), Dominykas "MickeyMouse" Mikolaitis (Lithuania), Ramon "Ritza" Miquel Munoz (Spain), and Stoyan "UncleToni" Obreshkov (Bulgaria). China's Peiyuan "fish3098" Sun was a no show apparently due to travel restrictions and earned a ninth place finish.
Salas outlasted his final table in Roz Vegas to win $1.55 million and a shot at the bracelet in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, poker players in the USA flocked to either Nevada or New Jersey where they could participate in their leg of the WSOP Main Event at WSOP.com. Joseph 'KoleBear' Herbert faded a field of 706 runners and outlasted a final table at the Rio Casino to win the domestic leg of the Main Event.
Herbert mastered a final table that included Ryan Hagerty, Ye Yuan, Michael Cannon, Gershon 'jets613' Distenfeld, Ron Jenkins, Shawn Stroke, and Harrison Dobin. Upeshka De Silva, a three-time bracelet winner, was one of the short stacks in the final nine. However, he failed a COVID-19 test and was unable to play out at the final table at the Rio. Pesh was awarded ninth place.
Herbert came into the final table with a sizable chip lead and he used the big-stack to his advantage to win the domestic leg. Herbert banked $1.5 million for his victory. Herbert had been trying to win the bracelet for his mother who had recently deceased. It was a feel-good story and only Damian Salas stood in his way.
Salas could not enter the USA because he had traveled to Europe less than 2 weeks earlier, so he had to wait out that time period before he could enter the USA. As a result, the WSOP postponed the heads-up match from December 30 to January 4.
The heads-up battle featured 20-minute blinds. Herbert jumped out to an early lead and accumulated an 8-1 advantage, yet he could not land the coup de grace after 75-80 hands. Salas alligator-blooded his way back into contention. It was a slow and arduous comeback, but he managed to pull even after a couple hours of grinding.
Salas built up an edge that was around 3.5-1 in chips, but he couldn't put away Herbert with King-ten against Queen-four. Herbert hit the flop and won the pot with a pair of fours to get back into contention with 440K versus 560K. Two hands later, it would be all over.
On Hand #173 of heads-up action, Herbert got it in with against Salas, who held . Salas flopped a King and rivered a King to drag the pot with trip Kings.
Salas won the heads-up match, $1 million in cash, and the shiny bracelet. Overall, he won $2.55 million en route to the Main Event Championship.
Herbert left empty handed, but he still earned $1.5 million for winning the domestic leg.