Damian Salas has had his fair share of good luck having been recently crowned champion of the World Series of Poker. Salas battled it out against Hebert, a 38-year-old poker professional hailing from Metairie, Louisiana. The victory may have been sweet, but the road was anything but easy.
Salas had to traverse the world just to earn a seat at the heads up duel. The Argentine participated in the WSOP Main Event from 3 different continents before clinching the championship title at the Rio in a one on one battle with the pro poker player from Louisiana. Salas, a lawyer by profession, played the initial stages of the Main Event online at home in Argentina.
However, after his Argentina victory, he had to travel to the Czech Republic to take part in the live international final table held in December 2020. After winning that portion, he then had to make his way to Rio, Vegas where he battled it out with Herbert in the finale. Although he managed to gain passage into the country, Salas had twice been denied passage due to the stringent pandemic protocols that are in place all over the world.
Salas claims that he was forced to change his flight details thrice before finally making it into the States, which consequently delayed the heads-up battle from Wednesday to Sunday. Before bagging the title, Salas had already amassed a cool $1.55 million for emerging as the winner of the international series of the WSOP event.
After his heads up duel with Herbert, Salas won an additional $1 million and his first WSOP trophy bracelet. His victory came after he made the Main Event final table in 2017, where he finished in 7th place.
As if the issues leading up to the match weren’t enough to stress Salas further, he also faced challenges early on during the duel against Hebert. Salas attempted to bluff but it got him into some slight trouble when Hebert took a 3-1 lead as a result. Salas did manage to double up and eventually even the bout and take the lead.
He credits his mother for his success so it wasn’t a surprise when he dedicated his performance to his mom who passed away unexpectedly earlier on in the year. The Main Event was played in a hybrid format for the first time due to pandemic concerns after being postponed for the first time in 51 years. As a result of online poker laws in the US, the WSOP tournament was held in 2 parts- one for international players that was hosted on GGPoker and the other in WSOP.com for US punters.
Salas beat out a total of 1,379 participants in the Main Event, which was a far cry from the 8,569 participants that took part in the WSOP Event 2019. A total of 705 participants came from the U.S. while 674 entries were from the international portion of the event. All the tournaments were hosted online up until the final tables of 9. Salas is the 2nd South American to win the WSOP Main Event. The first was Carlos Mortensen from Spain who won the title in 2001.
The WSOP tournament was the first of its kind
The pandemic all but rendered the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event canceled. Pre-pandemic, more than 8000 individuals would gather in a packed convention hall, sitting elbow to elbow as they pass chips back and forth for hours on end for a period lasting nearly 2 weeks until someone finally bagged the championship title.
Last year, live poker tournaments were brought to a screeching halt due to the pandemic. However, concluding the year without crowning a champion at the Main Event was unfathomable. Beyond just being a mainstay in poker, the WSOP also boasts some of the largest prizes in poker tournament history. In fact, it’s almost impossible to envision modern poker without the WSOP- it’s an institution.
Since its advent poker players travel from far and wide to converge in Vegas every summer to put up the $10,000 required to take part in the tournament. Taking part in WSOP’s Main Event may have been straightforward before, but Damian Salas beat the odds during a pandemic to emerge victorious. The Main Event bracelet is a highly coveted prize yet it’s eluded many of poker’s best players.
Even being good enough to be one of the 9 participants on the game’s final table is considered an achievement in and of itself. So what can New Jersey poker players learn from champions such as Damian Salas?
Stress management is vital
As mentioned earlier, Salas had to endure numerous challenges just to make it to the final table of the WSOP. Despite these setbacks, he had to find a way to manage the stress. If he had allowed himself to crumble under the weight of the stress, Herbert would have had an easy go of him.
Slow and steady wins the race
A lot of poker players get caught up in attempting to build their chips too fast early on. What these players fail to realize is that online poker is more of a marathon and not a race. It is more essential for poker players to survive during the early stages of any tournament rather than concentrating on accumulating chips. Tournaments cannot be won in a single day but they can be lost in a matter of hours or minutes.
Learn the tournament structure
In order to succeed, poker players need to have a good idea of what the tournament structure looks like as this is what will dictate their final strategy. The WSOP and other tournaments of its caliber are extremely fast-paced so it’s essential to understand how things are run beforehand to avoid any disappointments.