After coming to the table as chip leader with more than twice his nearest rival, Joseph Hebert closed the show on Monday. He won the World Series of Poker $10,000 Main Event US side at the live final table at the Rio in Las Vegas for $1.55 million.
The 38-year-old from Metairie, Louisiana, now has a shot to play the international final table winner, Argentina’s Damian Salas. That heads-up duel pays the winner $1 million, awarding the Main Event bracelet and champion’s title.
Hebert’s mother Linda passed away recently and he dedicated his win to her.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet – this is a life-changing experience,” Hebert said after the win. “It feels like a dream. I felt like I was dreaming the whole time I was playing. I know my mom was here with me, and this was for her.”
Hebert takes title with single heads-up hand
With a sizable chip stack and large payout ladder jumps, Hebert was able to utilize his chip stack well. He dominated play from the beginning, eliminating four of the eight remaining players.
Runner-up Ron Jenkins scored the other three knockouts and certainly improved his standing at the final table. He entered seventh in chips and now takes home just over $1 million.
It took only one hand to end the heads-up play between Hebert and Jenkins. Hebert held about 27 million in chips to Jenkins’ 13 million with blinds at 150,000/300,00 with a 300,000 ante.
In the 98th hand, Hebert four-bet all in with A♣Q♠ and Jenkins called with Q♦Q♣. The flop brought K♦7♣A♦, hitting the Ace for Hebert.
Jenkins needed the final Queen in the deck or an unlikely Jack-10 runout. The turn brought the 4♥ with the river 8♣ to give Hebert the victory.
The win for Hebert comes after scoring his Main Event entry via a $300 satellite at WSOP.com. He greatly increases his career earnings, which included $668,000 in live tournament winnings before the final table. Hebert felt in control throughout the final day of action.
“I was just really confident,” Hebert told WSOP.com afterward. “I was excited to play and it was just a battle. It wasn’t easy, I tell you that much. The guys played great. It was just a battle the whole way through.”
Playing the final table for his mother
The win came with some emotions for Hebert. He unexpectedly lost his mother in September due to a pulmonary embolism. In their final text conversation, Hebert told her about his dream to win a WSOP bracelet.
He began a social media campaign #ForLinda before the final table. His dream ultimately became reality and Hebert said he could feel her presence throughout the competition.
“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.”
Hebert has been a longtime grinder in mostly smaller stakes, regional tournaments. Back in Louisiana, he’s also worked part-time as a waiter at The Galley Seafood for 20 years. He has no plans to quit the job even if he adds another $1 million in the heads-up duel.
After the score, Hebert had a couple items on his shopping list. He planned to buy his father a new car. His 8-year-old son has been hoping for a pet bird and that is also in order.
COVID-19 issues create some obstacles
Getting to the heads-up matchup hasn’t come without issues. Three-time bracelet winner Upeshka De Silva was disqualified from playing the US final table after a positive COVID-19 test.
Per the tournament rules, anyone testing positive before play would receive ninth-place money. Hebert now faces Salas at the Rio, but that also faced some problems.
Due to pandemic travel complications, the heads-up finale was moved from Dec. 30 to Jan. 3. The two winners will play live at the Rio in Las Vegas with ESPN filming the action.
“Certainly 2020 has been a year of challenges for so many and we experienced them in organizing this unique format for a poker tournament on two continents,” WSOP executive director Ty Stewart said in a news release. “We are so proud of this event, and the showcase it will provide for poker on Jan. 3.
“We’ve seen memorable moments you can’t believe and discovered two central characters you can’t help but root for. A dream will be dealt on Jan 3, and that’s exactly what we need heading into 2021.”
The players weren’t the only ones who benefited from final table payouts in 2020. In the spirit of giving, eighth-place finisher Gershon Distenfeld has pledged to donate 100% of his winnings to charitable causes. Here’s a look at the complete payouts:
2020 WSOP Main Event US
|South El Monte, California
|Somerset, New Jersey
|Ye "Tony" Yuan
|West Long Branch, New Jersey
|Bergenfield, New Jersey
|Upeshka De Silva
A look at the WSOP Main Event numbers
The 2020 Main Event brought some big numbers to the legal US online poker market. The tournament set a new benchmark for prize pools after generating $6.8 million.
That easily eclipsed the $2 million achieved for the WSOP Online championship in July. The Main Event attracted a total of 705 players.
This also becomes the first time an online event in the regulated US market has paid a winner $1 million. In this case, the first- and second-place finishers both scored more than a million.
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