Joseph Hebert won the US leg of the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event on Monday night. (WSOP photo)

When the United States leg of the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event reached the final table two weeks ago, Louisiana native Joseph Hebert was the chip leader. Having two weeks to prepare for the biggest moment of his poker career, Hebert admitted that the nerves got to him as he took his seat at the Rio on Monday night.

“The pressure was overwhelming for sure. When I sat down I was uncomfortable for sure,” Hebert said.

Hebert didn’t break under the pressure though and late Monday night he was the last player standing and was $1.5 million richer because of it.

The day began with news that Upeshka De Silva had failed a COVID test and was disqualified from the final table and awarded a ninth place finish. That left just eight players vying for the $1.5 million first place prize and the opportunity to play International leg winner Damian Salas for the bracelet and additional $1 million in prize money.

Gershon Distenfeld started the final table with the third smallest stack but lasted just six hands before being eliminated. Ron Jenkins raised to 375,000 from middle position with QdQs before Distenfeld shoved for 1,430,000 from the cutoff with KcJc. Jenkins called and sweated the 9h3s2hTh5h runout to eliminate Distenfeld in eighth place. Distenfeld plans to donate his $125,885 winnings to charity.

Seven-handed play went on for another 55 hands of play before the next elimination occurred. With blinds of 125,000/250,000, Shawn Stroke shoved his last 975,000 from TG+1 with 3d3s, from his immediate left, Harrison Dobin moved all in over the top for 4,200,000 with AhKs, and Jenkins called all in for 3,280,000 with QcQd. The Td2d2s flop kept Jenkins in front and neither the Th turn or [j] river changed anything and Stroke was eliminated in seventh.

Down to just four big blinds, Dobin only got to see two more hands. From the button, Hebert raised to 500,000 with Kh2d and Dobin called off his last 750,000 from the big blind with 5d3h. The Kc9c2h flop left Dobin in dire straits before the Qc river sealed his fate. The 9s completed the board to send Dobin out in sixth.

Hebert was responsible for the next elimination 11 hands later in a blind vs. blind situation. Tony Yuan moved all in for 2,830,000 from the small blind with AhTh and Hebert called with 4d4h. Yuan found no relief on the 5h3d3s flop and could only collect his things as the 7d turn and 9h river left Hebert to rake in the pot and bust Yuan in fifth place.

Jenkins went back to work eliminating opponents 19 hands later. Action folded to Jenkins in the small blind and he moved all in with AsJd and Ryan Hagerty called all in from the big blind with Ah8d. The Js8s2h flop gave both players a pair but left Jenkins in front. Neither the turn or river card saved Hagerty from being eliminated in fourth place.

Six hands later, the tournament entered the heads-up portion of play after Hebert sent another player to the rail. Hebert opened to 600,000 from the button with AcAh and Michael Cannon responded by moving all in from the small blind for 4,800,000 with KcQd and Hebert snap-called. Hebert was well in front and stayed there as the Ts6s5d didn’t gave Cannon any real extra outs and he was eliminated in third.

Hebert held a 2-1 chip lead when heads-up play began and it took just one single hand for him toe garner all of the chips in play. From the button, Hebert raised to 700,000 with AcQs before Jenkins raised to 2,300,000 with QcQd. Hebert clicked back all in and Jenkins called with his tournament life on the line. The AdKd7c flop gave Hebert top pair and left Jenkins hoping for running straight or flush cards or the case queen. The 4h turn meant only one card in the deck could save Jenkins and the 8c river was not it. Hebert eliminated Jenkins in second place and banked the $1,553,256 score while Jenkins had to settle for runner-up status and $1,002,340.

Hebert now waits for Salas, winner of the international leg of the tournament, to arrive from Argentina to play him heads-up for the bracelet and an additional $1 million. Salas was apparently denied entry to the United States this week after traveling to Europe in the last 15 days. Hebert plans on spending the next few days learning as much as he can about the former November Niner in preparation for their match.

“I really don’t much about him. I need to read up on him a little bit more. I was trying to focus on this final table first,” Hebert said. “I’m super excited and I can’t wait to face him.”

The finale is expected to be played next Sunday.

Final Table Payouts

  1. Joseph Hebert – $1,553,256
  2. Ron Jenkins – $1,002,340
  3. Michael Cannon – $529,258
  4. Ryan Hagerty – $387,130
  5. Tony Yuan – $286,963
  6. Harrison Dobin – $215,222
  7. Shawn Stroke – $163,786
  8. Gershon Distenfeld – $125,885
  9. Upeshka De Silva – $98,813