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Joseph Hebert won the ‘Domestic Tournament’ of the 2020 World Series of Poker $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event Monday evening in Las Vegas.

The 38-year-old poker player and part-time waiter from Metairie, Louisiana navigated his way through a field of 705 total entries in the US-facing segment of this year’s uniquely formatted flagship event of the WSOP. He survived two days of online poker action to make the live and in-person final table that played out on Dec. 28 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. Hebert emerged victorious from the final eight players that reconvened in Las Vegas, capturing the title and the top prize of $1,553,256.

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Herbert dedicated the win to his late mother, Linda, who passed away earlier this year due to a pulmonary embolism. His last text conversation with his mother had been about his dream of winning a WSOP bracelet. He is now set to face off against WSOP main event ‘International Tournament’ winner Damian Salas on Sunday, Jan. 3 at the Rio, with the championship gold bracelet and $1,000,000 in added prize money on the line.

“I am just so excited!” said Hebert at the start of his post-win press conference. He went on to say, “I’m gonna take this all in. Winning this tournament was my ultimate goal, for my mom, but having the freeroll is just another bonus. I’m just going to take my time and figure out what to do about that, and go from there.”

The win brought Hebert’s lifetime live tournament earnings to $2,168,314. His largest score prior to this victory was $140,932, which he earned as the runner-up in the 2013 WSOP Circuit Harrah’s New Orleans main event.

The ‘Domestic Tournament’ final table was the talk of the poker world before cards even got in the air at 3:00 p.m. pacific time on Monday, Dec. 28. Unfortunately, the typical chatter about who might win or discussion of interesting backstories of the competitors was drowned out by the breaking news that Upeshka De Silva was reportedly being disqualified from the event due to testing positive for COVID-19 on the day before the final table began. The three-time WSOP bracelet winner from Texas was ultimately awarded ninth-place money as a result, earning $98,813.

De Silva’s stack was officially removed from play, which meant that only eight players converged on the final table stage in the Rio in order to battle it out on the felt. Gershon Distenfeld began the day in sixth chip position but got off to a slow start. He lost a considerable chunk of his stack just a few hands into the action when he ran pocket tens into the pocket queens of short stack Harrison Dobin. The superior pair held up and Distenfeld found himself at the bottom of the chip counts. Just a couple of hands after that, he got the last of his stack in with KJ against the pocket queens of Ron Jenkins. Distenfeld failed to improve and was eliminated in eighth place. He earned $125,885 for his deep run in this event, all of which he intends to donate to charitable causes. The 44-year-old works in finance and has been committed to philanthropic works for years now.

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“There is a parallel to investing: you don’t blindly invest in companies, you also don’t blindly invest in a charity. You have to do your research. My wife and I have been very fortunate to be blessed with resources. We have spent our time, not only donating money but also getting involved in charities and getting our hands dirty. We didn’t have to start from scratch, as we decided to give to charities that we have been involved with for a long time,” said Distenfeld after being eliminated. “We are in a pandemic now and the need is greater than ever.”

Seven-handed action continued for more than two-and-a-half hours. Shawn Stroke was the next to fall. The 31-year-old Long Island native came into the day in second chip position but fell to the bottom of the leaderboard during the early hours of play. He got his last chips in preflop with pocket threes, only to have Harrison Dobin three-bet all-in over the top with A-K and Ron Jenkins call all-in behind with pocket queens. Jenkins’ big pair held up through the river and Stroke was eliminated in seventh place, earning $163,786 for his strong showing.

Dobin was left with just four big blinds after the hand, while Jenkins surged up the chip counts. Dobin got his last chips with 5-3 offsuit up against the K-2 offsuit of Hebert, who had raised on the button. Hebert flopped two pair and held from there to send Dobin home in sixth place. The 26-year-old earned $215,222, having laddered up several pay jumps despite starting the final table as the shortest stack.

25-year-old Wisconsin-based mathematics doctoral candidate Ye Yuan’s run in this event came to an end when his A10 couldn’t outrun the 44 of Hebert. Neither player improved and Yuan was knocked out in fifth place ($286,963).

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The final four battled it out for more than half an hour before the next elimination took place. In a battle of the blinds, Ron Jenkins shoved all-in from the small blind with AJ and Ryan Hagerty called from the big blind with A8. Both players paired their live cards on the flop, but Hagerty received no further help and was sent home in fourth place. The 28-year-old poker player earned $387,130 for the largest live tournament score of his career.

Just six hands after Hagerty was eliminated, his sometimes-roommate on the live tournament circuit Michael Cannon joined him on the rail. Cannon three-bet all-in over the button min-raise of Hebert holding KQ. Hebert quickly called the shove of around 16 big blinds with AA. A clean runout saw the 29-year-old former professional video game player knocked out in third place. He took home $529,258 for his deep run, by far the largest live tournament cash of his career.

With that, Hebert took just over a 2:1 chip lead into heads-up play against Ron Jenkins, who had begun the day as the second shortest stack with just 17 big blinds. Jenkins has plenty of experience on the felt, with nearly $400,000 in prior live tournament cashes to his name.

The two took a short break before resuming action. On the very first hand back, Hebert raised to 700,000 on the button with AQ. Jenkins three-bet to 2,300,000 with QQ. Hebert four-bet all-in and Jenkins called off his last 10.8 million or so. He was ahead preflop with his pocket queens, but an AK748 runout secured the pot and the title for Hebert.

“I thought it was going to be a battle heads-up,” said Hebert. “[Jenkins] plays a lot of long-ball, making big bets. I thought I was going to have to pick my spots, but I certainly didn’t expect it to end like that. I don’t think anybody did. I don’t even think the camera crew was ready to film (laughs).”

Jenkins earned $1,002,340 as the runner-up finisher, while Hebert set up his final showdown for the bracelet against WSOP main event International Tournament winner Damian Salas.

“I really don’t know that much about Damian. I need to read up on him a little more. I was trying to focus on this final table first,” revealed Hebert after coming out on top. “I’m super excited and can’t wait to face him.”

The two will take a seat opposite each other starting at 5:00 p.m. pacific time on Sunday, Jan. 3, with the championship gold bracelet and $1,000,000 in added prize money up for grabs.

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Here is a look at the payouts awarded at the final table:

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

Hebert photo credit: GGPoker Twitter Account.

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