Joseph Hebert, a longtime, low-stakes grinder from Louisiana, captured the United States portion of the World Series of Poker Main Event on Monday in Las Vegas, winning the $1,553,256 first prize and earning a shot at the title of world champion in January.
Hebert, 38, of Metairie, Louisiana, bested a field of 705 players, holding the chip lead from start to finish at the final table, which was held in person on Monday at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. He knocked out second-place finisher Ron Jenkins of California on the first hand of heads-up play. Jenkins won $1,002,340 as runner-up.
Hebert, as the domestic champion, will face international champion Damian Salas of Argentina in a head-to-head match for a $1 million and a Word Series of Poker Main Event bracelet on Sunday in Las Vegas.
"It still hasn't hit me yet; this is a life-changing experience," Hebert said after Monday's victory. "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's mother died unexpectedly in September.
The World Series of Poker was postponed in the spring as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S. and was rescheduled for December. The Main Event began online, with nine players reaching the live final table. However, Upeshka De Silva, one of finalists, was disqualified before the final table began after testing positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.
"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," Ty Stewart, executive director of the World Series of Poker, said in a release. "We are so proud of this event, and the showcase it will provide for poker on Jan. 3."