Like the Crown Jewels, the Hope Diamond, and that necklace Kate Winslet brought back from the Titanic, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event bracelet is considered one of the world’s most valuable pieces of jewelry – signifying one person’s victory over seemingly impossible odds and a gallery of hungry opponents.
Today that diamond and gold encrusted bracelet belongs to WSOP champion Damian Salas, the Argentinian poker pro secured the prize January 3 at the 51st World Series of Poker $10,000 No-Limit Hold-Em World Championship at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Salas earned his bracelet, as well as an additional $1 million prize after defeating U.S. champion, Joseph Hebert, at the historic Final Table. The two had previously played against each other in online competition.
Here are five things to know about poker’s newest world champion
- Salas didn’t get to the top easy. The 2021 finale marked the champion’s second time at the Final Table (he placed seventh in the 2017 Main Event) and his victory came after 173 hands and nearly six hours of play. In the final hand, Salas called Hebert’s all-in before the flop with king-jack against ace-queen. He then flopped a pair of kings, and sealed the victory when he earned another king with the river card.
- Salas is the first Latin American WSOP champion. A native of Chascomús, south of Buenos Aires, the 45-year-old Salas famously draped himself in the Argentinian flag for his final interview after losing in 2017 and again during his 2020-21 victory run. Though he’s not yet a household name in Las Vegas, he’s the pride of his home country, and earned his trip to the Final Table by ousting Brazil’s Brunno Botteon—the world’s No. 1 ranked online poker player—and winning GGPoker’s international leg of the Main Event at King’s Resort in Rozvadov, Czech Republic.
- Poker is a side hustle for Salas. Like many of us, Salas holds down a day job to pay the bills. The 45-year-old champion is an attorney who has described poker as just one of his many passions. He’s admitted to not being “the best” poker player and says, “I like to take my time to also do other things and not just poker.” In an interview following his Final Table victory, Salas said through an interpreter that he doesn’t “play for the money” and does it for the love of the game.
- He’s a wild one. Salas earned the nickname “Pampa” while playing football in his younger years. “Pampa” means “the wild one, the country man.”
- He’s also a family man. Salas’ wife and three children have been cheering him on for years. His daughter, Sol, even made him a homemade version of the WSOP Main Event bracelet, which he wore throughout the competition and will now sport alongside the real thing.
Salas pocketed a total of $1,550,969 at the Final Table, not bad for a side hustle.