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World Series Of Poker International Main Event Champion Denied Entry Into U.S. For Final Heads-Up Match

Match Against U.S. Winner Postponed Until Jan. 3 After Damian Salas Was Turned Away By U.S. Officials For Being In Europe Within The Last 15 Days

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Damian Salas in the 2017 WSOP Main EventDamian Salas won the $10,000 World Series of Poker main event international final table earlier this month for $1.55 million. The Argentine was scheduled to play the winner of the domestic final table Wednesday evening for an additional $1 million.

That match will be put on hold for a few days after the 2017 WSOP main event seventh-place finisher was denied entry into the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rumors were swirling around social media all day but were never confirmed by the WSOP staff. After Joseph Hebert won the domestic final table, however, the official WSOP updates stated that the heads-up match between Salas and Hebert would take place on Sunday, Jan. 3 at 5 p.m.

Poker Atlas’ Information Director Kevin Mathers, renowned for his Twitter prowess, tweeted Monday afternoon that according to a foreign poker media organization, Salas was not allowed inside the U.S. borders because he had been in Europe less than 15 days ago.

Despite showing negative COVID-19 tests and an exemption certificate processed by the WSOP, Salas was turned away by U.S. officials. Salas bested the international final table in the Czech Republic on December 15.

Salas will be eligible to enter the U.S. on Saturday, Jan. 2 and the match will take place the following day. It will still be filmed by ESPN for a televised broadcast.

The development was the second piece of COVID-19-related bad news coming out of Monday’s main event, highlighting the immense difficulty of running the live portion of the hybrid event during a pandemic.

Earlier on Monday, high-stakes pro Upeshka De Silva tested positive for COVID-19 and was disqualified from the main event. The Texas native was easily the most accomplished player remaining with more than $3 million in live tournament earnings. He was coming into the final table eighth in chips, but those chips were taken out of play and De Silva was awarded ninth-place money worth $98,000.