Damian Salas stood from the table, patting his chest and nodding as he rocked back and forth on his heels.
After subsisting over two hours on a short stack, he was at last all in and in position to double what had become a less than seven big blind stack.
Dan Ott had raised and Salas only called from the big blind holding A♣10♥.
“I think I had a good plan in the hand,” Salas would explain later, the Chilean player Nick Yunis helping with the translation. Salas was thinking stop-and-go, meaning he was thinking of open-pushing whatever came on the flop.
But when the first three cards came 3♥2♦A♥ giving him top pair, Salas chose to check. “To allow him to bluff,” he said. Ott did push his chips in and Salas called, and Ott revealed 4♦4♠ for a smaller pair and wheel draw.
The turn brought the 6♦ — close to being harmful, but safe for Salas. He continued rocking on his heels and nodding, as though attempting to will one last benign community card.
Alas for Salas, the 5♠ completed the board, filling Ott’s straight. Ott’s supporters roared their approval, while Salas went to the ground, sitting on the side of the stage for a few moments to absorb the shock.
As Ott’s crew delivered a wordless “Seven Nation Army” chant, Salas retrieved the Argentinian flag he’d sported throughout the final table and walked over to his rail, receiving a long, loving hug from family and friends.
“It was a great honor for me to represent Argentina and Latin America,” Salas explained afterwards, adding he hoped he’d been a good representative.
Fellow Argentinians Ivan Luca and Maria Lampropulos stood nearby as Salas spoke, as did Joaquin Melogno of Uruguay — all players with which we’re familiar from LAPT events past.
Salas spoke of being thankful for the support he’d received throughout the tournament. He also looked back a little on the “marathon” of the Main Event and his long journey through it, commenting on how he’d spent time as the big-stacked leader (including leading to end Day 4) and much of the latter stages short on chips.
“I was a main character for a while with a lot of chips,” he said. “I was also short for a long time. But I’ve happy with the process… and I’m at peace with how I played.”
It was a gallant run for the 42-year-old known as “pampa27” on PokerStars. He takes away $1.425 million and the memory of a poker experience of a lifetime.
We’re down one main character. Six still remain.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.