Stoyan Madanzhiev wants to play Damian Salas for world title

Jon Sofen
Published by:
Posted on 01/09/2021

Stoyan Madanzhiev is still disappointed that the World Series of Poker doesn’t consider him the world champion for 2020. And he wants to face the winner the WSOP recognizes as the “real” champ — Damian Salas — heads-up.

What better way to settle a dispute than on the felt in a heads-up match, especially in today’s poker landscape where heads-up battles have become quite a fad?

Madanzhiev won the summer WSOP Online Main Event on GGPoker for $3.9 million. He received a gold bracelet for his impressive performance and a congratulations letter from the WSOP, signed by Daniel Negreanu, GGPoker’s top ambassador.

But the WSOP never officially said the winner of that historic, record-setting event would be crowned world champion for 2020. In the past 50 years, the world champ title was given to the winner of the live $10,000 buy-in Main Event in Las Vegas.

Due to COVID-19, that annual event was on the shelf. So, the WSOP hosted an 85-bracelet event online series over the summer. Madanzhiev won the Main Event of that series. He was apparently under the assumption that he became the world champion based on that victory.

But in November, the WSOP announced they would host a hybrid Main Event in December — part online, part live — on GGPoker (globally) and WSOP.com (U.S.). The winners from each final table would meet in Las Vegas at the Rio to play for the “true” world championship.

Salas faced, and beat, Joseph Hebert from Louisiana to win a total of $2.5 million and a gold bracelet, and is now deemed poker’s reigning world champion. Madanzhiev feels slighted and isn’t too thrilled about that. So, he’s offered up an interesting challenge to the champ that is highly unlikely to happen.

Stoyan Madanzhiev vs. Damian Salas?

Poker pro and bracelet winner Max Silver proposed the two champs play each other heads-up.

“guess it’s time for a championship unification hell in the cell cage match,” Silver wrote on Twitter.

“Cage or not if Damian wants to show up for some HU action I am down to discuss a stake and bet,” Madanzhiev responded.

Salas isn’t on Twitter so it’s unlikely he even saw the challenge. And it’s equally unlikely Madanzhiev will seriously pursue the match. But it would make for an exciting competition.

But even if they were to play and Madanzhiev won, the WSOP has already decided that Salas is the champion. So, it wouldn’t really make any difference other than stroking Madanzhiev’s ego (if he wins) or humbling him (if he loses).

With all that said, the 2020 World Series of Poker has finally concluded. We now have a world champion, like it or not. The focus now is on the 2021 WSOP, which may or may not take place live in Las Vegas. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.

We’ve spoken with executives from the WSOP, and even they have told us they have no idea if there will be a live series. But they are hopeful given the COVID-19 vaccine has now reached the United States. Still, there is no guarantee enough people will be vaccinated by the summer for it to be safe, and legal, to host an event that attracts a massive gathering.

Featured image source: Twitter