– General Introduction –
Upeshka De Silva is a Sri Lankan-born American poker player. He was born in 1988 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
He is a 3-time WSOP gold bracelet winner. In 2015, he took down the $1,500 No Limit Hold’em event for his first bracelet and won $424,577. In the same year, he made a deep run in the WSOP Main Event as well.
He won his other two WSOP golds in 2017 and 2019 – one in every other year for the past 6 years. Overall, he’s cashed for $3.110 million in live tournaments during his career.
In 2020, he made it to the final table of the domestic segment of the unusual online-live hybrid WSOP Main Event. However, due to testing positive for the coronavirus, he wasn’t allowed to play and automatically received the 9th place payout. This prompted many in the online poker community to voice their support for and give condolences to “Pesh”.
– Key Career Dates –
- 2012: He starts playing poker professionally after graduating from college.
- 2015: He wins his first WSOP gold bracelet after finishing first in the $1,500 No Limit Hold’em event for $424,577. That is also the biggest single live tournament cash of his career to date.
- 2020: He makes it to the final table of the domestic segment of the WSOP Main Event. However, he can’t compete for the title since he gets infected with the coronavirus during the pandemic.
– Upeshka De Silva’s Career –
→ Beginnings ←
He spoke about his early life and his journey to becoming a professional poker player on Cardplayer Magazine’s Poker Stories Podcast.
De Silva found poker on TV in his teenage years, during the start of the Moneymaker boom. At first, he played in small home games with his high school friends. A few month long losing streak motivated him to learn some strategy – he first found Doyle Brunson’s Super/System 2 book, which he read in two days.
After high school, he went on to study history and political science in college. In the meantime, he got into private underground cash games in the San Antonio area. After earning his college degree, he was hesitant to go to law school before giving professional poker a chance.
With the blessing of his family, De Silva took his shot at the table – and succeeded. He’s been making his living as a poker player since 2012.
→ Live Tournaments ←
De Silva has $3.110 million in live tournament earnings, according to his Hendon page. That sum is the product of money finishes in 96 different events over the course of 9 years.
If he was included in the Sri Lankan all time money list, in accordance with his place of birth, he’d be on top by lightyears – the most successful Sri Lankan player on Hendon has $21,600 in live cashes. However, De Silva is listed as an American player in the Hendon database, thus he’s “only” in the top 300 on the national all time money list.
The first recorded cash on his page is from January 2011. He came in 29th in the $120 No Limit Hold’em event for a modest $221 at the WSOP Circuit in Choctaw, Durant, OK. The first time he made a live tournament score for over $100K was at the 2013 WSOP.
In November 2016, he finished 3rd in the $3,500 No Limit Hold’em – RRPO Championship event for $200,640 at the Rock N Roll Poker Open in Hollywood, Florida. That is his biggest live tourney score outside the WSOP. Exactly 3 years later, in November 2019, he took down the $1,100 NLHE event at the LA Poker Open. He pocketed $107,000 for his great victory.
De Silva also has a number of impressive finishes from the World Poker Tour.
In August 2016, he came in 3rd in the $4,000 NLHE Main Event at the WPT Legends Of Poker in Los Angeles for $198,720. In October 2018, he finished 5th in the C$5,300 Main Event at partypoker WPT Montreal for $175,798.
He has another World Poker Tour final table finish from February 2020. He took 6th place in the $10K Main Event at the WPT LA Poker Classic and won a nice $185,330.
→ World Series of Poker ←
Upeshka De Silva has won 3 WSOP gold bracelets so far.
In 2015, he took down the $1,500 No Limit Hold’em event for $424,577. He beat Dara O’Kearney from Ireland heads-up for the title. This is De Silva’s biggest single live tournament score to date.
In 2017, he won his second bracelet in the $3,000 No Limit Hold’em shootout event for $229,923. “Shootout” is a rare tournament type in which every table plays out like a “mini-tournament”. The winner of each table gets to advance to the next round, where new tables are drawn from the previous round’s winners. His 3rd bracelet came in 2019, when he won the $600 WSOP.com ONLINE No-Limit Hold’em Knockout Bounty event for $98,263.
On top of his bracelet wins, De Silva final tabled the $1,500 Millionaire Maker in 2013. He eventually busted in 7th place for $175,713. In 2015, he made a deep run in the WSOP Main Event, finishing in 36th place for $211,821.
In 2020, when the dreaded coronavirus pandemic forced all WSOP events – at least partially – online, De Silva had a chance to final table another Main Event, however, his positive coronavirus test robbed him from the opportunity – more on that later.
Overall, De Silva has cashed in 50 World Series events so far, for a total of $1.712 million combined.
→ Live Cash Games ←
As we wrote earlier, De Silva started his poker career by playing in underground private cash games in Texas. However, he hasn’t appeared on any TV shows or live streams where he played live cash publicly.
→ Online Poker ←
On the podcast we cited above, De Silva talked about how when he first started playing online poker around 2013, he ended up losing hundreds of thousands of dollars playing MTT’s.
He may have climbed back from that hole since then – however, his online MTT scores aren’t tracked, so we can’t say for sure. When he won his 3rd WSOP bracelet in an online event on WSOP.com, he was playing under the screen name “gomezhamburg”, which is an allusion to the celestial body Gomez’s Hamburger.
→ Scandals ←
His disqualification from the WSOP Main Event due to coronavirus
2020 has been a year like nothing else in recent memory – as we all know, because of the dreadful Coronavirus pandemic. The global outbreak quite upset the world of poker as well.
Originally, the idea was to “simply” have all WSOP events be played online during the summer. They held a $5,000 Main Event on GGPoker which was won by Bulgaria’s Stoyan Madanzhiev. At the time, everybody thought he was 2020’s Main Event champion.
However, a few months later, the WSOP announced that they were going to put on a “proper” $10,000 Main Event. Evidently, they couldn’t hold an event with thousands of people in the middle of the pandemic, so they went for a unique online-live tournament hybrid.
The “international” players played down to the final 9 on Natural8-GGNetwork, while the “domestic” (meaning American) field played on WSOP.com also until the final 9. Then the two final tables were to be held at the King’s Casino in Rozvadov and the Rio Casino in Las Vegas, respectively. The two final table winners would face each other in a heads-up “Sit&Go” for an additional $1 million and the WSOP Main Event gold bracelet.
As expected, the virus interfered with the live portion of this oddity of a poker tournament. Peiyuan Sun from China couldn’t travel to the Czech Republic for the international final table due to travel restrictions, so he automatically received the 9th place payout.
The online poker community really raised their concerns about the fairness of this Main event after “Pesh” De Silva, a 3-time bracelet winner and respected poker pro, tested positive for the coronavirus days before the US final table.
One of the final 9 for the @WSOP main event tomorrow at the Rio has tested positive for Covid-19 and has been disqualified.
Upeshka De Silva aka @PadawanPesh says he quarantined on Dec 10th – tested positive on the 20th, negative on 26th, and positive on the 27th
— Joey Ingram #PASSION (@Joeingram1) December 28, 2020
However, De Silva ultimately had to face the same fate Sun did: he got a 9th place finish (winning $98,813) without the chance to play a single hand at the WSOP Main Event final table.