Eric Froehlich becomes youngest WSOP winner ever!
Last year, Gavin Griffin became the youngest player in history to ever win a World Series of Poker gold bracelet. With so many young people now turned on to poker, however, it seemed just a matter of time before a younger star would emerge and eclipse the record. That moment came at precisely 4 am Tuesday, after an all-night poker marathon lasting 16 hours. Eric Froehlich, a 21-year-old professional poker player, won the $1,500 buy in Limit Hold'em championship. At exactly 21 years, 3 months, and 3 days of age, 'E-Fro'├é┬Ł established a new all-time benchmark for the youngest poker champion.
The final table was a brutal exercise of patience, skill, and discipline. The chip lead changed several times and shifted back and forth when play was heads up. By the time the final hand was dealt, the standing-room-only crowd that had packed the Rio Pavilion had dissipated, leaving E-Fro to bask in his glory amidst a zonked out ESPN TV crew and a hoarse-voiced Tournament Director, John Grooms. Poker glory usually comes in fickle flashes. It didn't seem to matter that E-Fro had climbed poker's equivalent of Mt. Everest, and there wasn't anyone around to witness the spectacle. The important thing was the view. For at least a while, E-Fro will be the latest chapter in poker history.
This tournament was historic for at least one additional reason 1989 world poker champion Phil Hellmuth, finished in 42nd place. That would not normally be newsworthy. But it so happened to be Mr. Hellmuth's 47th time in the money at the WSOP which distanced him by one notch over 1986 world poker champion Berry Johnston (with 46 cashes). The race is on to climb another poker mountain.
The final ten players assembled around the final table with the following chip counts:
THE FINAL TABLE:
SEAT 1: Wing Wong 54,000
SEAT 2: Eric Froehlich 192,000
SEAT 3: Jason Steinhorn 207,000
SEAT 4: Christian Van Hees 175,000
SEAT 5: Brian Mogelefsky 61,000
SEAT 6: Todd Witteles 134,000
SEAT 7: Peter Costa 153,000
SEAT 8: Zelong Dong 166,000
SEAT 9: Devon Armstrong 209,000
SEAT 10: Adam Hersh 248,000
Players were eliminated as follows:
10th Place Zelong Dong might as well have had a taxi waiting when he arrived at the final table. Minutes into play, the actuary lost most of his chips to a flush, then made a desperate raise with his final 6,000, which was snapped up by Peter Costa. Dong did no wrong with his 10th-place finish worth $15,925.
9th Place Brian Mogelefsky took a tough beat when he was dealt K-K against Jason Steinhorn's 10-10. All of Mogelefsky's chips were in the pot after the flop and it looked as if the 27-year-old New Yorker might double up. But a 10 on the turn gave Steinhorn a set, and poisoned the pocket kings. Mogelefsky earned $28,950.
8th Place Wing Wong, a professional poker player, arrived with the lowest stack and was the next player to exit. He moved his last 18,000 into the pot with J-9 and was nipped by Adam Hersh's 10-3 when the final board showed 10-4-3-9-A. Wong collected $43,430.
7th Place Peter Costa arrived with the most impressive poker pedigree of anyone at the final table. He has won numerous majors, including Late Night Poker (UK), the Aussie Millions, a Hall of Fame event, two European Poker Championship events, and a number of smaller tournaments. Given his past performance, his finish in this event had to be a disappointment. Costa had aces cracked about mid-way into his stay at the table and never seemed to recover. He finally went out with 8-8 against Todd Witteles' K-J when a king flopped. Costa -- born in the island nation of Cypress, transplanted to England, and now a resident of Las Vegas received $57,905.
6th Place Devin Armstrong works as a television camera operator, but is fast becoming a face in front of the camera rather than behind it. Armstrong finished 5th in last year's Canadian Poker Championship, appeared on the cover of Canadian Poker Player magazine, and is hosting a poker DVD. He got steamrolled on his final hand of the night, with 2-2 against E-Fro's pocket aces. A deuce failed to save Armstrong, who pocketed $72,380 for 6th place.
5th Place When play became five-handed, it was still anyone's tournament to win. The lowest stack was about 270,000, and the largest stack stood at 420,000. Then, things turned very bad for Chris Van Hees. The Seattle-based poker pro tried to make a move at the pot at the wrong time and was snapped off by Todd Witteles, who spiked and ace on the flop to go with his A-6. Van Hees picked up $86,855 in prize money for 5th place.
4th Place Adam Hersh arrived at the final table with the chip lead, so his 4th-place finish and $101,335 prize was a mixed blessing. The 22-year-old UNLV student was playing in his first poker tournament, and demonstrated some extraordinary talents for a player with so little experience at this level. On his final hand, Hersh was dealt 5-5 and lost to Jason Steinhorn's pair of nines.
3rd Place Todd Witteles watched his stack disappear in 30 minutes. He went from 400,000 in chips to the rail with a dismal dry spell that was fitting for a 100-degree Las Vegas day. The evaporation was complete when Witteles was dealt A-9 and was dominated by E-Fro's A-K. Witteles managed to catch a nine on the flop, but E-Fro caught a king. Two blanks were the final nails in Witteles' coffin, as he exited in 3rd place. Amazingly, this was also Witteles first time to cash in a major tournament. His payout was $115,810.
If anyone thought the tournament was about to end, they were in for a surprise. Instead, it was a never-ending see-saw chip exchange that lasted nearly three hours. Just when it seemed E-Fro was about to win the tournament, Steinhorn would stage a rally and re-gain the chip lead. Once, he did this after being down 9 to 1 in chips. Then, when murmurs began that Steinhorn might close with a victory, E-Fro caught a flurry of cards and raced back into the chip lead.
At 3:30 a.m., Steinhorn had a 2 to 1 chip lead, but he won very few pots in the final half hour. Getting short on chips, he called a raise by E-Fro. The flop came 9-2-2 with two spades. The turn was a meaningless 10 of hearts. The river brought a third spade, but also paired the 10. E-Fro bet holding his flush despite two pair on board, and Steinhorn (hand not shown) made a crying call. The flush was good and history was made.
Runner up Jason Steinhorn is a 33-year-old engineering manager from the Bay Area. He has already cashed twice at this year's WSOP (finishing 31st in Event #2). Second-place paid $182,040.
Froehlich was speechless following his victory. Perhaps it was fatigue. Perhaps it was $361,910 in hundred dollar bills piled up on the poker table that was now his. Or, perhaps it was the realization that this young man did something truly extraordinary, accomplishing a feat most men and women two and three times his age have been striving for year after year at the World Series mostly coming up short. A gold bracelet is becoming more and more elusive given the huge size of the fields and level of competition. But for one shining instant, we have again been reminded that just about anything is possible at the World Series of Poker. Any player with any level of experience can come, sit down and play, and perhaps even end up as a poker champion.
Just ask E-Fro.
Official Report by Nolan Dalla World Series of Poker Media Director
World Series of Poker Circuit Director of Operations Ken Lambert
World Series of Poker Tournament Director John Grooms
Rio Poker Room Manager Michael Matts
Rio Poker Tournament Director Robert Daily