In the 2001 World Series of Poker, 145 players played for the $1.5k PLO with re-buy bracelet, won by Galen Kester over Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott. Eighteen players cashed then, and eighteen cashed in Event #26B. If they had moved the tourney to Binions and allowed smoking, it would have had an eerily similar feeling. There were 472 re-buys, with a total prize pool of over $900k. Some of those re-buys started in the most bizarre of ways. For example, Thomas Wahlroos, Tony G, Marc Goodwin, and Ram Vaswani together pushed all-in before the flop. Not entirely unusual, but to do that in a WSOP event without looking at any of your cards? Bizarre. The tournament started at 4:00PM, and they played over twelve hours to get down to the cash. Scott Fischman was out in 19th, one out of the money, as play ended for the morning.
Galen Kester must have had more luck in 2001 when he won this event than he did this year. He moved all-in on a flop of 5-4-3 and was called by Richard Freire. Kester had flopped the temporary nuts with a 6-7 in his hand. Freire held pocket 8’s, and he took the pot when 5-8 fell to make his full house - Kester (18th, $9,081). Chau Giang, the chip leader, worked a big pot with Eric Froehlich. Bruno Fitoussi, raised to $4k, Matt Overstreet called, Giang made it a pot bet for $16.6k, Froehlich raised to $27.4k, all his chips. Only Giang called, holding , to Froehlich’s . Froehlich was way behind, and the flop of made things worse, no backdoor draws, no gut shots, down to a ten or runner-runner kings or queens. The turn was one of the tens, , and the brick meant survival and $71k for Froehlich.
Both made it to the last table, but Giang lost a similar pot to double up Matt Overstreet soon after the last 10 players started. Giang flopped two pair and top open ended straight draw, with Overstreet on the short stack with a pair of 8’s and the bottom straight draw. Overstreet caught one of the 8’s on the river, and his set took the pot away from Giang. Richard Freire grabbed the chip lead, and built his stack when Froehlich mucked on the flop bet by Freire.
After Robert Wisiak lost his last pot (10th, $12,713), they moved to the ESPN table to play for the title. The first hand was brutal for Ayaz Mahmood. With five limpers and a flop of , Mahmood couldn’t be faulted for liking the flop as he held . Everyone checked the flop, and a rag hit the turn. Mahmood bet $12k into the pot of $20k, and Overstreet is the only caller with only $13k left. Mahmood bet that in the dark, and Overstreet called before the . Overstreet showed for the higher flopped full house and more cards to play. Freire proceeded to double up Giang and Bruno Fitoussi on consecutive hands, his chip stack crumbling from $260k down to $121k. In the next hour four players left: Ayaz Mahmood (9th, $18,162), Rafi Amit (8th, $27,243), Richard Freire (7th, $36,324), and Matt Overstreet (6th, $45,405).
The action was intense, with Sherkhan Farnood all-in only to win back-to-back to get to $286k in chips. Giang knocked out Overstreet to move up to $320k. Froehlich was down to $54k and moved all-in on the flop, but Kevin O’Donnell folded to give the pot to Froehlich. O’Donnell bounced back, and it was an ugly scene for Bruno Fitoussi. He lost three big pots to O’Donnell to finish 5th ($54,486).
O’Donnell, Giang, and Froehlich snatched chips from each other, with Sherkhan Farnood laying in wait. Farnood, from Afghanistan, was involved in fewer hands for more effect. He doubled through O’Donnell then sent him out on the next hand, his straight good enough to finish the job (4th, $72,648). Giang took a big pot from Froehlich, only to lose successive pots to two straights by Froehlich and exit in 3rd ($90,810). Chau Giang is famous for playing hours and hours of poker. Even though it was 2:30AM, Giang was just starting to wake up, ready to find the juiciest or biggest cash game around.
Heads-up, Froehlich was aggressive from the start, forcing Farnood to take pots with marginal hands or find something big. Farnood folded three flopped pots until finally winning a pot. Froehlich flopped a set on the last hand to win the event. For Sherkhan Farnood, 2nd place was good for his biggest payday ($165,274), and the banker will put it to good use. For Eric Froehlich, (1st, $299,675), it meant more. He was the youngest bracelet winner in history for a year before passing the title to Jeff Madsen this year. The youngest two-time bracelet winner? It isn’t an insult, but it isn’t a relevant point anymore. One Limit Holdem bracelet, one Pot Limit Omaha bracelet. Eric Froehlich is simply a great poker player, and there is no reason he won’t continue to strengthen his all-around game for many years to come.