The World Series of Poker icon in poker in the same way that the Kentucky Derby is iconic in horse racing. Those two championships represent the greatest spectacles in their sports, and a victory there automatically puts your name among legendary company. But lots of people win tournaments and horse races these days. A better test of a horse's racing blood is the Triple Crown, a victory in all three of the year's major races.
Poker has a Triple Crown, too. The three majors of poker -- the WSOP, the WPT, and the EPT -- all present a different set of obstacles for a player to hurdle. Gavin Griffin was the first player to achieve victories in all three events, inventing the term and putting himself one peg above his peers. Only Roland de Wolfe has joined Griffin in achieving that feat, and the two men stand alone with those credentials.
One of our remaining players is just two matches from adding his name to the Triple Crown plaque at the top of poker's wall of fame. And it's not Gus Hansen. At just 22 years old, it's Jake Cody who is just a bracelet away from that crown, and it's no fluke either. As you'd guess for someone of his age, he's assembled the first 2/3rds of that goal rather quickly. In January 2010, Cody notched an EPT win in Deauville, topping a swollen field of 768 to hoist the trophy. Eight months later, he added the WPT London title to his tally, and he'll crest $2 million in career earnings no matter where he finishes up today.
A bracelet would mean a lot for any of these fellows, but there's little doubt nobody would benefit more from the accomplishment than Cody. Standing in his way is Gus Hansen, though, the "defending champion" of this event. Last fall, Hansen snagged his first bracelet in the £10,000 Heads-Up event at the WSOP-E, and he's the one man who needs no introduction in this quartet. He's likely the betting favorite today, but Cody has a lot to play for and a propensity for being underestimated.
On the other side of the semifinal bracket sits Eric Froehlich and Yevgeniy Timoshenko. They'll start with 2.4 million chips apiece, and Froehlich begins the match with a two-bracelet advantage. His first career live cash was a WSOP win in a $1,500 Limit Hold'em event in 2005. A year later, he flexed his PLO muscles with a second bracelet, this time in a $1,500 event with rebuys. He's got about $1.5 million in career earnings, but his opponent, Timoshenko, has won more than that. In a single tournament. And he has the WPT title Froehlich doesn't. "JovialGent" took a $2-million bite out of the poker world when he won the $25,000 WPT Championship in 2009, and he's closing in on $4 million for his career. Anybody who's anybody knows how dangerous the young Ukrainian is, and he'll be gunning hard to add WSOP gold to his trophy case.
If you don't get the sense by now, today's matches are going to be a fantastic spectacle for poker. The matches will run under the bright lights (the very, very bright lights) of the new ESPN arena, and the camera will be rolling. The Timoshenko/Froehlich match will be first, followed by Hansen/Cody. The ESPN table is too small to spread both semifinal matches simultaneously. Call is at 1:55 P.M. today, and we'll be tableside to bring you all three matches of the day as we award the second bracelet of the 2011 World Series of Poker!