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Jake Cody Wins $25,000 Heads-Up Championship, Claims Poker’s Third Triple Crown

22-Year-Old British Professional Becomes Youngest Player to Bag EPT, WPT and WSOP Titles

by Ryan Lucchesi |  Published: Jul 13, 2011


Jake Cody began his poker career as an afterthought to a pool league he played in with a friend back in Rochdale, England, in the vicinity of Manchester. After the billiards was done for the evening, a social £5 game followed every Monday. “I thought it was a fun game that made for good banter. My friend and I started playing more and eventually we started playing heads up, and that is where I got my first experience. That is where I first learned the game,” said Cody.

While he might have fallen short of becoming Britain’s Fast Eddie Felson, the 22-year-old professional poker player did learn to hustle on the felt. He put his early lessons in heads-up poker to good use during the first week at the 2011 World Series of Poker, winning the $25,000 heads-up no-limit hold’em championship. The win capped off an amazing 18-month run for Cody, when he became the youngest player in history to win Poker’s Triple Crown. He joined American Gavin Griffin and fellow Brit Roland de Wolfe as just the third player in poker history to join the club.

On Jan. 25, 2010, Cody won the European Poker Tour Deauville main event to claim his first major victory and $1,199,037 in prize money. On Sept. 5 of that same year, he took home his first World Poker Tour title at the London Poker Classic, which was good for another $425,492 in prize money. His recent gold bracelet victory on June 3, 2011, gave Cody another $851,192, and increased his career earnings to $2,901,131. More importantly, it gave him his first victory at the WSOP, and gave him the magical trifecta that has eluded all but two other players before him.

Gold Bracelet Path

The 2011 WSOP heads-up championship featured a new price tag of $25,000, so the tournament attracted 128 of the best heads-up poker players in the world. This meant that any player who hoped to win the first open buy-in event of the 42nd-annual WSOP would have to defeat seven tough opponents in succession.

For Jake Cody, that path led through the following players: Brandon Adams in round one, Frank Kassela in round two, Dani Stern in round three, Jonathan Jaffee in the Sweet 16, Anthony Guetti in the Elite Eight, Gus Hansen in the Final Four, and finally, Yevgeniy Timoshenko in the championship round. Cody didn’t breeze through the tournament flawlessly, but he did finish undefeated, and he impressed many along the way, especially at the end of the tournament. Cody won quietly in the first three rounds, and then he faced his toughest test of the tournament in the Elite Eight against Guetti.

“Guetti was able to read me very well. At times it felt like he bluffed me in a few big pots. In the first match against him, I got absolutely obliterated. Then we went to a small dinner break and that helped. I then doubled up and felt like I had control of the match,” said Cody. He pulled himself together after the break and worked hard until he held the chip advantage. Cody eventually put Guetti to an all-in decision with pocket tens, and Guetti decided to make the all-in call with pocket sevens, which were unable to come from behind.

Cody then really found his stride as the tournament progressed. He did not have to reload either of his two options for more chips, neither in his semifinal match against Hansen nor again in the finals against Timoshenko. A boisterous and energetic crowd of Englishmen supported Cody as he played great poker on the final day of the tournament, and throughout the noise, the cheers, and the laughs from the crowd, he remained stoic in his seat at the felt. His calm demeanor betrayed nothing, and only his wild hair betrayed any hint of the aggression he was employing from within.

Cody was brilliant against Hansen in the Final Four. He showed no signs of intimidation, and won more than 90 percent of the pots at showdown during a dominating performance. “I would like to think he was surprised. I don’t think he knew too much about me before the match. I think he might have underestimated me a little bit,” said Cody. “Right at the start he gave up a pot after betting three streets with queen high against my top pair, and I think from there I had the momentum for the whole match. I felt like I was reading him well. I was getting hands when I needed to, as well. I kept being aggressive and kept the pressure on him.”

In the key hand that took place early in the match, Hansen had fired three times at a 9♦ 5♥ 2♠ 7♦ 8♣ board, but Cody was undeterred and called him down. Hansen said he had a queen after the river, and then Cody turned over Q♥ 9♣ to win the hand and knock out one of Hansen’s legs. After that hand, it was indeed a steady march downhill for Hansen, who in the end was forced to move all in with A♦ 4♣. He had picked the wrong spot to do so, for Cody was waiting with A♠ 5♠. The board ran out K♥ 8♥ 6♥ 5♥ 6♠ to give Cody the spot against Timoshenko in the finals.

Cody won the first all-in confrontation in the finals when his pocket sixes won a race against the A-4 of Timoshenko, which sent Timoshenko reaching for the first reload chip worth 1.6 million. The second time that Timoshenko was all in, it was Cody who held the baby-ace offsuit with A-3 in the hole, but he was ahead of the J♣ 10♠ of his opponent. The board gave Cody another ace on the river, and Timoshenko was down to his final 1.6 million chip. Cody held all the momentum once again, and his cheering section knew it, unleashing the loudest cheers the Amazon Room had heard in quite some time.

Cody used the advantage he had and struck quickly at Timoshenko one last time. On the final hand Timoshenko made an all-in call preflop after Cody had open-shoved all in following a limp from Timoshenko. Their cards:

Cody: K♣ 9♣
Timoshenko: A♣ 5♠

Board: K♥ Q♦ 4♥ 6♥ 4♦

As soon as the final card was dealt and Cody was the champion of the event, the crowd of British supporters broke into chants of “Triple Crown! Triple Crown!” They honored the achievement of their countryman, and in the ensuing days they would have much more to celebrate.

Cody’s win was just the first of a dozen final-table appearances scored by the British early at this year’s World Series, and the first of two gold bracelets. It may turn out to be the Year of the Brit, or it may not, when all 58 bracelets are handed out, but one thing is for sure: The British are here, and Cody has led the way with one of the most impressive gold bracelet performances in the modern era of poker. ♠

An Interview With the Champion — Jake Cody

Ryan Lucchesi: The first thing to jump out about your victory is that not only are you the third Triple Crown winner, but at 22, you are the youngest winner of the Triple Crown. How does this 18-month run feel from the driver’s seat, where you have won on all three major tours?

Jake Cody: In the last few days it has started to sink in, and I thought, “Oh my God, how have I achieved all of this?” It’s more than I ever would have dreamed of, really.

Just one of those wins is what every poker player wants, so to win all three is incredible. The record is going to be so hard to break since you can’t play for a bracelet until you’re 21. It will be hard to break, so I think I will go down in the record books, which is a very cool thing.

RL: You join Gavin Griffin and Roland de Wolfe as Triple Crown winners. Do you take a lot of pride in the fact that there are now two Triple Crown winners from England?

JC: It’s great; I think it shows how far British poker has come. There are a lot of great British players finding success. A lot of those players are really good friends of mine, and I think that showed in how many great players were there on the rail when I won.

RL: Is the success of British players a reflection of the strength of that feeling of community? Do you guys share a lot of ideas about the game?

JC: Sure. We’re always talking about hands, and that definitely helps. A few of us have run well to win the events that we have, but we are all players who think at a high level, and we exchange different ideas. It definitely helps a lot. Most of the time when we are playing online, we will be on Skype with each other talking about hands. There is also the GUKPT [Grosvenor U.K. Poker Tour] and the UKIPT [U.K. and Ireland Poker Tour] now, and those are the local tournaments that we all go to and then socialize at within our community.

RL: How important have those strong regional tours been to growing the talent base for British poker?

JC: I think it’s a great step to bigger stuff. It’s perfect, the buy-ins are good, and the structure is actually really good. It is great experience in game play for when you move up to the EPT [European Poker Tour]. That is where I got my start in live poker. In Nottingham this year, the UKIPT event was over a thousand players. Poker is still growing in the U.K. because it is on TV all the time.

RL: Do you feel because of Black Friday that British and European players have an edge moving forward, or at least an opportunity to grow the player base ahead of the U.S. in terms of popularity?

JC: I think how much it hinders the U.S., and that it is not great for poker overall, but in Europe it helps at the same time. There is more focus on the European players now.

RL: Do you believe this could be the year of the Brit at the World Series of Poker?

JC: It’s possible; I think last year was a great year for England. I think we had six or seven bracelets — that’s a lot of bracelets. I think it’s amazing we could win that many.

RL: With so much success so early in your poker career, what do you think is possible to achieve in the course of your live-tournament career?

JC: I feel like it could be a while until my next final table where I’m on a big stage again. I don’t know when it is going to slow down because it feels like such a whirlwind. I’m probably going to go through some stretches where I’m not winning.

In terms of goals, winning another bracelet would be amazing. Nobody has ever won two EPTs, so I’m one of the players who might be able to do that. I’m going to play a lot of EPT events. I’m definitely going to travel around Europe and the world playing in all of the big tournaments in the foreseeable future, but I don’t think I want to play in them when I’m in my 40s. I don’t think it is a great lifestyle when you want to settle down, and it is a lot harder to do when you have more responsibilities.

RL: You had a lot of great crowd support during the final table, which obviously must have felt great. You always looked so calm and focused no matter what was going on around you. How are you able to just zero in on your opponent in those exciting and loud situations?

JC: That has always been one of my strengths. You can’t think of it as such a big match. You have to go into it just trying to play your best and trying to beat your opponent. You can’t think of players like Gus Hansen or Timoshenko as a level above you; you’ve got to try and play at just that same level and beat them.

RL: Do you try and drastically switch up your strategy if a player has a strong read on you heads up?

JC: I like to physically slow things down and take a few more seconds in each decision I make. When they’re winning every hand, it feels like they’ve got you on the ropes, but that slows things down. It’s like playing a defensive strategy and holding on to the ball in football.

RL: How do you prepare for a heads-up tournament?

JC: Before I played primarily in live tournaments, I played heads up online, and lately I have been watching a lot of high-stakes heads-up training videos. I have more experience than one might expect.

RL: What advice would you give to players who want to start playing more heads-up poker?

JC: I think it is very important to be fearless, and I think it is very important to be self-critical. Even if it feels like you’re playing really well, you should still feel like you can change anything to improve.

You should be very flexible when you play heads up, as well. One of the most important things about heads up is adjusting to your opponents to combat their styles. Don’t make it easy for them and don’t play into their hands. Always be the one who’s making them answer questions.

RL: How important is it to push momentum in a heads-up match by playing aggressively both preflop and post-flop?

JC: I think momentum is huge heads up. When things are going your way, keep the aggression up and don’t slow down. You need to put your opponent in awkward spots. If your opponent has you on the turn, anything you do feels really transparent, and he’s going to read you well no matter what you do. You feel like you can’t do anything sometimes.

When you find yourself on that side of the momentum, you need to try to slow down the match to try and win a few small pots, and not do anything too crazy for a while. Try and gain control of the match a little bit. ♠

Results From the WSOP $25,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship

1. Jake Cody — $851,192
2. Yevgeniy Timoshenko — $525,980
3. Gus Hansen — $283,966
3. Eric Froehlich — $283,966
5. Matthew Marafioti — $138,852
5. Anthony Guetti — $138,852
5. Nikolay Evdakov — $138,852
5. David Paredes — $138,852
9. Tom Dwan — $67,436
9. Steve Billirakis — $67,436
9. John Duthie — $67,436
9. Olivier Busquet — $67,436
9. Richard Lyndaker — $67,436
9. Kunimaro Kojo — $67,436
9. Mikhail Smirnov — $67,436
9. Jonathan Jaffe — $67,436