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'Magic' Legend Seeks World Series Of Poker Final Table, Nearly $9 Million In Prize Money

Eric Froehlich Eyeing First Bracelet Since 2006

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Las Vegas poker player Eric Froehlich made himself a poker household name back in 2005 when he became the youngest WSOP bracelet winner in history at the time. He was 21. On Wednesday in America’s gambling hub, Froehlich was at the final three tables in the 2018 main event.

Froehlich, who is one of about 50 people in the Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame, could cement himself as one of the most savvy card game players in history with a win in the no-limit hold’em championship, which is set to award $8.8 million to the winner.

Froehlich won his second WSOP bracelet in 2006, so it’s been over a decade since he last stood in the winner’s circle at the Rio casino-hotel, home to the annual summer poker festival. The 34-year-old scaled back his poker career thanks to online poker’s Black Friday in April 2011, but he still plays the occasional poker tournament. He’s making the most of one of his few opportunities at the 2018 WSOP. Nearly 8,000 people entered the main event this year.

Despite a deep run in the most prestigious tournament on the planet, Froehlich realizes his decision several years ago to refocus on Magic put him behind some of the game’s best poker players. “I’m not one of the top poker players,” he said before day 7 of the main event. “I don’t have any illusions about ever being one of the top players.”

Still, the Virginia native sees a modest opportunity to show some that he still can win on poker’s biggest stage, something that came so easily to him in his early 20s.

“There’s always some feeling that you need to validate the successes you had when you were young,” he said. “But you know, at this point, I know I’m not an elite poker player. The guys who play the high roller tournaments, they are incredible and much better than I am. I am OK with that. Of course you want to show you are still relevant and you weren’t a fluke, but at the end of the day there is only so much that you can prove.”

Froehlich’s first bracelet came in the very first event that he ever made the money in at the WSOP, a feat not many of poker’s greats have accomplished. He first came to Las Vegas with $5,000 to spend on poker. He played two $1,500 buy-in events and lost. He was down to his last $2,000 and wasn’t sure if he wanted to leave his hotel room to play another $1,500 tournament. He ended up pulling the trigger, and when the dust settled he had won $361,910.

Froehlich said he was “kind of thrown into the poker life” that summer thanks to winning an online satellite to the main event just a week after he turned 21.

Thanks to finding poker at such a young age, Froehlich learned how to manage a bankroll and the pitfalls of the gambling lifestyle. He’s never been a big spender outside of playing poker. That won’t change if he wins a massive sum at the main event final table.

“I don’t go too crazy with the money,” he said. “Most of my frivolous spending goes toward buying nice Magic cards. I like to save for the future. Winning main event money is fairly absurd, so no. 1 priority is making sure my family is taken care of. We might upgrade our house a bit and make sure we don’t have to worry about car payments for awhile. I’m not someone to blow the money.”

What’s the most expensive Magic card in the world? It’s the Black Lotus, valued at around $20,000 if the condition is excellent, according to Froehlich.

“I already have [the card], I had several of them,” he said. “Before I got married [about a year ago] I sold several of them to pay for the wedding (laugh). Whether I need more copies of that card again I don’t know, I’ll have to talk to my wife and see. It turns out that Magic cards are great investments, over and over again. I spent a lot of money when I had money buying Magic cards. They continue to go up in value.”

Part of whatever he earns in the main event will go toward paying his investors. Froehlich sold some of his action to reduce the exposure that comes with playing a $10,000 buy-in tournament. However, he also likes what financial backers bring to the table mindset-wise.

“For every poker tournament I’ve played, I’ve sold at least some portion, even when I was really well off,” he said. “I always enjoyed having people who care enough about you and support you invest in your action believing in you. It’s almost motivational. Of course it would be great to keep [all the prize money] for yourself, but I’m happy I get to share this with friends and people I might not know as well but who support me.”

Card Player had a chance to catch Froehlich on Tuesday during a break in the action to chat at length about poker and Magic, and what they share in common.