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The PokerNews Top 10: Players Most Likely to Win Poker’s ‘Triple Crown’

Jason Mercier

Roland De Wolfe’s stunning victory in the $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha 8 or Better event at the WSOP has put the “Triple Crown” on the collective brain of the poker media. Three days ago, De Wolfe became only the second player in history to win a WSOP bracelet, a World Poker Tour title and a European Poker Tour title, with Gavin Griffin being the first player to complete the trifecta back in 2007. Who could be next? Factoring in motivation, their tendency to travel to events (or not), and their tournament results over the last few years, here are the ten players we think are most likely to add a Triple Crown to their long list of poker accomplishments.

10. Rob Hollink

Rob Hollink claimed the second piece of the Triple Crown last summer when he won his first WSOP bracelet in the $10,000 World Championship Limit Hold’em event. Hollink was already an EPT champion, having won the 2005 Grand Final in Monte Carlo, Monaco. In need of a WPT title to complete the feat, Hollink came extremely close to one on two occasions, finishing 12th in the 2004 WPT Grand Prix de Paris and fifth in the 2005 WPT World Championships at Bellagio.

9. David “DevilFish” Ulliott

Never count out the DevilFish. He may not be as young as some of those internet geniuses, but he’s still at the top of his game, with three final tables in major events in both the U.S. and Europe thus far in 2009. DevilFish earned his WSOP bracelet back in 1997 in the $2,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em event and claimed a WPT title in 2003 at the WPT Jack Binion World Poker Open in Tunica, MS. To seal up the Triple Crown, Devilfish needs to win an EPT event, and as a regular presence on the European circuit, this U.K.-based pro has the advantage of a closer proximity to those events than many others on this list.

8. Antonio Esfandiari

At the 2008 EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo, the words “Triple Crown” were being bandied about both in the media room and out on the tournament floor as Antonio Esfandiari sprung out to a late-tournament chip lead, but took a horrific beat the day before the final table when his Q-Q fell to A-10. Had his hand held up, he might have arrived at the final table as the chip leader instead of the short stack, and he ended up busting out in eighth place. Esfandiari earned his WPT title at the 2004 L.A. Poker Classic and his WSOP bracelet later that same year in the $2,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em event. A threat in any tournament field, Esfandiari could find that Triple Crown within his grasp once again should he decide to take a fall trip across the pond.

7. David Benyamine

David Benyamine is another player who nearly got there when it comes to the Triple Crown. Already a WPT champion since 2003 when he took down the Grand Prix de Paris in his native France, Benyamine won his first WSOP bracelet last summer in the $10,000 World Championship Omaha 8 or Better event and then went on to make two deep runs at the EPT European Poker Championships in London only four months later, finishing 12th in the £5,200 Main Event and eighth in the £20,000 High Roller event. A brilliant, fearless player in both cash games and tournaments, Benyamine travels to Europe several times a year and should have many more shots at an EPT title in the near future.

6. Barry Greenstein

A member of Team PokerStars Pro, Barry Greenstein is no stranger to EPT events, often visiting the EPT Live broadcast booth to provide commentary and most recently having played the Season Five Grand Final. Greenstein already has three WSOP bracelets (earned in the 2004 $5,000 No-Limit Deuce to Seven Single Draw event, the 2005 $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event and at last summer’s $1,500 Razz event) and nabbed his World Poker Tour title back in 2004 at the WPT Jack Binion World Poker Open. Though Greenstein prefers high-stakes cash-game action to the grind of tournament poker, perhaps an Ivey-esque “Triple Crown” bet with a fellow pro (paging Daniel Negreanu) could give him some additional motivation to chase down an EPT title.

5. Carlos Mortensen

Carlos Mortensen has already won arguably the two most prestigious events in tournament poker — the WSOP Main Event (2001), and the World Poker Tour Championships (2007). In fact, only a few weeks before he won his WPT title, he came close to winning the EPT Grand Final, ultimately busting out in 11th place. A native of Madrid, Spain, Mortensen has clear ties to the European continent and has been spotted in more than a few overseas events. Perhaps we’ll see “El Matador” fighting to the finish when the EPT stops in Barcelona this fall.

4. Sebastian Ruthenberg

Last year, Sebastian Ruthenberg picked up two pieces of the Triple Crown in under three months, defeating Chris “Jesus” Ferguson to win his first WSOP bracelet in the $5,000 World Championship Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo event and then going on to best a field of 619 to win the 2008 EPT Barcelona Open. Ruthenberg made a run at a WPT title shortly thereafter, going deep in the 2008 North American Poker Championships, but ultimately finishing 31st. This young Hamburg native is clearly still on his A-game, just missing the final table in the WSOP’s $1,500 Omaha Hi/Lo event only two weeks ago. Will this young German be invading Foxwoods or Atlantic City this fall? Stay tuned.

3. Daniel Negreanu

When Daniel Negreanu sets his mind to a goal, he has an uncanny way of making it happen. With untold amounts in various “bracelet bets” and “POY points bets” on the line, Negreanu has been an absolute machine at the WSOP, logging a second-, a fourth-, and a 10th-place finish across three disciplines of poker. And if he decided to set his sights on a Triple Crown, well, it’s a pretty good bet that he’ll get there. Negreanu is already the proud owner of four WSOP bracelets, his latest one coming in the 2008 $2,000 Limit Hold’em event, and he is a two-time World Poker Tour Champion, winning the WPT Borgata and the WPT Five-Diamond Classic in 2004 — the same year he was WSOP Player of the Year. Also a member of Team PokerStars Pro, Negreanu made a number of appearances on the EPT during Season Five and is a likely candidate to return to the felt on the other side of the pond this fall.

2. Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier

ElkY enjoyed a year for the ages in 2008. He won his first European Poker Tour title and $2 million in January when he won the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and added a WPT bracelet to his accomplishments when he took down the $15,000 buy-in Festa al Lago Classic at Bellagio last October. Now all that stands between Grospellier and the Triple Crown is a World Series of Poker bracelet, and he is spending the summer in hot pursuit of that little piece of gold. Thus far at this year’s series, however he has only notched one cash, a 29th-place finish in last week’s $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha/Hold’em event. Grospellier still has plenty of chances left this summer — and then four more in the fall at the WSOP-Europe — to become the third player to earn a Triple Crown.

1. Jason Mercier

Jason Mercier is young, he has energy, he’s running good and perhaps most importantly… he has a booming bankroll. Those factors combined made him a shoo-in for the number one spot on this list. Mercier is the only player in poker history to win two EPT titles, earned at the 2008 EPT San Remo and in the £20,000 High Roller Event at the EPT London. Then, only two weeks ago, Mercier added a WSOP bracelet to his collection when he took down a field of 809 to win the $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Mercier wouldn’t take some of that hard-earned cash and start traveling to a few World Poker Tour events next season.

(For the curious, the other players with two pieces of the “Triple Crown”include Erick Lindgren, Howard Lederer, Paul Darden, J.C. Tran, Ram Vaswani, Eli Elezra, Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Michael Gracz, Freddy Deeb, Nick Schulman, Scotty Nguyen, Scott Clements, Nenad Medic, Joe Hachem, John Hennigan, Ted Forrest, Dan Harrington, Bill Edler, Brandon Cantu, Erik Seidel, David Chiu, and John Phan. )

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