By Paul Hewson
Joe McKeehen wasn't supposed to win the Main Event. He may have had the biggest stack by far at this year's November Nine final table, but McKeehen was “only” the +175 favourite to outlast the other eight players and earn that coveted gold bracelet – and the $7.68 million that went with it. Somebody else in the field was more likely to win.
So McKeehen started knocking them out. On the second hand of the final table, the Pennsylvania native eliminated Patrick Chan. About three hours later, McKeehen did the same to the other remaining short stack, Federico Butteroni. And he completed the hat trick late in the evening by getting lucky on an all-in versus Pierre Neuville, nailing a runner-runner flush to beat the 72-year-old on the river. By the time Day 8 was over on Sunday, McKeehen had nearly half the chips in play.
Joey Ice Cube
Day 9 went quickly by comparison. Once again, it only took two hands to send Thomas Cannuli to the rail, although it was Max Steinberg doing the honours this time. But the day ended with two eliminations in fairly quick succession – first Zvi Stern, who called all-in with Ace-Jack versus Neil Blumenfield's Ace-King, and then Steinberg himself, who shoved with Ace-Jack and got called by McKeehen with Ace-Queen.
By this time, the Main Event truly was McKeehan's to lose. He went into Day 10 on Tuesday with more than twice as many chips as his two opponents combined. It didn't take long for McKeehen to put away Blumenfield, pocket Queens over pocket Deuces, then McKeehen finished off Josh Beckley, outracing his pocket Fours with Ace-Ten and a Ten on the flop.
Checks and Balances
There's no question that the cards were in McKeehen's favour at the final table. He kept getting premium starting hands, and aside from the one “suck-out” against Neuville, McKeehen kept dominating his opponents at showdown. However, McKeehen also played the cards he was dealt with the right balance of big-stack aggression and caution, opening with a wide range and folding early post-flop in marginal situations.
Chances are good McKeehen won't ever win another Main Event. That hasn't happened since Johnny Chan did it in 1987 and 1988, back when the tournament had fewer than 200 players in the field. But unless he decides to retire tomorrow, McKeehen will surely be back in the winner's circle again at some big event down the road. He was already winning tournaments while still a senior in college. There’s no reason to stop now.
Here are the final results and payouts from Event No. 68, the $10,000 No Limit Hold 'em Main Event at the 2015 World Series of Poker:
1. Joe McKeehen $7,683,346
2. Josh Beckley $4,470,896
3. Neil Blumenfield $3,398,298
4. Max Steinberg $2,615,361
5. Ofer Zvi Stern $1,911,423
6. Tom Cannuli $1,426,283
7. Pierre Neuville $1,203,293
8. Federico Butteroni $1,097,056
9. Patrick Chan $1,001,020