Joe McKeehen Wins 2015 WSOP Main Event

It seemed like a foregone conclusion that 24-year old poker pro Joe McKeehen would win the 2015 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event when play ended Monday night, as he had two-thirds of the chips in play. He had been playing flawlessly for the first two days of the final table and had twice as many chips as his two competitors combined…there was no way he was going to lose. But this is poker and anything can happ…yeah, he won. Joe McKeehen went wire-to-wire at the final table to win the 2015 WSOP Main Event, claiming the most gaudy bracelet in poker and $7,683,346.

Joe McKeehen - 2015 WSOP Main Event Champ Image credit: WSOP.com

Joe McKeehen – 2015 WSOP Main Event Champ
Image credit: WSOP.com

As much as I want to wax prolific and regale you with tales of a dramatic final day, Tuesday night was really uneventful, save the crowning of a new poker champ. McKeehen won, as expected. He seemed to hit every flop – to the point where ESPN commentator and poker pro Antonio Esfandiari predicted that he would every hand – and at the same time played fantastically. He didn’t try too hard to bully his opponents, he didn’t feel the need to shove over the top of their raises, he didn’t force the action.

McKeehen knew that his monster stack was a deterrent enough to Neil Blumenfield and Josh Beckley. The two short stacks understood that McKeehen could take them out at any moment and while they needed to find a spot in which to double-up, they also wanted to try to outlast the other so as to earn another $1 million in prize money. McKeehen simply played small ball – why risk doubling-up one of the short stacks when a small raise would be just as scary as an all-in? Some players use their big stack like a club and try to bludgeon their opponents to death, whereas McKeehen just poked at them until they cried, “Uncle!”

Blumenfield, the affable 61-year old amateur, did have a shot to get right back into the championship discussion were he to double-up early, but without a big hand versus big hand scenario, McKeehen wasn’t going to let that happen. The beginning of the end for Blumenfield came on a hand where he tried his darndest to do outplay McKeehen. With Q-8, he raised to 3 million pre-flop and McKeehen called with K♣-T♠. The flop came down T-6♣-3♣, McKeehen checked, Blumenfield made a continuation bet of 2.2 million, and McKeehen called. Same thing again with the 7 on the turn. Check, 3.5 million chip bet, call. When the 5♣ was dealt on the river, McKeehen checked again and Blumenfield pondered his move. Eventually, he put out 7 million chip bet, knowing that he had to fire that third bullet if he wanted to try to win the pot, as he had air. McKeehen stared him down, pieced together the story of the hand, and told Blumenfield that he didn’t look like a guy who had hit a flush. McKeehen called and took it down with top pair.

That hand sent Blumenfield’s stack down to below 20 million and he never recovered. Not long thereafter, he moved all-in with pocket Twos after Beckley raised and McKeehen re-raised pre-flop, only to be called by McKeehen with Queens. The Queens held up and Blumenfield was out in third place. The normally cheerful Blumenfield was clearly devastated to be eliminated, having trouble working up a smile as he received congratulations. ESPN mics picked up McKeehen telling him, “You played better than every single person expected.”

And so the tournament was down to just two players, Josh Beckley and Joe McKeehen. Of course, McKeehen was in complete control going into the heads-up match, holding four-fifths of the chips in play. It’s not often that 37 million chips look like a molehill, but that’s what they looked like across the table from McKeehen’s 155.65 million.

As one might have expected, the heads-up contest did not last long. Unless Beckley got lucky, there was really no way he was going to overcome McKeehen’s huge lead. On the thirteenth hand of heads-up play, it ended. Beckley moved all-in pre-flop with pocket Fours with very little thought. After all, he had fewer than 20 million chips at that point and had to make a move. McKeehen pondered it for a few seconds and called with A-T. As had been the running joke throughout the ESPN telecast, the window card on the flop was a Ten, giving McKeehen a pair. Neither the turn nor the river helped Beckley and Joe McKeehen was crowned the new WSOP Main Event champion.

In past Main Events, the post-game celebration was raucous, with the winner whooping it up with his friends and family, but McKeehen was quite subdued, even a bit awkward. When asked by Kara Scott about not wanting to be interviewed earlier, he said, “I was just focused. I didn’t want to get too ahead of myself. I’ve been that way the whole tournament. It was working, so I didn’t want anything over my head. I feel pretty good now…of course.”

As for what he was going to do that night, McKeehen said flatly, “I think we’re gonna party. I think…it seems like the thing to do.”

But regardless of how great of an interview he is, Joe McKeehen played fantastic poker over the course of the final table. Sure, it helped that his stack dwarfed the others and he seemingly hit every card he needed, but plenty of people play poorly even in such favorable circumstances. McKeehen played perfectly, knowing exactly how to control the table. That is the reason he is the 2015 WSOP Main Event Champion.

2015 World Series of Poker Main Event – Final Table Results

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.    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

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