Joe McKeehen Increases His Lead as 2015 WSOP Main Event Final Table Down to Six
Last night was the beginning of the end. THE END. Of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event. The November Nine finally reunited after a four-month hiatus, ready to pick up the championship chase where they left off in July. Joe McKeehen entered the proceedings as the odds-on favorite, courtesy of his mountainous 63.1 million chip stack accounting for around a third of the chips in play. And when the dust settled on the evening, not much had changed, except for his lead growing wider.
Going into final table play, the chip counts looked like this:
Joe McKeehen — 63,100,000
Zvi Stern — 29,800,000
Neil Blumenfield — 22,000,000
Pierre Neuville — 21,075,000
Max Steinberg — 20,200,000
Thomas Cannuli — 12,250,000
Joshua Beckley — 11,800,000
Patrick Chan — 6,225,000
Federico Butteroni — 6,200,000
As you can see, it was McKeehen > GRAND CANYON GAP > Zvi Stern > Neil Blumenfield/Pierre Neuville/Max Steinberg >> Thomas Cannuli/Josh Beckley >> Patrick Chan/Federico Butteroni. Certainly, Stern could go on a run and catch McKeehen, but barring a ridiculous hand or fishy play by McKeehen, that wasn’t going to happy on Sunday.
Almost immediately, Patrick Chan went down, and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. He and Butteroni needed to find a time to shove, and Chan did so with K-Q from the small blind after McKeehen put all of his chips in with A-4 on the button. Nobody hit any cards, and that was that for Chan. He was eliminated in ninth place, $1 million richer than when he started the Main Event.
From there, it was a slog to get through the night. Everybody took their time making their decisions, particularly Stern and Blumenfield, both of whom played very well. (During a break, Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth both said that Blumenfield, in particular, was playing great.) Stern was interesting to watch, as he looked the part of a poker player, sporting facial scruff and sunglasses and cloaked in a dark hoodie. He showed no emotion when it was his turn and was very deliberate in everything he did. Between hands, though, especially after he had been involved in a hand, he always looked happy, enjoying the experience and the company of his fellow players. He was also funny in a pre-taped interview with ESPN, joking that everybody always says that winning the Main Event is their dream and that they want to win more than anyone, but that no, HE really wants to win it more than anybody.
In close to six hours, counting breaks, only 72 hands were played. That is one hell of a slow pace. And, frankly, while there was very solid poker being played – nobody really looked like a donkey out there – it was not exciting in the slightest.
Three hours into the final table, Butteroni, only the second Italian to make the November Nine, was finally bounced in eighth place after his A-J was trumped by McKeehen’s A-K. In a post-match interview with Kara Scott, Butteroni reflected on his time at the final table, saying:
Was not easy [to] play like a short stack because actually you don’t have any option and was a little bit frustrated because I would like to do some action but I didn’t see any cards actually. The best hand was King-Ten and this was the first Ace I picked up in 40 hands, so I was a little bit frustrated but it was an incredible journey so I’m really happy that I am here.
So the short stacks were out, which meant someone else had to become the short stack. That someone was Pierre Neuville, who, at age 72, became the oldest player in November Nine history, beating out fellow 2015 November Niner Neil Blumenfield, who is 61. Neuville was in a fairly comfortable spot to start the night, but could never get on track. Two hands, in particular, put him in a hole. In the first, he had pocket queens and rivered a Broadway straight, but youngster Thomas Cannuli rivered a flush with K-9 of hearts to take a good chunk of chips away from Neuville. Neuville was still in decent shape with 17.4 million, but it got worse.
Holding pocket fours, Blumenfield raised pre-flop to 1.2 million and Neuville called with A-K. It was a huge action flop after that: K-Q-4. Blumenfield bet 1.6 million with bottom set and Neuville called with top pair, top kick. Another queen landed on the turn, inducing checks from both players. With a three on the river, Blumenfield bet 4 million and Neuville called. Blumenfield showed his set, Neuville mucked and just like that, Neuville was down to just 7.5 million chips. Blumenfield, at that point, saw his stack increase to 35.325 million.
It was really only a matter of time before Neuville was down to the felt and finally he moved all-in with A-J of clubs after McKeehen had raised pre-flop with J-6 of hearts. McKeehen made the easy call, though he was dominated by Neuville. Unfortunately, for the table’s senior member, McKeehen flopped a heart and then hit a runner-runner flush to oust Neuville from the tournament in seventh place.
For his part, McKeehen actually started out the night slowly, looking frustrated that he was having trouble wielding his massive stack to absorb his opponents’ chips. But he eventually got going, taking pieces here and there and before you knew it, the snowball effect was on. He has now eliminated the eleventh- through seventh-place players to build his stack to 91.45 million chips, almost as many as the rest of the table combined.
When the plans were first drawn up for the final table schedule, the idea was to play down to four players on Sunday and then two on Monday. Tournament organizers adjusted that to play down to six yesterday, likely to make sure the remaining players could get some rest, and then three on Monday. The final three will return Tuesday to determine the champion.
The action can be viewed live (with a 30-minute delay) on ESPN2 tonight starting at 8:00pm ET.
2015 World Series of Poker Main Event Final Table – End of Day 1 Chip Counts
1. Joe McKeehen – 91,450,000
2. Ofer Zvi Stern – 32,400,000
3. Neil Blumenfield – 31,500,000
4. Max Steinberg – 16,000,000
5. Josh Beckley – 10,875,000
6. Thomas Cannuli – 10,425,000
Cover Image Credit: Joe Giron/WSOP