6,420 dreamers peeled off $10,000 and bought into the 2015 WSOP Main Event. The bulk of them were amateurs, some were semi-pros, and a handful were true professionals. Yet all of them were dreamers.
You might play poker for the love of the game (beating out 6,420 players), you might play for the money ($7.7 million for first place), you might play for the power, glory, and fame (INSERT NEXT POKER SUPER STAR NAME HERE_____)… but everyone who steps into the Rio Casino in Las Vegas has the same dream: winning the WSOP Main Event.
If you played a single hand of online poker or live poker in the last decade you've flirted with the possiblity of winning it all and hoisting bricks of cash over your head while surrounded by the international press. Every poker player has had the big dream flickering in the back of their minds whether they want to admit it or not.
Even with the rise of the EPT, the Aussie Millions and other international tours, the WSOP Main Event Championship is still the most prestigious tournament in the world. It's the Super Bowl, New Year's Eve, and Mardi Gras all rolled into one. It's the one big tournament you win where everyone will know your name, because it doesn't matter if you're a pro, an amateur or a mega-donk who never does anything ever again. For the rest of poker history, the winner of the Main Event gets mentioned in the same breath as the legends. Doyle Brunson. Johnny Moss. Sailor Roberts. Stuey Ungar. Johnny Chan.
Add Joe McKeehen to that list.
This year's November Nine was spread out over three days. Patrick Chan, Federico Butteroni, and Pierre Neuville busted on the first day all at the hands of McKeehen. Then on the second day, Thomas Cannuli, Zvi Stern, and Max Steinberg busted. When the third day began, Blumenfield and Beckley were up against a Godzilla-sized stack because McKeehen held two-thirds of the chips in play. Neither of them could rally from behind before McKeehen gobbled them up. Day 3 concluded in under two hours, as McKeehen won the shortest final table (183 hands) in the history of the November Nine.
Only 90 minutes into Day 3, short-stacked Blumenfield tried to double up with 2-2, but Joe McKeehen woke up with Q-Q. McKeehen's pocket Queens held up and he sent the fedora-adorned Blumenfield to the rail in third place, much to the dismay of Blumenfield's legion of fans, many of whom wore "Fear the Fedora" t-shirts.
Neil Blumenfield, a software designer from San Francisco, won $3,398,298. During his lengthy bustout interview, Blumenfield thanked a litany of people including his coaches. It sounded more like an Oscars speech, and just like Hilary Swank, he even snubbed Chad Lowe in his thank yous.
"This was as good as it gets for a poker player," said Blumenfield.
TAO OF PAULY
The WSOP Main Event Championship is still the most prestigious tournament in the world. It's the Super Bowl, New Year's Eve, and Mardi Gras all rolled into one. It's the one big tournament you win where everyone will know your name... doesn't matter if you're a pro, or an amateur, or a mega-donk who never does anything ever again.
When it got to heads-up, Joe McKeehen led approximately 158M to Josh Beckley's 35M. Beckley was already on the ropes and McKeehen put him away in a mere 13 hands. On the final hand, both players bombed it all-in preflop amidst an echoing chant of “Joe-y Ice-Cube! Joe-y Ice-Cube!”
Down to his last 19M in chips and desperately seeking a double up, Josh Beckley was all-in with 4c-4d against Joe McKeehen's Ah-10d. A ten on the flop gave the lead to McKeehen. The final board was Qs-10c-5s-5d-Jc and Beckley's two pair – fives and fours – failed to beat McKeehen's better two pair – tens and fives. The laconic McKeehen, who had been aloof for most of the tournament, thrust both arms in the air upon seeing the river card.
For his runner-up performance, Josh Beckley from Marlton, NJ, collected a paycheck worth $4,470,896.
"I'm happy with the way I played," Beckley said. "That's all you can do. You just have to play what's dealt and take it in stride. "
McKeehen had previously won two Circuit rings, but this was his first WSOP bracelet. Because his victory in the Main Event was televised on ESPN, everyone in McKeehen's home town of North Wales, Pennsylvania knows that "Joey Ice Cube" is $7,680,021 richer.
Why was everyone shouting "Joey Ice Cube" inside the Penn & Teller Theatre? It was McKeehen's nickname. One of his previous jobs was the ice cream man and his friends gave him the moniker "Joey Ice Cube. "
When ESPN's Kara Scott asked McKeehen, clad in an Allen Iverson Philadelphia Sixers jersey, if he's ready to be poker's next ambassador he shrugged and replied a very neutral, “We'll see.”
We'll see what the next year will bring for ex-ice cream man and the newest WSOP champion Joe McKeehen.
2015 NOVEMBER NINE PAYOUTS
2015 WSOP Event #60 $10,000 NL Main Event Championship
Prize Pool: $60,355,857
Places Paid: 1,000
1. Joe McKeehen (North Wales, PA) $7,680,021
2. Josh Beckley (Cartlon, NJ) $4,469,171
3. Neil Blumenfield (San Francisco, CA) $3,397,103
4. Max Steinberg (Fairfield, Iowa) $2,614,558
5. Ofer Zvi Stern (Israel) $1,910,971
6. Thomas Cannuli (Cape May, NJ) $1,426,072
7. Pierre Neuville (Belgium) $1,203,193
8. Federico Butteroni (Italy) $1,097,009
9. Patrick Chan (Brooklyn) $1,001,020
For complete list of 2015 WSOP Main Event money winners, visit the WSOP.com.
WSOP MAIN EVENT CHAMPIONS
1970 – Johnny Moss
1971 – Johnny Moss
1972 – Amarillo Slim
1973 – Puggy Pearson
1974 – Johnny Moss
1975 – Sailor Roberts
1976 – Doyle Brunson
1977 – Doyle Brunson
1978 – Bobby Baldwin
1979 – Hal Fowler
1980 – Stu Ungar
1981 – Stu Ungar
1982 – Jack Straus
1983 – Tom McEvoy
1984 – Jack Keller
1985 – Bill Smith
1986 – Berry Johnston
1987 – Johnny Chan
1988 – Johnny Chan
1989 – Phil Hellmuth
1990 – Mansour Matloubi
1991 – Brad Daugherty
1992 – Hamid Dastmalchi
1993 – Jim Bechtel
1994 – Russ Hamilton
1995 – Dan Harrington
1996 – Huck Seed
1997 – Stu Ungar
1998 – Scotty Nguyen
1999 – Noel Furlong
2000 – Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson
2001 – Carlos Mortensen
2002 – Robert Varkonyi
2003 – Chris Moneymaker
2004 – Greg Raymer
2005 – Joe Hachem
2006 – Jamie Gold
2007 – Jerry Yang
2008 – Peter Eastgate
2009 – Joe Cada
2010 – Jonathan Duhamel
2011 – Pius Heinz
2012 – Greg Merson
2013 – Ryan Riess
2014 – Martin Jacobson
2015 – Joe McKeehen