Poker basks in the success of new champion Joe McKeehen
Once a year the world looks in the direction of the Nevada desert and salutes the winner of the World Series of Poker Main Event. That day is today, and the winner is Joe McKeehen.
McKeehen, 24, from Philadelphia, won $7,683,000 last night after the final session of play at the Penn & Teller theatre at the Rio All Suites Hotel, in front of thousands of spectators.
With all but three of the 6,420 players already sent to the rail, including Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu -- who came within touching distance of the final himself, finishing 11th -- McKeehen, Joshua Beckley, and Neil Blumenfield played on to a winner, ultimately finishing in that order.
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In the best sense the November Nine is a pure celebration of poker, what with extravagance and often sublime demonstrations of skill. Then there was the spirit in which the final was played, summed up best by Federico Butteroni. The Italian departed in eighth place but celebrated like a man rescued after months stranded on a desert island. The $1,097,056 prize money no doubt helped.
But it will be McKeehen, perched with his bracelet behind bricks of dollars bills, who provides the defining image -- glanced at during the morning commute, and watched during the "and finally..." slot on the evening news. Either way many people, poker fans and those new to the game, might just pause for a second, if only to ask themselves "what if?"
So as McKeehen rightly basks in the limelight, so too by extension does the game itself. We can all take satisfaction in that.
Congratulations to McKeehen, and all the November Niners, on a great finale to the Main Event.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.