Joe McKeehen, a 24-year old professional poker player from Pennsylvania never relinquished his lead throughout the entire three-day World Series of Poker’s championship event that netted the winner $7.68 million on Tuesday night at the Rio in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In a faceoff with Joshua Beckley of New Jersey who had a pair of fours and went all-in, McKeehen ensured his victory when on the flop his ace-10 turned into a pair of 10’s. Going into the final and throughout the entire event, the victor held an overwhelming lead in poker chips, and moments after winning was characteristically nonchalant. McKeehen commented on the relative ease at maintaining his lead and eventually pulling out the win saying, “It was just my days for three days in a row,” according to ESPN. McKeehen said that he doesn’t have any plans for the $7.68 million yet. That purse is more than half of this season’s NFL quarterbacks will make for their entire season, including the Cincinnati Bengals Andy Dalton who is scheduled to make $7.2 million for his 8-0 start.
McKeehen held more than twice as many poker chips, 63.1 million, than the man in second, before getting back to the poker stage on Sunday. He had more than 128 million by Monday’s end, more than three times his closest opponent. Over the three-day event McKeehen sent home six of the final nine players in showdowns, including the third place winner 61-year old Neil Blumenfield who’s double deuces couldn’t beat McKeehen’s pair of queens. Instead, Blumenfield went home with $3.4 million, not a bad for third place.
Blumenfield’s departure left McKeehen facing 24-year old New Jersey native Josh Beckley. The pair played seated between the pricey World Series of Poker diamond and ruby encrusted bracelet and stacks of cash until McKeehen landed a lucky second 10 and claimed the final victory.
The championship can be traced back to 1970 when it was an invite-only event at mob boss Benny Binion’s Las Vegas Horseshoe Casino, which became Binion’s Gambling Hall & Hotel and closed in 2009. The event started out with men gathered around a table choosing the winner and transformed into the global contest that it is today that attracts poker players by the thousands. Today, the tournament consists of 68 events that begin in May and last for 51 days, which culminate in the annual main event. The grueling multiday poker marathon’s initial 6,420 entries at $10,000 apiece were whittled down to just nine players in July and already guaranteed a minimum of $1 million each.