Poker is not exactly a made-for-television event, but I really thought the final two days of the Main Event were fun and entertaining to watch, unlike what has occurred in previous years. The first day dragged quite a bit, especially with Zvi Stern taking forever to make a decision in virtually every hand he was in, but even he seemed to pick up the pace on the second day before being eliminated in fifth place.
Champion Joe McKeehen played his big stack to perfection. He never needlessly risked a significant portion of his chips and continually put pressure on the small stacks. You could tell from the beginning that he had a gameplan when he shoved on Patrick Chan on the second hand, and he stuck with it throughout the final table.
I was really impressed with the play of Josh Beckley as well. What I really liked about him is that he made his pre-flop decisions quickly. You could tell that he had already looked at his cards before it got to him on many instances (I’m not really sure why it is so in vogue to wait until it’s your turn to look at your cards), and he would quickly push them into the muck when it was his turn. He appeared to be the player who was the least bit interested in “Hollywooding,” as analyst Antonio Esfandari called it, when it was his turn to act.
I was very surprised at how tentative the play was. Yes, the leap in payouts was tremendous, but there were many instances where players folded strong hands to a pre-flop four-bet. I can think of a couple of instances with Max Steinberg on the first day (he folded A-10 to a four-bet from Blumenfield, who had QQ and position) and later folded 88 to a four-bet from McKeehen, who had 8-7. I was surprised when he laid down both of those hands.
If there were ever a chance for someone to catch McKeehen, it occurred on the final day in hand No. 160 when Neil Blumenfield folded his A-7 suited to Josh Beckley’s five-bet all-in shove. When Blumenfield raised from the BB to 6 million and Beckley shoved, I thought Blumenfield was committed to the pot and was really surprised he folded. Blumenfield started the hand with about 25.5 million in chips and put almost 25 percent of his chips in with the raise.
Beckley (K-J) began the hand with about 27.5 million, so Blumenfield would have been all-in if he had called. Had his ace held up, he would have been close to 55,000 million and in a position to challenge McKeehen. As it was, when Blumenfield finally went out in third, Beckley never got his chip stack higher than 45 million, and McKeehen waltzed to the win.
Chris Moneymaker’s improbable win in 2003 is credited with the first poker boom. His story inspired thousands of young players, mostly males, to forego a career behind a desk to try to make it as a poker pro. It’ll be interesting to see if the successes of Pierre Neuville, 72, and Blumenfield, 61, who are the oldest two players to ever make the November Nine, inspire more retirees to try to get serious about a second career as a poker pro.
The main event had a prize pool of $60,348,000 from 6,420 entries, which was down slightly from 2014, which had a prize pool of $62,825,572 from 6,683 entries. The 46th annual World Series of Poker featured 68 events, which paid out more than $210 million in prizes and generated $5.1 million in dealer fees and $12.6 million for the event.
While the November Niners were the big winners, the biggest loser may have been professional player Carter Gill, who may be best known for this epic bad beat at the 2013 WSOP Main Event. According to his Twitter feed, Gill played in 19 events during the WSOP and failed to cash once (he claims he had 12 bubbles, but he must have a liberal definition of bubble). The life of a poker pro maybe isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.