Montco's McKeehen outlasts N.J.'s Beckley to win World Series of Poker

APTOPIX World Series of Poker Main Event
Joe McKeehen holds up the bracelet for winning the World Series of Poker Main Event on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Las Vegas. McKeehen won more than $7 million.

Joe McKeehen, of North Wales, Montgomery County, held off challenges from his final two opponents Tuesday night in Las Vegas and won the $7.68 million first prize and the World Series of Poker championship title.

Josh Beckley, 24, of Evesham Township, Burlington County, was second, and Neil Blumenfield, 61, of San Francisco, finished third. The second-place finisher earned $4.47 million and third place $3.39 million.

McKeehen, 24, who graduated from Arcadia University with a degree in mathematics, went into the final round with a huge lead of 67 percent of all the chips on the table. He sported a Sixers jersey for the big night. He was followed by Blumenfield, with 21 percent, and Beckley, with 12 percent.

Beckley started Monday's Day 2 in seventh place but worked his way into Tuesday's final three for the last round. He outlasted Blumenfield but was eliminated about 11 p.m.

Thomas Cannuli, 23, of Cape May County, was eliminated on Monday but still earned $1.4 million in sixth place.

In a game known for eccentric personalities and brash outfits, McKeehen is partial to sweatpants and T-shirts. He drives a Prius and lives with his parents in North Wales.

McKeehen said he began playing poker online - not for money - in middle school and got serious about it as a teenager when he realized he was consistently earning more per hour at poker than at his grocery-store job.

“I always had confidence in my ability to make money and make a living playing poker," McKeehan said after winning Tuesday.

“I’m very happy the final table went as smooth as it did," he said. "The way the cards came out, it didn’t seem like I had too many tough decisions, and when I did, I generally made the right ones. It was definitely easier than facing adversity and battling. It was just my day for three days in a row.”

Before the final three-day event started on Sunday, McKeehen's coach, one of Las Vegas' top strategists - who asked not to be named for strategic reasons - said McKeehen's intelligence was the key to his success.

"He's able to hyper-focus on each individual person around the table and know where he stands and where they think he stands," the coach said.

The game the men played, no-limit Texas Hold 'em, involves each player getting two cards unseen by the rest of the table and five community cards, with betting between each.

The World Series tournament began in May with 6,420 players and featured 68 elimination events on 51 days, culminating with Tuesday's Main Event. Players put up entry fees of $10,000, and the nine who started this three-day final event were guaranteed at least $1 million.

Overall, there were contestants from 111 countries. The oldest was 94, and the youngest was 21.