Poker’s biggest event is the WSOP main event. The biggest stage is the November Nine. The biggest star is Daniel Negreanu. Tuesday night in Las Vegas, those three things appeared to be on a collision course -- until Joe McKeehen stepped in.
“Somebody joked that I already murdered poker,” McKeehen said about being the one who prematurely ended Negreanu’s run at the November Nine. “I’ve got nothing to say, hopefully I can bring it back.”
With 11 players left in the main event, McKeehen eliminated Negreanu in heartbreaking fashion. It might become one of the most notable moments in WSOP history after it airs on ESPN in October.
Negreanu defended his big blind after a button raise from McKeehen. After the Ad-Kc-10d flop, Negreanu checked, McKeehen bet 700,000 and Negreanu moved all-in for 5,825,000. McKeehen took no time to call and tabled Jd-3d for a flush and straight draw, while Negreanu showed As-4d for top pair. The turn was the 3h giving McKeehen even more outs.
The river was the Qh completing a straight for McKeehen and sending Negreanu to the floor in a state of shock and out of the main event in 11th place for the second time in his career (the other time was in 2001).
“I legitimately lost my knees and hit my head on the ground. So I’m a little dizzy but nothing a good old vodka-something can’t heal,” Negreanu said following his elimination.
“I think the final hand we both flopped a pretty good hand, and he didn't have a lot of chips and the way it went in was pretty standard,” said McKeehen, who admitted to being somewhat star-struck when he was seated with Negreanu earlier in the day. “I had a little trouble with him. I think I misplayed a couple of hands against him actually because of who he was and it got in my head a little bit. I kinda settled down and got a better grasp of what was going on.”
What was going on was Daniel-mania. Every seat on the ESPN main stage was full with fans, friends and other players going as far as sitting in the aisles so they could watch Negreanu perform his magic.
“It was electric, the Thunderdome was rocking. We had a lot of people in there really excited for me. I felt the energy. I felt like it was bigger than me,” Negreanu said.
Following his elimination, some of the atmosphere was gone, but Negreanu returned to sweat the final few eliminations before calling it a night and letting the November Nine enjoy their moment in poker’s spotlight.
Not only did McKeehen send Negreanu out in 11th, he also took care of the final table bubble, sending Alexander Turyansky out in 10th. Now McKeehen will spend the next four months on top of the WSOP main event leaderboard after finishing with 63,100,000. McKeehen’s lead is the biggest of the November Nine era.
Sitting second is Zvi Stern, the second Israeli to make the November Nine following Amir Lehavot in 2013, takes 29.8 million in chips into the final table.
Sitting third and fourth in the chip counts are two players who are skewing the average age at the final table. Neil Blumenfield, at 61, would have been the oldest player in any November Nine. Not this year, though, as 72-year-old Pierre Neuville takes that title. Blumenfield ended with 22 million, just ahead of Neuville's 21 million.
The player sitting in the middle of the chip counts is the one some are hoping will become the Chris Moneymaker of the Daily Fantasy Sports scene. Max Steinberg, who won his main event seat on DraftKings, has 20.2 million in chips.
Sitting sixth is Thomas Cannuli with 12.2 million, just ahead of Josh Beckley’s 11.8 million. The two shortest stacks will create an interesting dynamic when play resumes. Patrick Chan sits eighth with 6.22 million, narrowly pipping Italy’s Federico Butteroni, who finished with 6.20 million. In the eight-year history of the November Nine concept, the two shortest stacks have never been so close in chips.
November Nine chip counts
1. Joe McKeehen (63,100,000 in chips)
2. Zvi Stern (29,800,000)
3. Neil Blumenfield (22,000,000)
4. Pierre Neuville (21,075,000)
5. Max Steinberg (20,200,000)
6. Thomas Cannuli (12,250,000)
7. Josh Beckley (11,800,000)
8. Patrick Chan (6,225,000)
9. Federico Butteroni (6,200,000)
After his elimination, Negreanu immediately thanked his fans on social media. Antonio Esfandiari, Jeff Gross and Brian Rast were all on the rail throughout the day, but they weren’t cheering for Negreanu. The three are good friends with Cannuli . . . Justin “Stealthmunk” Schwartz was another one of McKeehen’s victims. The two are good friends off the felt and it took a set-over-set situation to end Schwartz’s tournament. On a 6-3-2 flop, Schwartz made a set of three, only to find himself drawing to one out after McKeehen made a set of sixes . . . Thomas Kearney, who won his main event seat on WSOP.com, was eliminated in 15th place. Kearney is considered by most to be the highest-volume player in Nevada and has a popular Twitch stream that features his play on the regulated site . . . Fedor Holz, a 21-year-old German who many had high expectations for on Tuesday, was eliminated in 24th place and had high praise for Negreanu.
Never had much to do with @RealKidPoker before, but playing with him made me realize how much he did for the game I love. Kudos, Daniel.— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) July 15, 2015