26-year-old poker pro Joe McKeehen hails from North Wales, Pennsylvania. He is, perhaps, best known as the 2015 WSOP Main Event Champion.
In the beginning
McKeehen won the Risk (board game) world championship in 2010 (I did not realize this was a thing.) He is an avid Philadelphia sports fan: Eagles, Flyers, and the 76ers. In fact, he can frequently be seen playing decked out in NFL, NHL, and NBA gear. Great product placement, if you ask me. And he is probably quite happy since the Eagles won the Super Bowl after a 58-year drought.
He graduated from Pennsylvania’s Arcadia University with a degree in math. While in school, he dabbled in online poker under the name “dude904” and tested the waters of live poker at New York’s Turning Stone Resort Casino. In 2012—while still in college—McKeehen won a PokerStars Caribbean Adventure side event and pocketed just over $116,000. Impressively, he did finish his education before taking on the poker world full-time.
In March 2013, McKeehen won a WSOP Circuit event in Atlantic City and $174,147. He then tried his luck and skill in the 2013 WSOP Main Event where he finished 489th. Then, during the 2014 WSOP, McKeehen placed second in the Monster Stack event and earned himself nearly $821,000—his largest live cash up to that point.
At the 2015 WSOP Main Event, Joe McKeehen made the November Nine and entered the final table with the chip lead—nearly one-third of all of the chips in play. The WSOP 2015 final table consisted of McKeehen, Josh Beckley, Neil Blumenfield, Max Steinberg, Ofer Zvi Stern, Thomas Cannuli, Pierre Neuville, Federico Butteroni, and Patrick Chan. McKeehen ultimately defeated Beckley heads-up to win the Main Event. Oh yeah, he won while wearing his Allen Iverson 76ers jersey.
McKeehen’s poker success continued. In January 2016, he finished second to Bryn Kenney in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller event and pocketed $1.22 million.
Check out this hand in which Joe McKeehen’s killer instincts prove to be correct.
In July, 2016, McKeehen finished in sixth place in the $111,111 NLHE High Roller for One Drop and won nearly $830,000.
A second bracelet
In the 2017 WSOP, McKeehen won his second bracelet in the $10,000 Limit Hold’Em World Championship. He has also had several great showings since. During the 2017 Summer Borgata Poker Open in Atlantic City, McKeehen earned two second places and more than $222,000 in cash winnings.
Earlier this year, he placed fourth in the 2018 Lucky Hearts Poker Open $25,500 NLHE High Roller in Los Angeles, winning nearly $170,000. McKeehen scored another fourth in the 2018 WPT Borgata Winter Open in Atlantic City and pocketed $240,251.
Currently, Joe McKeehen sits in 18th place on the U.S. All-Time Money List with total live cash winnings exceeding $14 million. His WSOP appearances account for the vast majority of it.
The Joe McKeehen Twitter controversies
Anyone who follows the poker world knows that McKeehen is no stranger to Twitter where he can be found as @dude904. However, McKeehen’s account is private, so only confirmed followers can view his, shall we say, colorful tweets.
During 2016, he levied numerous attacks on many in the poker world—from WSOP management to the media—calling them out quite harshly. The Twitter storm began with his complaining about the WSOP’s change in starting time from noon until 11 a.m. for many of the 2016 events while continually disparaging the poker media. Why McKeehen has a problem with the media is unknown. Many speculate that, perhaps, someone wrote something unflattering about him to which he—perhaps justifiably—took offense. Whatever, the case, it certainly doesn’t endear McKeehen to the masses.
The manner in which McKeehen carried on about the time change and the “major” inconvenience it would cause came off to many as immature and arrogant.
The poker world responds
The poker world certainly responded to McKeehen’s “antics” in kind. Daniel Negreanu, in particular, called him out. McKeehen would do well to heed the advice of senior players as reputation has value, and McKeehen’s has sure taken a hit or two. McKeehen should also be aware of the fact that without media, poker wouldn’t have exploded in popularity.
When challenged, McKeehen would claim that the person questioning him wasn’t the real problem—it’s the other 90 percent. This is somewhat suggestive of a conflict-averse person who, simply, can’t take what he dishes out. At least that’s what the psychology books say. His, shall we say, outbursts, also do not endear McKeehen to potential future sponsorships as a poker ambassador.
Regardless of his Twitter tirades, McKeehen possesses that coveted combination of poker skill and luck.
When the poker gods are smiling on him, Joe McKeehen can do no wrong.
Joe McKeehen at the WSOP
Take a look at McKeehen in action at one of the most prestigious poker tournaments in the world.
Joe versus Josh
Here’s a hand nearing the final table bubble in which McKeehen bluffs Josh Beckley off the best hand. Maybe Beckley got spooked by McKeehen’s patented stare. I, certainly, find it a bit creepy. Enjoy Upswing’s very own Doug Polk’s commentary in this clip.
McKeehen versus Negreanu
McKeehen and Justin Schwartz: No respect
Sometimes, the poker gods are completely on your side, which was McKeehen’s fortune during the 2015 WSOP Main Event. Here he is knocking Schwartz out of the tournament. In this set-over-set hand, Schwartz gets quite angry, spews some choice words at McKeehen, and then leaves with his famous “I don’t do handshakes” line.
The 2015 WSOP final hand
Fast forward to 23:27 to watch McKeehen’s victory that included $7.7 million and a bracelet the size of a boxing championship belt. The rest of the video is also pretty nifty.
Here’s McKeehen’s post-WSOP win interview where he finally divulges the origins of “Joey Ice Cubes.” Just in case you were wondering.
The jury is out as to whether Joe McKeehen is a likable bloke or not. Have you had the pleasure (or displeasure) of playing against this former world champion? Please share your comments and/or experiences below.
Until next time.
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