Joe McKeehen can't hang on, Qing Liu takes WPT Venetian

Qing Liu Joe McKeehen
Jon Sofen
Posted on: March 10, 2021 11:13 PST

Joe McKeehen held a massive chip lead at one point during the WPT Venetian final table but couldn't close it out. The 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event champion fell just one spot shy of his first World Poker Tour title.

Luck simply wasn't on the Philadelphia native's side late in the $5,000 buy-in tournament in Las Vegas. Qing Liu, however, had all the luck on his side late and took down the major poker event for $752,880, the largest live tournament score Las Vegas has seen since COVID-19.

Tuesday was quite an eventful day for the WPT Venetian. The craziness ensued hours before the session even began. First off, Jared Jaffee dropped a bombshell on the poker community as he shared details about an odd structure that occurred late on Day 3.

Jaffee busted in 8th place on Monday and then took to Twitter to blast the WPT, WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage, and the Venetian for splitting the tables up four and four with eight players remaining.

He felt the move was odd, and that play should have continued at eight-handed. But the structure sheet for the tournament permits the tournament director (Savage or Venetian's TD Tommy LaRosa) to call the shots at their own discretion as the final table approached.

Many poker players bashed Savage for redrawing seats for eight-handed. They argued that doing so was unfair to the short stacks because the blinds come around much faster four-handed than eight-handed. But Savage told he made the decision to split play into two tables to prevent certain players from trying to fold to the final table, which would slow down the action. By splitting up the tables, short stacks were forced to play hands instead of just trying to fold their way to the final table.

If that wasn't enough drama heading into the final table, Fedor Holz dropped a second bombshell on poker Twitter. About four hours prior to the start of play, he informed the poker community that his friend Roland Rokita, who was second in chips, had a medical emergency and was headed to the hospital for an operation.

The medical condition of the player wasn't released, but thankfully it appears he is fine. The other five players at the table all agreed to hold off play until he was ready to go. Rokita arrived at the Venetian after seeking medical attention, and play resumed at 3 pm PT, just one hour late.

Finally ready to play poker

Trace Henderson was the first to go on Tuesday in 6th place for $155,865. Kou Vang was next, out in 5th place for $204,430. Jack Hardcastle, who entered the final table with the smallest stack, took home $271,050 for 4th place. Rokita, who appeared healthy during the final table, battled it out and was eliminated in 3rd place, good for $363,265.

That set up a heads-up match between Joe McKeehen and Qing Liu. McKeehen had over 60 percent of the chips in play at one point with three players left. When heads-up play began, he still held a 2-1 chip advantage.

But that chip lead quickly evaporated. Liu won nearly every hand during heads-up play. He finished things off with a bad beat (K-4 beat K-7) and took down his first World Poker Tour title for $752,880.

McKeehen, who now has over $17 million in live tournament cashes, earned $491,960 for 2nd place. But he fell just short of his goal of going from world champion to World Poker Tour champion. On a positive note for the 2015 WSOP Main Event winner, he'll have plenty more opportunities to win a WPT event.

Featured image source: Twitter/WPT