World champ Joe McKeehen chip leads WPT Venetian final table

Jon Sofen
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Posted on March 9, 2021 8:11 pm EST

Joe McKeehen, the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event champion, has the chip lead at the WPT Venetian final table. He has an opportunity on Tuesday to supplant his legacy as a future Poker Hall of Famer.

That is, of course, assuming the voters for the HOF will actually take him seriously. McKeehen, albeit a great player, flies a bit under the radar due to his personality, which isn’t exactly charming. After winning the Main Event in 2015, he refused to accept his role as an ambassador. And he blocks many poker fans on Twitter and is considered rude and socially awkward.

But his poker skills aren’t in question. McKeehen now has over $16.6 million in live tournament cashes. That includes three WSOP bracelets, three WSOP Circuit rings, and he is potentially one day away from a World Poker Tour title.

As is the case with anyone who reaches a final table in any tournament, McKeehen caught some cards. Against Stefan Nemetz late on Day 3, he won with pocket jacks against pocket kings, hitting a straight when the board ran out 8-7-7-9-10. Nemetz busted in 9th place for $73,795.

The hand boosted the former poker champ near the top of the leaderboard. He continued rising up before finishing the session with the chip lead after busting Sergio Aido, a Spanish pro with over $11 million in live tournament cashes, in 7th place. Aido took home $120,140 for his efforts.

At that point, well after midnight, play paused as the field was down to its final six. Those remaining players will come back on Tuesday to the Venetian in Las Vegas at 2 pm PT for the final table. Each of those individuals is guaranteed at least $155,865, and the winner will receive $752,880, the largest live tournament payday in Las Vegas since pre-coronavirus.

Behind Joe McKeehen in terms of chips — he enters Day 4 with 10,850,000 — are Roland Rokita (8,450,000), Trace Henderson (5,925,000), Qing Liu (5,725,000), Kou Vang (3,550,000), and Jack Hardcastle (3,025,000).

Hardcastle, the smallest stack, is the only remaining former WPT champion. He took down the WPT Montreal Online event in January for $447,859.

Huge event in Las Vegas

The WPT Venetian event was a rousing success, with 937 players ponying up $5,000 to enter the tournament on the Las Vegas Strip. Clearly, live poker is back, and the tournament pros were starved to come out to Las Vegas and compete in a major event.

On Friday and Saturday, the Day 1 sessions, players were lined up for more than an hour in the mornings to sign-up. That included numerous big name pros such as McKeehen, Nick Schulman, Ali Imsirovic, and of course the WPT G.O.A.T., Darren Elias.

With 32 players remaining and $752,880 headed to the eventual winner, Day 3 was quite a stressful and exciting day. As players fell, the potential for winning some serious money was on the minds of everyone left in the tournament.

Jared Jaffee had a rough day despite winning $93,630 for an impressive 8th place finish. After busting from the tournament, he was angry at WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage, the WPT, and the Venetian, for some odd reason.

“Just wanna send out a huge F**k You to @SavagePoker@WPT and @VenetianPoker ….. I’ll be writing a post about the disgrace of they all are,” Jaffee tweeted.

We’ll now await his upcoming post explaining his anger. He claims it had nothing to do with busting on a bad beat, however.

After Jaffee busted, that put the tournament on the final table bubble. Joe McKeehen called an all-in with A-J against Sergio Aido’s A-6. The best hand held up and the final table was set for Tuesday afternoon.

Other notable players who busted on Day 3 include: James Carroll (13th place for $47,420), Sam Panzicka (22nd place for $26,650), and Nick Schulman (31st for $22,525).

Featured image source: Twitter