By Jason Lake
It was Day 6, and Joshua Beckley had Joseph McKeehen dead to rights. Beckley was in middle position with Ace-King unsuited. He opened, then McKeehen went all-in from the big blind with Ace-Queen suited. Beckley called. With McKeehen covered, Beckley had a 68-percent chance of knocking him out of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event.
Beckley's chances grew to 80 percent when the flop came King-Jack-Four. But now McKeehen had an inside straight draw and a backdoor flush draw. Still, when the Six of Clubs came on the turn, Beckley was a 91-percent favorite to win the hand. The river: the Ten of Diamonds. McKeehen doubled up, and life went on.
We Meet Again
Nearly four months later, Beckley and McKeehen once again found themselves at the same table – the final table. McKeehen had been running like God since spiking that Ten on the river, but he also played his cards with skill, bringing a massive chip stack to the November Nine portion of the tournament. Beckley was seventh in chips out of the nine remaining players.
Then McKeehen made both their lives a little brighter. On Sunday, he knocked out all three players for Day 8 under the new format, eliminating short-stacks Patrick Chan and Federico Butteroni, then drilling a runner-runner flush to send Pierre Neuville packing. With each elimination, Beckley was ensured a bigger payday. Survival was everything.
Things got a lot more interesting on Day 9. Max Steinberg quickly knocked out the new short stack, Thomas Cannuli. Then Ofer Zvi Stern, who had the second biggest stack going into the final table, ran his Ace-Jack into Neil Blumenfield's Ace-King. A few hands later, McKeehen put away Steinberg, Ace-Queen over Ace-Jack. Beckley was guaranteed at least $3.4 million for third-place money; Stern had to settle for $1.9 million in fifth.
Never Give Up
It was highly unlikely anyone was going to stop McKeehen at this point. Then again, stranger things have happened. Beckley and Blumenfield both kept things tight on Day 10, trying to outlast each other for second place and a healthy $4.5 million in prize money. But when they did open, they played aggressively – a little too aggressively in Blumenfield's case, as he went for a triple-barrel bluff against the chip leader with Queen-high and a gutshot draw on the turn. McKeehen called down with top pair.
Not long after, McKeehen eliminated Blumenfield with pocket Queens over pocket Deuces. Beckley had nursed his stack all the way into second place. That's as far as he would get; it only took another 12 hands for McKeehen to whittle Buckley down and bust him with Ace-Ten over pocket Fours. Game, set, match.
This won't be the last time these two players meet at the poker table. Somewhere soon, maybe at the Parx Casino in Philadelphia, McKeehen and Beckley will lock horns again. McKeehen will win some hands, Beckley will win some hands. Life will go on.