By Jason Lake
Things have been pretty quiet on the poker front since Joe McKeehen took down the Main Event at the World Series of Poker. That probably suits McKeehen just fine. He kept a low profile after reaching the November Nine, brushing aside questions with simple, basic and effective responses – much like the way he used his big stack at the final table. Suffice to say the 24-year-old Pennsylvania native won't be dressed like Julius Caesar when he shows up at the Rio next year.
That doesn't mean McKeehen isn't an interesting character. Far from it; he came off very well during ESPN's televised coverage of the Main Event, showing grace and dignity even while he was staring down opponents. So who is Joe McKeehen? What makes him tick, and what can the rest of us learn from him?
No. 1: Family Matters
McKeehen had been winning poker tournaments for three years before taking down the Main Event, and he already had an $820,000 prize under his belt from finishing second in last year's Monster Stack event. Yet McKeehen continued to live with his parents in North Wales, just outside of Philadelphia. At press time, McKeehen still lives at home. He knows he needs to keep his expenses low, even after taking down that $7.7-million prize last week. Unless he paid for the entire $10,000 buy-in himself (unlikely), that's not all McKeehen's money to spend. Besides, supporting his family is clearly much more important to him than material possessions.
No. 2: Keep Grinding
Once he qualified for the November Nine, McKeehen was guaranteed to win at least $1 million. Two months later, well before the Main Event, he was right back at Parx Casino in Bensalem, playing in the Big Stax poker series. McKeehen cashed in twice for a grand total of $3,715. Anytime you enter a poker tournament, there's about an 85% chance you're going to bust out before the money. All you can do is keep playing as many tournaments as your bankroll and schedule will allow. Eventually, you might bink one or two.
No. 3: Stay in School
If you were scouting the November Nine and looking to make a bet on the winner, McKeehen (+175) was an obvious target with the biggest stack at the final table. But he had another ace up his sleeve: a math degree from Arcadia University – or to be more specific, a degree in Actuarial Science. That's essentially a statistics degree for people looking to enter the insurance industry or some related profession. Understanding the concept of probability is one of the most important things in life, let alone at the poker table. It's all about balancing risk and reward. Joe McKeehen understands this in spades.