LAS VEGAS (AP) — Pierre Neuville’s wife couldn’t watch.
She stood in the audience with her back turned as the 72-year-old retired board game executive from Belgium went all-in at the World Series of Poker Main Event on Monday night with a good hand, ace-jack suited, in hopes he’d stay alive.
Luck had other plans.
Joseph McKeehen plays at the World Series of Poker Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, in Las Vegas. Sunday night was the first of three days of poker-playing before crowning a new champion and awarding more than $7 million to the winner. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Neuville was the third player to bust out of the poker championship, their dream of winning the $7.6 million top prize and poker champion title each dashed by 24-year-old chip-leader Joe McKeehen of Pennsylvania.
The three-day poker-playing marathon began Sunday in Las Vegas as nine men battled for the annual World Series of Poker title and chance at $7.6 million.
They last matched wits in July for the series’ Main Event and returned to the Rio All-Suites casino-hotel with their remaining chips for the final matchup after outlasting several thousand players, with each paying $10,000 for the chance to win the no limit Texas Hold ’em event.
It was an earlier face-off between the tables’ two oldest players, Neuville and 61-year-old Neil Blumenfield, that sent Neuville crashing from the middle of the pack to last, hanging on for his poker life for the rest of the night.
When he went all-in with the ace-jack suited against McKeehen, who showed a jack of hearts and six of hearts, it was Neuville’s to lose before the five community cards were turned over.
But McKeehen got one heart on the flop, another on the turn and then clinched a flush when the last and final card was revealed: a queen of hearts, effectively ending Neuville’s run.
“I’ve seen in poker good runs and bad runs. And today it was a bad run.” When he saw the second heart turned over on the table, he said he knew it was over. “When everything goes wrong, it’s not your day.”
McKeehen, the poker pro and math-degree holder from Pennsylvania who held an enormous lead going into the final World Series of Poker matchup, ousted Italy’s Federico Butteroni earlier Sunday and eliminated 26-year-old Patrick Chan from New York, minutes into the no-limit Texas Hold ’em event’s start.
He enters Monday holding 57 percent of all the poker chips on the table.
It’s been four months since nine players remained atop a field of 6,420 entries in the World Series of Poker’s main event.
Butteroni, who came into Sunday night in last place, was able to at least outlast Chan and walk away with an extra $97,000 on top of the $1 million they all won in July. After McKeehen raised him 1 million chips before the flop of community cards, Butteroni went all-in with an ace-jack combo against McKeehen’s ace-king.
Butteroni’s fans chanted “jack, jack, jack” but none made an appearance.
“He is one of the most humblest, most modest people,” said friend Denise Negrel, who works at the Aria casino-hotel in Las Vegas doing international marketing in Europe.
Chan, the professional poker player that came into the competition in 8th place, went all-in with just several million worth of chips and a king-queen combo. McKeehen, holding more than 10 times as many chips, showed an ace and a four, winning the hand after the five community cards were revealed and couldn’t save Chan.
For Chan, it was simple math. Against McKeehen’s massive stack of chips, he thought his king-queen combo would likely be a strong enough hand.
“I’m just glad I made it to this far. I appreciate the friends and family that came for me. I guess it just didn’t work out today. But it’s just poker.”
Freelancer Dan Michalski in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
Play begins at the final table of the World Series of Poker Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, in Las Vegas. Sunday night was the first of three days of poker-playing before crowning a new champion and awarding more than $7 million to the winner. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Patrick Chan, center, looks at his chips at the World Series of Poker Sunday, RajaPoker Nov. 8, 2015, in Las Vegas. Sunday night was the first of three days of poker-playing before crowning a new champion and awarding more than $7 million to the winner. (AP Photo/John Locher)