McKeehen Wins WSOP ; Connected Boards

Joe McKeehen Wins 2015 WSOP Main Event
By Dan Katz

Joe McKeehen fulfilled his poker destiny last night, dispatching Neil Blumenfield and Josh Beckley easily on his way to capturing the 2015 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event Championship. For his efforts, he won the largest bracelet poker has ever seen (it is a case for the two winning cards, for crying out loud) and $7,683,346.

It was a no-brainer going into three-handed play on Tuesday that the 25-year old McKeehen would be the one with all the chips at the end of night, as he had almost all the chips at the beginning of the night. I mean, look at this:

1. Joe McKeehen – 128,825,000
2. Neil Blumenfield – 40,125,000
3. Josh Beckley – 23,700,000

McKeehen had double what the other two men had combined. That’s just gross. On top of that, he is a very good player, so barring some incredible Aces versus Kings action, it was highly unlikely either Blumenfield or Beckley was going to be able to make a big enough run to truly get back into contention.

The eventual champ did benefit from not only being dealt good starting hands, but also from hitting the flop time after time, but even still, he played as perfectly as one can play. He did not get over anxious; he was content to play small pots and just chip away at the other stacks. It is easy for a big stack to try to “over-bully” and just shove, shove, shove, as a way to steal the small stacks’ blinds and raises. McKeehen knew, though, that just making normal raises was just as threatening as a shove, as the big blind was a million to start play on Tuesday, and even a min-raise was a decent portion of Blumenfield’s and Beckley’s stacks. Constantly forcing the action by shoving would have meant risking doubling-up one of his opponents. McKeehen preferred death by a thousand cuts.

Neither Blumenfield nor Beckley could afford a slip-up and it was the 61-year old amateur Blumenfield who made the lone real mistake of Tuesday (and it wasn’t even so much a mistake as it was an unfortunate situation). In the hand that began his descent, Blumenfield raised pre-flop to 3 million chips holding Q?-8?. Beckley got out of the way and McKeehen made the easy call with K?-T?. The flop hit McKeehen and missed Blumenfield: T?-6?-3?. McKeehen knew Blumenfield would make a continuation bet, so he checked-called a 2.2 million bet. The 7? was dealt on the turn and again, McKeehen check-called a 3.5 million chip bet. Blumenfield was in a tough spot. He couldn’t afford to give up on the pot, but he couldn’t afford to keep putting more chips in, even though betting was the only way he was going to win. When he whiffed again with the 5? on the river, Blumenfield bet 7 million. McKeehen actually thought about it for a while, trying to get a read on his opponent. Finally, he told Blumenfield that he didn’t think he hit the flush, so he made the call. Blumenfield knew his Queen-high was no good and mucked as soon as he saw McKeehen’s cards.

That sent Blumenfield down to fewer than 20 million chips and that was basically it for him. A while later, he ended up all-in pre-flop was Deuces, called by McKeehen and Queens. The Queens remained the best hand and Blumenfield was out in third place.

That left Josh Beckley as the only person standing between McKeehen and the title. And with just 37 million chips to McKeehen’s 155.65 million, he wasn’t much of an obstacle. He had one hand during heads-up in which he made a good play and picked up a decent number of chips, but that was it. It took just a baker’s dozen worth of hands for McKeehen to defeat Beckley. The final hand was largely academic: Beckley shoved pre-flop with Fours, McKeehen called him with A-T, hit a Ten on the flop, and that was that.

Congratulations to Joe McKeehen, the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion!

2015 World Series of Poker Main Event – Final Table Results

1. Joe McKeehen – $7,683,346
2. Josh Beckley – $4,470,896
3. Neil Blumenfield – $3,398,298
4. Max Steinberg – $2,615,361
5. Zvi Stern – $1,911,423
6. Tom Cannuli – $1,426,283
7. Pierre Neuville – $1,203,293
8. Federico Butteroni – $1,097,056
9. Patrick Chan – $1,001,020

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Poker Strategy With Ed Miller: Three Tips For Connected Boards

Miller Explains How To Play Boards That Hit Many Hands
by Ed Miller
Connected boards are important in hold’em. Boards like Q-10-9, 6-4-2, and 8-7-6 hit a large number of hands and blunt the advantage that premium preflop hands like K-K have on most flops. Here are three tips for how to approach these commonly misplayed boards:

Tip #1. Value bet liberally on two gap boards.

Not all connected boards are created equal. The boards with no gaps—those like 10-9-8 and 7-6-5—create the most upheaval in hand rankings. A hand like A-A is weakened considerably the moment something like J-10-9 hits the flop.

With gaps between the board cards, this upheaval becomes less dramatic. A hand like A-A preserves much more value on a J-9-7 flop than on a J-10-9 flop.

Indeed, it’s often good to try to attack two gap connected boards. These boards hit a lot of hands, but hit few very hard. A board like J-9-7, for example, hits K-Q, Q-J, J-10, 10-9, 9-8, 8-7, and even 7-6. It also “hits” pocket pair hands 10-10 and 8-8. Players with these hands will likely feel like they’ve got something when they see the flop.

But in each of these cases, the hand is a big underdog to a strong top pair hand like K-J. In particular, hands like 10-9 for a pair and a gutshot are about a 2-to-1 underdog to K-J.

Not only is 10-9 an underdog, but few of the hand’s outs are hidden. If a ten or eight hits, the player with K-J will know he’s likely in trouble and may give up. Only the two nines are even somewhat hidden, and most players holding top pair would be wary as well if a nine hit the board.

So it could be a big mistake to call a turn bet holding 10-9 against top pair, since you’re a dog to get there, and if you do hit, you’re relatively unlikely to get paid off.
Nevertheless, despite being an underdog with an obvious hand, many players will easily call both the flop and turn with a hand like 10-9. This sets up a lucrative value betting situation for the player with top pair or an overpair.

So if I catch a 10-8-6 flop with a hand like K-K, my plan will be to make big value bets on the flop and turn and reevaluate if I get raised or if an obvious scare card hits.

Tip #2. Bluff the river when the four-straight bricks.

Say you open-raise with K-Q and get two calls. The flop comes J-9-7 with two clubs. Your opponents check, and you bet. One player calls.

The turn is an offsuit 3. Your opponent checks, and you bet. Your opponent calls.
The river is an offsuit 5. Your opponent checks.

Bluff. This is a great bluffing spot. A large percentage of the time, your opponent will have been calling with a pair-plus hand like J-10, 10-9, 9-8, J-8, 8-8, and the like. After the turn and river bricks, these hands don’t look like much against a big river bet. Most $2-$5 level players are quick to fold the river to a final barrel in this scenario.

The bluffing situation is even better if an overcard hits the board, such as a king on a 9-7-5 flop. But an overcard is not necessary to make for a good bluffing spot against nitty $2-$5 players. Likewise, if a flush comes in, your bluff will fail occasionally when your opponent was drawing to the flush, but it’s still probably a good bluffing spot.

This logic also holds on boards with one or zero gaps as long as the turn and river cards don’t connect. So if you happen to bet an 8-7-6 flop and the turn and river come a 3 and Q, go ahead and bluff.

Tip #3. Be wary of made straights on zero-gap boards, but not as much on two gap boards.

Here’s another important distinction between zero gap and two gap boards. Made straights are much more plentiful on zero-gap boards. When the flop comes J-10-9, for example, players can make straights with K-Q, Q-8, and 8-7. These are all hands you will see people play, both suited and offsuit. If you see a flop with a few other players, this can make it a reasonable possibility that someone flopped a straight.

Compare this to J-8-7, a board with two gaps. There’s only one made straight on this board: 10-9. With only one made straight possible, it’s considerably less likely someone is there already. And it’s more likely someone has a hand like J-10 or 10-9 or J-9 or 9-7 or the like.

Say you raise preflop and get three calls. The flop comes J-10-9. You bet, and someone raises. On this board type, you should be fairly concerned that the player who raised has flopped a straight. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should fold to the raise, but a straight is a real possibility.

Now say you raise preflop and get three calls. The flop comes 8-6-4. You bet, and someone raises. On this board type, you should be considerably less concerned that someone has flopped a straight, because they’d need exactly 7-5 to do so, and many players won’t play 7-5 offsuit for a raise preflop. The raise in this case is more likely to come from a hand like A-8, 10-10, 8-7, 7-7, or 9-7.

I will frequently challenge flop raisers on boards like these, particularly with deep stacks. Many $2-$5 level players are unprepared to navigate the big pot they’ve created with these sorts of hands after I call the raise and a queen hits the turn.

Final Thoughts

Connected boards hit many hands that people play preflop, so it’s rare for you to be able to bet the flop on a board like this and win the pot immediately. But flops with zero gaps play very differently from those with two gaps. The boards with zero gaps turn hand values on their head, often giving hands like 10-9 and 8-7 a distinct advantage over big pairs like K-K.

Boards with two gaps, on the other hand, don’t turn the tables quite as dramatically. But many players don’t appreciate the important difference between these board textures. They will play the connected hands as if they were equally strong on both zero and two-gap boards.

This tendency creates opportunity on two-gap boards. When you bet the flop and turn on two-gap boards and get called twice, you will often be up against a hand that will look relatively weak on the river unless the straight completes. You can leverage these brick rivers as clear bluffing opportunities.

Furthermore, more aggressive opponents will often overplay connected hands on two-gap boards by posturing on the flop with bets and raises. This aggression is often hollow, as the two gap flop doesn’t give connected hands enough strength. If you can sniff this behavior out, you can punish your opponents and win some very nice pots. ?

Ed’s newest book, The Course: Serious Hold ‘Em Strategy For Smart Players is available now at his website You can also find original articles and instructional videos by Ed at the training site

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