2015 WSOP Main Event: Negreanu agonisingly close to final table

Daniel Negreanu’s reaction to the killer river that dumped him out of the 2015 WSOP Main Event in 11th place

The entire poker world was pulling for Daniel Negreanu – arguably the game’s greatest ambassador – to make the final table of the 2015 Main Event. In the end he fell just short in 11th, collapsing to the floor in agony as the river delivered his fate.

Poker’s a cruel game and has no truck for big names or what’s good for the game. If anyone had earned a place in the November Nine it was Negreanu, but the cards ultimately decreed otherwise.

27 players started Day 7 of the 2015 WSOP Main Event and only nine would survive, but the real story of the night started as the field was reduced to two tables. The WSOP is always criticised for its payout structures but while most were applauding the decision to pay 1,000 players and make all the November Nine millionaires, few had looked at the huge pay jumps from 18 down to nine.

With the final two tables set, play was noticeably slower on the secondary table, with Zvi Stern tanking on almost every decision. Two players were eliminated in quick succession before Negreanu made a huge laydown with A-K preflop to Joe McKeehen. We’ll have to wait for ESPN to see if it was a great fold, but if Negreanu was wrong it was the pivotal moment of the night.

McKeehen didn’t look back and started amassing a huge stack which would see him make the final table with a big lead. Negreanu, by contrast, found it hard to get anything going and struggled with a short stack for the rest of the night.

After Justin Schwartz and Matt Guan were eliminated in 14th and 13th, the last remaining Brit, George McDonald suffered his own WSOP heartache. He three-bet Zvi Stern with Queens only to see his opponent move all-in with a covering stack. He had around 12m behind and tanked until he realised an elimination on the feature table had just given him a pay jump of over $100k. He called only to see Stern’s T♠-8♠ pick up two spades on the flop and another on the turn. McDonald stood with his arms crossed, slowly shaking his head. It was a pot that would have easily seen him through to the end of the night.

Hand-for-hand

That left play 11-handed with a huge pay jump between 11th and 10th. Negreanu was playing five-handed and the decision to move to hand-for-hand play was only made three hands before he was eliminated. By this time his table had played 30 hands more than the outer table – 119 compared to 82.

It might normally have been a good spot for Negreanu, who would be less concerned about the money than anyone else. But he was hampered by being a short stack among short stacks. McKeehen had 75% of the chips on the table and was in every pot. Negreanu was playing cautiously, aware of the stakes, but picked a hand to defend with – A♠-4. He called McKeehen’s raise and then moved all-in on the A-K♣-T flop. McKeehen called and flipped J-3, a hand he would surely have put down if Negreanu had shoved preflop. As it was they were effectively flipping for Negreanu’s final table. The 3 turn gave McKeehen more outs and the Q river delivered the killer blow. Negreanu was distraught, collapsing to the ground with his hands over his head.

It was a dramatic end to a sweat the whole poker world was following – either in person or on Twitter. Negreanu collected himself and did an exit interview before returning to the rail to sweat the players in a typical show of class. He’ll be big enough to admit that could be his once-in-a-lifetime shot at making the Main Event final table though, and his exit will haunt him until the new champion is crowned.

Meanwhile the ten remaining players were moved to the unofficial final table where it took another hour for the final elimination. Inevitably it was Joe McKeehen who was the executioner, winning a flip with Queens against Alex Turyansky’s A♣-K, the board running out 7-6-5-8-J. It was McKeehen’s night. He finished with a massive chip stack of 64,100,000, more than double Zvi Stern in second place and around 33% of the chips in play. He’ll be the big favourite when action resumes in November.


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