Young Montco, South Jersey Poker Players Up for $7.6M Prize

World Series of Poker Local Beckley Cannuli McKeehen
World Series of Poker

A group of 20-something professional poker players from the Philadelphia area will battle each other and several others for $7.6 million in the annual World Series of Poker championship starting this weekend.

North Wales' Joseph "Joe" McKeehen, 24, Tom Cannuli, 23, of Cape May, New Jersey and Joshua Beckley, 25, of Marlton, New Jersey, are three of nine players who made it to the finals of the annual no-limit Texas Hold 'em tournament in Las Vegas.

McKeehen has earned $2 million playing the game and is at the top of the nine-person heap with more than twice the number of chips as his closest competitor at 63,100,000 million

McKeehen is no stranger to championships, having won a Hasbro-sponsored "Risk" world championship when he was 10 years old.

He graduated with a math degree from Arcadia University in 2013.

McKeehen spent part of his four-month break adding another $90,125 to his bankroll winning first in the Wynn Fall Classic main event. He's placed first in 12 events before now. McKeehen claims he's done "a whole bunch of nothing" during the break otherwise.

Cannuli is the youngest November Niner this year. He skyrocketed from placing 691st in the Main Event last year to 6th today. So far he's earned $52,235 and has 12,250,000 in chips.

The 23-year-old has a recognizable entourage of poker pros watching his every move and who will be in his ear come Sunday including Antonio Esfandiari and Jeff Gross. But it may be the friends no longer alive who will be closest to Cannuli during his effort to earn a place in poker history.

Cannuli plans to wear wristbands with the names of three friends he's lost in three years to car accidents and illness.

Beckley kept busy during the World Series of Poker tournament playing in 15 events and winning cash in five of them, more than anyone else that remains at the table -- $245,592.

His biggest win until now was a first place prize last year at the Parx Casino Big Stax no-limit Hold 'em worth $98,348. Beckley has 11,800,000 in chips.

The group of poker pros, retirees and software developers managed to outlast, outwit, out-luck nearly 6,410 other players who each paid $10,000 for the chance to play in the tourney.

The tournament runs Sunday through Tuesday at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Here's the rest of the line-up:


Ofer Zvi Stern (29,800,000 million in chips)

Age: 37

From: Israel

Occupation: owner of multiple tech companies and a software developer

Poker tournament earnings before Main Event: $152,818

Stern is a relative unknown in the tournament poker world, having only earned $22,318 in World Series of Poker competitions since 2006 and placing no higher than 18th in five World Series of Poker events. He's played most of his poker online. He's one of the only "November Nine" members with a day job, as a software developer. He almost missed his chance at the main event, too. After competing in The Colossus and a limit Hold 'em event, he flew back to Israel but then changed his mind, catching a new flight back to Las Vegas in time to enter and play all the way to second place when the chips settled in July.


Neil Blumenfield (22,000,000 in chips)

Age: 61

From: Chicago, now San Francisco and soon Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Occupation: former tech company founder and executive, now poker player

Poker tournament earnings before Main Event: $169,285

For a game filled with young men, Blumenfield is a relative anomaly. He and fellow November Niner Pierre Neuville are the oldest competitors to reach the final table in its modern era. The U.C. Berkeley grad who holds a bachelor's in political science and a master's in methodology and comparative communism said it was a course involving computers and statistics that was a life-changer for him, leading him to co-found a company called Elastic Intelligence that he sold to Intuit in June 2013. After being laid off from his tech company job shortly before the main event's start in July, Blumenfield said he's done with tech work and ready to play more tournaments.


Pierre Neuville (21,075,000 in chips)

Age: 72

From: Belgium

Occupation: retired executive with board game maker Hasbro's European division

Poker tournament earnings before Main Event: $2.18 million

Shortly before his Main Event streak, Neuville had already won a lifetime achievement award at the European Poker Awards in 2015. The PokerStars.com sponsored player has become known on the site for clinching spots in live tournaments via satellite contests he frequents online. He's earned $591,460 in World Series of Poker events since 2008.


Max Steinberg (20,200,000 in chips)

Age: 27

From: Fairfield, Iowa, now Las Vegas with Washington, D.C. in between

Occupation: daily fantasy sports pro, operates daily fantasy sports strategy site dailyfantasywinners.com with his twin brother

Poker tournament earnings before Main Event: $1.96 million

Steinberg has daily fantasy sports to thank for his berth into the main event contest and his return to poker playing. The man who eschews the usual hoodie, sunglasses fashion combo that's a familiar site in the poker world for tailored suits instead, won a DraftKings contest that awarded entries into poker's premier event in July. Steinberg's background includes growing up in a transcendental meditation community in Iowa. He doesn't meditate as much as he used to, once or twice a week, but he has been living a healthier lifestyle ahead of the tournament's return.


Patrick Chan (6,225,000 in chips)

Age: 26

From: Brooklyn, New York

Occupation: poker player

Poker tournament earnings before Main Event: $535,399

The fourth time's the charm for Chan who has entered the Main Event every year since 2012 and never cashed, until now. The newly minted millionaire turns 27 at the end of the Main Event week.


Federico Butteroni (6,200,000 in chips)

Age: 25

From: Italy

Occupation: poker player

Poker tournament earnings before Main Event: $104,918

Butteroni was nearly as busy as Beckley during the World Series of Poker tournament, playing 13 events and cashing in three including the Main Event. Poker pro Daniel Negreanu is a fan of many of the November Nine calling them classy guys. As for Butteroni, "he's got a lot of passion."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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