McKeehen's proud parents paint different picture of their poker champion son

11 November 2015

LAS VEGAS -- Minutes after taking down the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event on Tuesday night, Joe McKeehen was asked by ESPN’s Kara Scott on live television if he was ready to take on the role as “Poker Ambassador.”

His response was a tepid “We’ll see.”

It wasn’t exactly the kind of enthusiastic answer the poker world — or WSOP suits — would have liked to have heard, and judging from the standoffish manner in which McKeehen acted from time to time during the last few days at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, it was also not surprising. It’s clear that despite the 24-year-old’s historic dominance on the final table felt the last three nights, “Joey Ice Cube” is pretty much frigid to the idea of anyone expecting him to be an emissary for the game.

Casino City found out that the Joe McKeehen glare can quickly transform into a smile if you ask him about his family.

Casino City found out that the Joe McKeehen glare can quickly transform into a smile if you ask him about his family.

Daniel Negreanu he is not. And that’s totally his prerogative.

But in the unlikely event that McKeehen does at some point decide he’d like to be viewed as a more likable character, the first thing he should do is let his family do the talking for him. Because as McKeehen stood on the Penn & Teller Theater stage with confetti and streamers lying all around him answering questions from the media, looking as if he would rather be 7,683,346 million other places, Brent and Gina McKeehen depicted their son as a much more caring and thoughtful person than the ESPN cameras captured this week.

They described how much Joe wanted his 81-year-old grandparents to be in Las Vegas this week, even though they had to get on an airplane for the first time in their lives and are connected to oxygen and use scooters to get around. They talked about what a great role model Joe is to his 10-year-old brother, Mikey. They got emotional when discussing how there’s a chance their oldest son will be moving out of the house he grew up in now that he’s pocketed nearly $10 million in career poker earnings.

“He’s a good kid,” said Brent, who delivers coffee for a canteen refreshment supplier in the North Wales, Pennsylvania area, and was wearing a black Arcadia University sweatshirt as a shoutout to the school where Joe earned a mathematics degree in 2013. “I have some physical limitations and we’re getting up there in years. So I can’t do some of the physical things with Mikey that I was able to do with Joe. But Joe always steps in and takes care of it.”

Gina said that Mikey was in Las Vegas, but was too young to be in the theater to watch the action live.

“He’s up in the suite watching on TV and I know he’s going crazy,” she said. “(Joe and Mikey) get a big kick out of each other. They love each other. They play. They horse around. They just love being around each other. It’s really cool.

“That’s why we’re torn about him (moving out). But I will say that once Joe gets in a comfort zone, it’s hard to get him out of it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. So if he stays, he stays. That would be great. If he goes that’s fine, too. Joe’s going to do what Joe’s going to do.”

This was the first time that Brent and Gina had seen their son play poker live and in person. They were genuinely and understandably taken aback by the commotion of what was going on. They were also incredibly proud and emotional, which was touching to witness.

After hearing about a Joe McKeehen we didn't know existed, we went over to the section of the floor where he was being interviewed by the media. The topic of conversation was strictly poker, so we interjected and asked him about his brother and their relationship.

McKeehen paused as if he had just been check-raised and then smiled wide.

“Yeah, it was cool to have him here; he's very proud and he was happy to see me today,” he said proudly. “I haven’t seen him in a while so it was great to hang out with him today. We talked for a while; threw the football around a little bit. It was fun."

The questioning quickly went back to poker, but for a moment we got to see a rare, warm side of the newly crowned Main Event champ.

And then it hit me. Maybe it doesn’t matter if he has absolutely no interest in taking over for Mike Sexton as the next Poker Ambassador. It appears Joey Ice Cube is good to his parents. Most of his fellow November Niners seemed to like and respect him. He loves his family and serves as a great role model to his kid brother.

From this vantage point, that’s all that matters.


Related Links
Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino Details
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