Top 10 things to keep an eye on at the WSOP Main Event final table

20 July 2015

LAS VEGAS -- When Daniel Negreanu busted out of the World Series of Poker Main Event in 11th place, it felt like the air had been sucked out of the room. The fans in attendance had poured all their energy into supporting and rooting for the popular pro. And when he was eliminated, the fans were spent -- and trying to figure out who to root for next.

This year's final table lacks star power without Negreanu, but it doesn't lack interesting characters or intrigue. Here are 10 things to keep an eye out for as you watch ESPN's taped coverage of the Main Event and wait for the final table to take place in November:

10. Monster to Main
Federico Butteroni finished 20th in the WSOP Monster Stack earlier this summer to win $45,633. He picked up his second career WSOP cash when he won $3,622 in a $1,500 hold'em event towards the end of the Series. Now, he's managed to final table the Main Event, making it a very good Series for the Italian.

9. Two super short stacks
Two players -- Butteroni with 6.2 million and Patrick Chan with 6.225 million -- have just 15 big blinds remaining. How these two players manage their short stacks will be the early story at the final table.

8. McKeehen's beard
Joe McKeehen sported a magnificent red beard during the Main Event. If Brawny Paper Towels hosted poker tournaments, McKeehen would be its icon. Will he keep the beard for the final table? Will he go clean shaven? Inquiring minds want to know.

7. Steinberg's style
Max Steinberg will be easy to spot at the final table: He'll be the player wearing a suit and tie. The Main Event hasn't seen this sort of style at the felt since Marcel Luske stopped making deep runs in the Main Event.

6. American feel
The 2015 Main Event final table features six American players, including the runaway chip leader McKeehen. Three of the top five chip stacks in play belong to Americans as well as they try to return the Main Event championship to U.S. soil.

5. Jersey power
New Jersey is one of three states in the U.S. that regulate online poker. Two players at the final table are from New Jersey. 888 has locked up Thomas Cannuli with a sponsorship deal. Who will get Josh Beckley?

4. One bracelet winner
Steinberg is the only player at the final table who has won a WSOP bracelet. His composure showed as he calmly navigated the final three tables of the tournament. Will his experience help him in the biggest final table of them all?

3. Old guys bringing it
Poker has become a young man's game. This year's final table has six players who are less than 30 years old. It also has two players who are more than 60 years old. And they both have chips! Pierre Neuville is 72 years old and has 21.075 million in chips. Neil Blumenfield is 61 years old and has 22 million in chips. Since 2008, when the November Nine concept debuted, every Main Event champion has been a 20-something.

2. McKeehen's chip stack
McKeehen has 63.1 million in chips. His nearest competitor, Zvi Stern, has 29.8 million. In 2009, Darvin Moon entered the final table play with 58.6 million and finished second. In 2010, Jonathan Duhamel entered final table play with 65.975 million in chips and won the tournament. McKeehen is a much closer to Duhamel than Moon in terms of skill and is a heavy favorite to win the Main Event. How he plays the big stack will ultimately determine his fate.

1. Neuville's life story
Neuville is the most interesting man at the final table. He was an executive for toymaker Hasbro and wasn't allowed to enter a casino because of his position. But he never lost his love for poker -- and he took up the game when he retired from business for health reasons. His journey from businessman to poker pro (which I will chronicle later this week) is the most unlikely and remarkable story the Main Event has seen in almost a decade. And if the 72-year-old can pull off the unlikely victory, he'll give hope to poker players of all ages.

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