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Poker pros and media make predictions for WSOP Main Event Final Table

2 November 2015

The 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event final table begins Sunday night at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino and in true Las Vegas tradition, we're doing our best to come up with the winner.

But instead of simply leaning on the vast poker knowledge of the Casino City editorial staff, we decided to reach out to a collection of poker pros and media members, asking for their thoughts on who will prevail and how it will all unfold.

While most are calling for Joe McKeehen to take his enormous chip lead and ride it all the way to a Main Event bracelet, some are also calling for an upset. One thing everyone we contacted agreed on is that we are in for another compelling final table, thanks to an eclectic group of November Niners that vary in age, nationality, experience and personality.

Chris Moneymaker – 2003 WSOP Main Event Champion
I'm laying the chalk and going with Joe McKeehen to win. He has a sizeable chip lead and knows how to use it. He will be tough to beat. I don't know many of the other players that well, but would imagine Joe will attempt to punish the table with his stack and most likely be successful given the balance of the other stacks. With players getting coaching or changing strategy before the table starts, I would imagine at least one player will play back at Joe a lot and give him fits early.

I like Pierre Neuville to finish second, just from an experience and karma standpoint. I think he's a great guy and the only one I know personally at the table, so I am a little biased. He has all the game to get to the end and he plays on the "tight old man" image very well.

Joe Cada – 2009 WSOP Main Event Champion and two-time WSOP bracelet winner
I think Joseph McKeehen is going to win the Main Event this year. I have seen and heard about some amazing calls he made all tournament and I don't think he is going to shy away from the instincts that put him in the position he is in now. He also has a big chip lead over the field, so that helps, of course!

I think Max Steinberg is going to take second. I know from the past that Max is an experienced grinder, and has a good amount of chips to propel him to that second spot. I don't know anyone at the final table too well, so I'm interested to see how it all unfolds. Would be nice to see an older guy win it this year, in my opinion.
2009 WSOP Main Event champ Joe Cada is calling for Joe McKeehen to win the bracelet this year.

2009 WSOP Main Event champ Joe Cada is calling for Joe McKeehen to win the bracelet this year.


Kara Scott – Professional poker player and sideline reporter for ESPN's WSOP coverage
As I’m working on the broadcast, I try to steer away from having favorites, as that might get in the way of being as neutral as I can for the ESPN cameras. Honestly though, Joe has a huge stack AND a great poker game. He’s not just good at making final tables, he’s also such a great closer. When you look at his record, he books a win an impressive amount of the time that he goes deep in an event. That’s going to make him very hard to beat.

As for who may finish second, it’s really anyone’s game. I know the players have all been putting in the work to come to the table as prepared as possible, but a lot depends on how things go on the night and which way the cards break. I’m as excited as everyone to see how this plays out!

I’m curious to see how it may affect play to have the final table split over three nights, instead of two. That may really help some of the players by reducing the need for a good amount of stamina at the felt, but it may play against others by breaking up the game's flow. They’re going to have to not just be great at playing a big final table, but also adaptable to the specific situations that THIS final table throws at them.

I can tell you from being up on that stage for the past five years that it’s the most incredible atmosphere I’ve ever known in poker. A huge theatre full of people screaming, cheering, blowing horns and whistles for hours upon end. It’s one hell of a spectacle as well as being some of the most serious poker you’ll see played.

Allen Kessler – Professional poker player, owner of three WSOP Circuit rings
I don't like how Thomas Cannuli has played. He hasn't played exceptionally well, but has been very fortunate to flop some good situations. Neil Blumenfield should have been out three or four times already. He has been lucky on bad all-in moves that somehow panned out. Federico Butteroni is too tentative in his decisions. Pierre Neuville is way too loose, but may amass a huge stack if he gets lucky or no one plays back at him.

Max Steinberg and Joe McKeehen are obviously the best players. I'd love to see Max and Joe play heads up. Joe may win two tournaments in a row; (he) just won the Wynn Fall Classic Main Event. They haven't shown many hands of the others so that's all I can say.

Justin Schwartz would be my pick if he'd final tabled.

John Racener – 2010 WSOP Main Event runner-up, owner of one WSOP Circuit ring
I'm all about Joe McKeehen at this year's November Nine. Once they get three- or four-handed, the chip counts will get tighter. I feel his experience and skill level will make the difference toward the end and he will be our new champion.

We have always been friends and love to play OFC (Open Face Chinese Poker) in each other's rooms on poker trips, so when I sat down on Day 5 of the Main Event at his table we had some funny jokes for each other. Later on in the day we got moved to a side feature table and he ended up busting me on national TV. We were all in pre-flop with my pocket queens to his A-K. He hit an ace on the river to end my chances at another November Nine. After he busted me I told fellow poker mates Justin Zaki, Jared Jaffee and Chris Hyden that I thought he was going to win this tournament.

I made that statement with 150 players left, which is pretty bold. Now look what we are talking about. I felt his balance of hands being played, his image at our table, his experience, skills and chip stack would put him in an amazing position to be champion.

For runner-up, I'm going with a little bit of an underdog, but I see Thomas Cannuli building up his stack and finishing in second. I haven't had a chance to play with him, but I'm always aware of my surroundings in a poker room and noticed how focused he was at a nearby table. Also, from the updates I read on some of his hand histories, he seems to have great instincts, which is a big key to being a successful poker player.

He reminds me a lot of myself with his style and swagger and approach to the game. I feel like he will have an exciting and talented rail, which never hurts when you're trying to win.
"Great hair" is one of the reasons Erica Schoenberg thinks Max Steinberg will prevail at next week's WSOP Main Event final table.

"Great hair" is one of the reasons Erica Schoenberg thinks Max Steinberg will prevail at next week's WSOP Main Event final table.


Erica Schoenberg – Professional poker player
I like Max Steinberg's game and the stage won't be too big for him, so I'll pick him to win. Plus he's a snappy dresser with great hair. I think Pierre Neuville will be the runner-up. He has no money concerns and I don't think he'll feel the pressure the way the younger guys will. If Josh Beckley gets chips he could be the sneaky pick.

Thomas McEvoy – 1984 WSOP Main Event Champion, four-time WSOP bracelet winner and member of the Poker Hall of Fame
The person most likely to win is not the chip leader, Joe McKeehen. There are several players with decent chips that are one double up away from the lead, or close to it. In recent years, the player considered the favorite has fallen by the wayside. The so-called favorite is a target and has extra pressure put on him. Naturally, having the chip lead is a good thing, and I think Joe will probably finish in the top three, but will not win it.

As to who will finish on top or come in second, it could be any of the players with the top chip stacks. I never exclude the bottom stacks either — look at last year's champ (Martin Jacobson) who played great and came back from a short stack. However, that being said, the bottom three or four players usually fall by the wayside sooner rather than later and that will probably be the case for most of them. Maybe one of them will go on a rush and break through to the top three or four.

I would only be guessing if I picked who I thought would win. I know none of these players and whoever gets lucky and doubles up will be the new force to be reckoned with. I think it will be a long drawn-out affair similar to the final tables of the last few years. Whoever wins will, of course, will have instant fame and wealth. The others will quickly be forgotten.

Kevin Mathers – Community manager at PocketFives
The obvious choice (for the win) would be Joseph McKeehen, especially since he has (twice as many chips as) Zvi Stern in second. However, I'm going to go with Max Steinberg as the WSOP Main event winner to defeat McKeehen heads-up.

I think Steinberg will have the better team watching the broadcast and analyzing strategies for him as he chips up throughout the final table. McKeehen will use his massive chip advantage to put pressure on the shortest stacks as they're fighting to ladder up in the pay jumps.

Zvi Stern is the wild card of the final table, and I expect him to be one of the first three players eliminated. The two oldest players, Neil Blumenfield and Pierre Neuville, will try to pick their spots early, but likely finish in their fourth- and fifth-place positions, respectively.

My prediction on the November Nine finish:

1. Steinberg
2. McKeehen
3. Beckley
4. Blumenfield
5. Neuville
6. Cannuli
7. Stern
8. Chan
9. Butteroni

Adam Small – Partner at PocketFives
The only player I know more than a little is Joe McKeehen. He's got to be the odds-on favorite to win this thing, given his massive chip lead and world-class skill set. He also came to our live event at Borgata last year and is a frequent poster on the PocketFives New Jersey community (even though he lives in PA), so I've got another reason to pull for him. It's phenomenal that Joe, being from just outside of NJ, is at the final table along with two other NJ guys, Thomas Cannuli and Josh Beckley. I'd love to see any of the three of them take it down.

I don't really know that much about the rest of the guys. I do know that the two small stacks — Patrick Chan and Federico Butteroni — are going to have to make moves early, coming to the table with fewer than 20 big blinds. But it's tough when there's so much money on the line for each place you move up. One of those guys can grab an extra $200k by simply outlasting two players, so I wouldn't expect them to get too crazy. Ultimately, though, the big money is in the top three spots. Expect these guys to try and get some chips.

Maria Ho likes elder statesman Pierre Neuville to win the Main Event.

Maria Ho likes elder statesman Pierre Neuville to win the Main Event.

Maria Ho – Professional poker player and co-host of Poker Night in America
I think the easy answer is Joe McKeehen because he is coming into the final table with a pretty big chip lead but as we all know in NLHE, anything can happen and I have seen people come into a final table with the chip lead and be the first one to bust, so you never know.

It's also important to note that over half of the final table still have 40+ big blinds, which is quite deep stacked given the structure. My prediction is that Pierre Neuville will win mainly because I think it will be the best outcome for poker in terms of attracting new players to the game and being a great story. I definitely also feel that Max Steinberg, given his experience in live MTTs and his playing style, also has a great chance of taking it down.

No matter what happens I know that this lineup of players will put on a great show!

Chad Power – Professional poker player, 26th at the 2015 Main Event
I don't think Joe McKeehen will run any big bluffs despite his big chip stack. The occasional light three-bet/continuation-bet, but that's it. Zvi Stern will be slowing the game down a ton and spewing a bit. He will three-bet a lot.

Neil Blumenfield will play like an amateur and pick bad spots to put money in. He isn't afraid to go with his gut though, and that can be dangerous. Max Steinberg will be quiet early and won't gamble until ICM allows him to. He's probably the best candidate to bluff early.

Thomas Cannuli is the most talented player left. He's dangerous in the sense that he can run huge bluffs, but even more dangerous in that he won't make any mistakes.

Liv Boeree – Professional poker player
I'd put my money on Joe McKeehen to win. He has one-third of the chips in play, so he'll be able to keep the pressure on his opponents who will be trying to hold on for the pay jumps as people bust. Max Steinberg is an extremely experienced player so he's a strong contender. Pierre Neuville is someone I'd like to see go far – he's an excellent ambassador for the game and a lovely guy! I'm excited to be there at the Rio watching it live for the first time!

Chris Brand – Professional poker player, 24th at the 2015 Main Event
I had the pleasure of playing with five of the nine remaining players in the WSOP Main Event. I was most impressed by Thomas Cannuli even though I spent the least amount of time at his table. With the exception of Joe McKeehen, I look at Cannuli to be the favorite.

There's no doubt McKeehen is the heaviest favorite, with his overwhelming chip lead. He does an absolutely fabulous job of taking advantage of that and putting maximum pressure on shorter stacks that are going for pay jumps. Another player I see stacking up well at this final table is Max Steinberg, the only WSOP bracelet winner at this table. That amount of experience is invaluable to making a deep run.

Blair Hinkle – 2008 WSOP bracelet winner
I think Joe McKeehen will crush based on his good play and chip lead on the field. If I had to guess who will finish second, I would take Max Steinberg. He is an aggressive player who adds deception to his game and that helps a lot when you have to prepare for a long layoff. I'm excited to watch.

Jessica Dawley - Professional poker player
I think either Joe or Max will win. They are both really well rounded players. Joe is really fundamentally sound and has a massive stack. Max has experience and with 50 big blinds, he'll definitely be a force.

I'm looking forward to watching this final table because they're all relatively deep except for two so there should be a lot of play. If the short stacks double it's anyone's game.

Nolan Dalla – WSOP Media Director
1. I predict the player who wins the final pot of the tournament will be the champion.
2. I predict the player who loses the final pot of the tournament will finish second.
3. I predict that nothing will turn out as predicted, except for prediction #1 and prediction #2.

Phil Gordon – Entrepreneur, poker player, author and philanthropist
I haven't watched any of the coverage and I'm not familiar with any of the players, but I did read that Federico Butteroni was inspired by my Little Green Book and Little Blue Book, which was awesome to hear. I reached out to him via Twitter and sent him my new Little Gold Book. I sincerely hope it helps him, though he is obviously well equipped to succeed without it. So, I'm officially rooting for my new friend from Italy. I sincerely hope he takes it down.

Brian Hastings – Professional poker player, 49th in 2015 Main Event
I think Joe McKeehen is the clear player to beat. He has a massive chip lead and may be the best player remaining. Handicapping the rest of the field is tougher. I know Max Steinberg more from DFS than poker, but he's a smart guy and I'm sure he's worked hard to prep for the final table. I think he's second most likely to win. Cannuli and Beckley both have talent and support from successful established pros, but both are young and inexperienced. I think both are capable of just about anything on this stage, ranging from outplaying everyone at the table to making fatal mistakes. Their chip positions don't do them any favors.

The rest of the field are relative wild cards. Neuville's resume and chip stack make him interesting, but I'm skeptical that a relatively unknown 72-year-old can play on the level of young professionals. Blumenfield is a very nice guy and smart person, but he's a recreational player who lacks the experience of the pros. Stern has the second-biggest chip stack but only one small WSOP cash under his belt prior to the Main Event. Chan and Butteroni need a lot of luck to overcome their chip disadvantages.

Bernard Lee – Professional poker player, author, host of The Bernard Lee Poker Show and ESPN.com columnist
I'm picking Joe McKeehen to win. Only one November Nine chip leader has won the WSOP Main Event (Jonathan Duhamel in 2010), but no one has had the chip lead that McKeehen has, which is over 2-to-1 over the player in second chip position. Additionally, McKeehen recently won the Wynn Fall Classic Main Event against a tough field, and I believe he is primed to complete the task and become World Champion.

Max Steinberg has a brilliant poker mind and has experience playing on television under the lights. He already owns a bracelet and will be able to battle through the grind of making it through the WSOP main event final table, so I'm picking him as the runner-up.

My wild card is Thomas Cannuli. He has an incredible rail that includes Antonio Esfandiari, Jeff Gross, Sorel Mizzi, Brian Rast and also possibly his fellow Choice Center alumnus, Daniel Negreanu. He is a young bold player who has a lot of confidence and nothing to lose. Being a cash game specialist, he has a lot of experience playing with deep stacks. If he is able to double up and get chips, he could be a force to reckon with at the final table.

Phil Gordon is rooting for Federico Butteroni, his "new friend from Italy."

Phil Gordon is rooting for Federico Butteroni, his "new friend from Italy."

Aaron Todd – Casino City
I haven't had a chance to study the players as much as I'd like, either from watching the ESPN coverage or reading about the tournament, so I'm going based solely on what I'd like to see happen.

I'm picking Pierre Neuville to win, because I think he's got nothing to lose and it would be great to see an older champ after the string of 20-something pros that have won over the last decade. I also think the change in format – playing the final table over three days instead of two – will help ensure the 72-year-old has enough time to rest so he'll be focused on the action and have time to change and adapt his strategies.

For the runner-up, I'm picking Max Steinberg. Anyone who can have as much success both on the felt and in daily fantasy sports as Steinberg has had is going to have every angle of this tournament covered. He'll be prepared for anything, and his rail is likely to be populated by very smart people who will be helping him analyze the action.

In terms of other predictions, I actually think play on Sunday may take less time (going from nine players to four) than Monday's action, when the tournament will trim just two players to get to heads-up play. With relatively small payout jumps from ninth to sixth place, players are sure to be willing to get their chips in and gamble in the early stages to try to get enough chips to contend for the title. Decisions will be harder once a few players are eliminated, and stacks could be much deeper when play resumes on Monday.

Gary Trask – Casino City
My general philosophy in all forms of sports betting is to try and avoid laying the favorite, especially when there are formidable underdogs to choose from. That has been a good working strategy in November Nine history since the chip leader has only prevailed once in seven years and it paid off for me in 2008 and 2009 when I cashed longshot tickets on Peter Eastgate at 5-to-1 odds and Joe Cada at 10-to-1 odds, respectively. So, despite Joe McKeehen's dominating lead, I say he takes runner-up and will call for Tom Cannuli to win the Main Event at an attractive 16-to-1 price.

Now, I must admit this prediction was swayed by the interview we conducted with Cannuli last month. His confidence, motivation and maturity are off the charts. Combine that with his skill level and uncanny knack for making the right decision at the right time and it leads me to believe that the longer he remains alive, the more dangerous he'll become. He'll also have a impressive cast of friends to lean on and strategize with at the end of Day 1 and Day 2 of the final table, if he is fortunate enough to survive sitting directly to the right of McKeehen, which is not an optimal spot.

As for third and fourth place, I'll go with Pierre Neuville and Max Steinberg, expecting their vast experience and talent will keep them in contention through Sunday night and into Monday.

Dan Podheiser – Casino City
Joe McKeehen is the obvious choice to win the Main Event this year, but if I had to pick two dark horses to make deep runs, they are Patrick Chan and Josh Beckley. Despite having just 15 big blinds entering the final table, Chan has direct position on McKeehen and will prevent him from opening with a wide range early on in the tournament.

Chan should also be willing to gamble in the early stages because of the nature of the pay structure – the difference between eighth and ninth place is only $96,000, and players don't even make another $1 million until fourth place. So there's a lot of incentive to take risks early on, and I think Chan, an experienced player, will be willing to gamble against McKeehen. If he does double up early, he'll be a problem for the chip leader.

Beckley, meanwhile, has the advantage of having direct position on Federico Butteroni, Neil Blumenfield, Zvi Stern and Pierre Neuville, respectively. They are the four least experienced players in the tournament and the most likely to make mistakes. Blumenfield, Stern and Neuville, especially, are the most likely to spew chips, and Beckley, with a short but healthy 27 big blind stack, should be able to pick them off.

I think Steinberg and Cannuli are two of the most talented players in the November Nine, but they have the unfortunate position of being on McKeehen's right. I don't think they'll make any mistakes, but I don't think they'll be too active, either. For them to chip up and have a real shot to take down McKeehen, they'll have to accumulate chips from the weaker players across the table.

Vin Narayanan – Former Managing Editor at Casino City who has covered the last 10 WSOP Main Events
The immutable laws of November Nine poker suggest a young 20-something will win the tournament, so throw out Ofer Zvi Stern, Neil Blumenfield and Pierre Neuville. I'm going to throw out Max Steinberg too, because poker isn't lucky enough to have a well-dressed, camera-ready star to represent the game.

The youngest player in the field usually makes a pretty good run at the title so I'll keep Tom Cannuli around. The chip leader usually makes a deep run as well, so I'll keep Joseph McKeehen too. In the end, McKeehen is a better player than Cannuli; he has the chip lead and he has an outstanding beard. McKeehen for the win.

Cannuli has the right mixture of skill, guts, confidence and youthful impetuousness to succeed on the big stage. He's my pick for second.

The three-day final table will help the old guys. Neuville admitted he was exhausted and probably couldn't have played another day when the tournament was paused back in July. He won't have that problem with the new three-day format. He's also the only player at the table that isn't scared money. Look for him to finish third.

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Poker pros and media make predictions for WSOP Main Event Final Table is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.