WSOP Main Event Champions 2015-17: McKeehen, Nguyen, Blumstein

With the 2023 World Series of Poker just around the corner, PokerNews is continuing to look at past WSOP Main Event champions and what they’ve been up to since winning poker’s big one.

Our last instalment of the series looked at the winners from 2012-2014, with this edition focusing on Joe McKeehen, Qui Nguyen and Scott Blumstein, who all triumphed in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.

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Joe McKeehen: 2015 Main Event Champion ($7,683,346)

Joe McKeehen
Joe McKeehen

Entries Prize Pool Places Paid Min-Cash
6,420 $60,348,000 1,000 $15,000

It took just 184 hands for the 2015 WSOP Main Event final table to conclude, with McKeehen dominating, knocking out five players. He also famously despatched Daniel Negreanu in 11th place after rivering broadway against KidPoker’s flopped pair of aces.

He entered the final table with over double the chips of his next closest competitor, advanced to six-handed play with 2.81 times second place, and then entered the three-handed finale with 3.21 times more than second place in his arsenal. Not only that but when anyone tried to play back at McKeehen, he either had the goods or made solid decisions that allowed him to keep up his dominance.

On the first day of the final table, McKeehen knocked out the first three players. That helped propel him from his starting stack of 63.1 million to 91.35 million, and it was much more of the same on the second day, just sans the three eliminations. On the Monday session, McKeehen only took out one player, and that was Max Steinberg in fourth place to end the day. After starting with 91.35 million, McKeehen increased to 128.825 million.

Heading into the final day, it certainly looked as though McKeehen would win, and both Josh Beckley and Neil Blumenfield were playing for second. After starting the day second in chips, Blumenfield ran a bluff against McKeehen, putting the chip leader in a tough spot on the river. McKeehen made the call with top pair and knocked Blumenfield to the bottom of the trio. Not long after, McKeehen made it to heads-up after finishing off Blumenfeld.

The battle between McKeehen and Beckly would last 13 hands as McKeehen’s ace-ten paired up to move ahead of his opponent’s pocket fours to seal out the victory and one of the most one-sided WSOP final tables ever.

2015 Main Event Final Table Results

1 Joe McKeehen United States $7,683,346
2 Josh Beckley United States $4,470,896
3 Neil Blumenfield United States $3,398,298
4 Max Steinberg United States $2,615,361
5 Ofer Zvi Stern Israel $1,911,423
6 Thomas Cannuli United States $1,426,283
7 Pierre Neuville Belgium $1,203,293
8 Federico Butteroni Italy $1,097,056
9 Patrick Chan United States $1,001,020

McKeehen Continues to Crush

McKeehen was just 24 years old when he won the Main Event and has since put together a poker career envied by many. His Main Event triumph marked his maiden bracelet victory, but he soon became a three-time bracelet winner after being the last player standing in the $10,000 Limit Hold’em Championship and WSOP Online $3,200 High Roller in 2017 and 2020 respectively.

Strangely, those two bracelet wins fail to make it into McKeehen’s top five cashes since winning the Main Event. Just a few months after becoming the World Champion, he notched a second place in the 2016 PCA $100,000 Super High Roller for another seven-figure score and has continued to produce impressive results.

The Pennsylvania native has $19.5 million in live tournament wins from his first recorded cash in 2010 and is a shoo-in for the Poker Hall of Fame when he becomes of age.

Joe McKeehen’s Top 5 Cashes Since WSOP Main Event Win

January 2016 $100,000 PCA $100,000 Super High Roller 2nd $1,220,840
July 2016 $111,111 WSOP High Roller for One Drop 6th $829,792
August 2021 $25,500 SHRPO The Big 4 High Roller 2nd $550,990
June 2018 $1,500 WSOP Millionaire Maker 3rd $538,276
March 2021 $5,000 WPT Venetian Main Event 2nd $491,960

Qui Nguyen: 2016 Main Event Champion ($8,005,310)

Qui Nguyen
Qui Nguyen

Entries Prize Pool Places Paid Min-Cash
6,737 $63,327,800 1,011 $15,000

Qui Nguyen won the 2016 WSOP Main Event by outlasting a field of 6,737 players and defeating Gordon Vayo in a heads-up battle that lasted for several hours.

Throughout the tournament, Nguyen displayed an aggressive style of play, often making big bets and raises to put his opponents under pressure. He also showed an ability to read his opponents’ hands and make difficult calls when necessary.

In the tournament’s final hand, Vayo pushed with jack-ten suited over a raise by Nguyen, only to get called by his dominating king-ten. Vayo flopped a double gutshot, but his draw would fail to complete. After blanks on the turn and river, Vayo exited in second place for $4,661,228.

Overall, Nguyen’s aggressive and fearless play style and ability to read his opponents were key to his victory in the 2016 WSOP Main Event.

It’s also noteworthy that Nguyen satellited his way into the Main Event, akin to 2003 champ Chris Moneymaker. Nguyen entered a $565 satellite tournament and then a $1,100 one, failing to win a Main Event seat in either. It wasn’t until his third try, another $1,100 satellite, that he prevailed.

The 2016 Main Event was a grand spectacle for viewers as several hands still spoken about today took place in the tournament.

The Main Event saw the introduction of William Kassouf to the masses, with his “nine-high like a boss,” hand and fiery confrontation with Griffin Benger, which led to the latter telling Kassouf to “check your privilege.”

There was also the insane cooler for third-place finisher Cliff Josephy, who was on the wrong side of a set-over-set situation when play was three-handed. Be sure to look back at the top five hands from the 2016 Main Event for a wave of nostalgia.

2016 Main Event Final Table Results

1 Qui Nguyen Vietnam $8,005,310
2 Gordon Vayo United States $4,661,228
3 Cliff Josephy United States $3,453,035
4 Michael Ruane United States $2,576,003
5 Vojtěch Růžička Czech Republic $1,935,288
6 Kenny Hallaert Belgium $1,464,258
7 Griffin Benger Canada $1,250,190
8 Jerry Wong United States $1,100,076
9 Fernando Pons Spain $1,000,000

Nguyen Goes Deep Two More Times

Before his Main Event win, Nguyen had only a handful of four-figure cashes and has only ten more HendonMob recorded results since his victory. Two occurred in the WSOP Main Event again, where he finished 455th (2019) and 241st (2021) for further scores of $30,780 and $38,600.

However, those are the only notable scores since 2016. Nguyen still plays the Main Event and was cruelly ousted on Day 2 of the 2022 WSOP Main Event after running kings into aces.

Qui Nguyen’s Top 5 Cashes Since WSOP Main Event Win

November 2021 $10,000 WSOP Main Event 241st $38,600
July 2019 $10,000 WSOP Main Event 455th $30,780
June 2021 $1,600 Wynn Summer Classic 46th $7,871
June 2022 $1,500 WSOP Millionaire Maker 247th $6,600
June 2022 $1,500 WSOP Shootout 86th $5,835

Scott Blumstein: 2017 Main Event Champion ($8,150,000)

Scott Blumstein
Scott Blumstein

Entries Prize Pool Places Paid Min-Cash
7,221 $67,877,400 1,084 $15,000

Despite playing poker for a living, Scott Blumstein skipped the first 72 events at the 2017 WSOP. The reasoning: to improve his game and health leading up to the one tournament he did have circled on his calendar — the 2017 WSOP Main Event. Blumstein cut his teeth in online poker tournaments in his home of New Jersey the whole summer before making the trip to Vegas.

At 25 years old, Blumstein defeated fellow young gun Dan Ott heads-up for the coveted gold and diamond bracelet along with the $8,150,000 prize. Norman Chad once said that a deuce on the river never changes anything, but that all changed on the tournament’s final hand. Blumstein’s ace-deuce was behind Ott’s ace-eight, but the former rivered a pair of deuces to capture the title.

Blumstein entered the final table as the chip leader and maintained his lead throughout. He played a patient and strategic game, carefully choosing his spots and taking advantage of opportunities to accumulate chips.

One such instance was when he doubled through John Hesp, one of the summer’s success stories, in a 156 million-chip pot to take a commanding lead that he would never relinquish.

2017 Main Event Final Table Results

1 Scott Blumstein United States $8,150,000
2 Dan Ott United States $4,700,000
3 Benjamin Pollak France $3,500,000
4 John Hesp United Kingdom $2,600,000
5 Antoine Saout France $2,000,000
6 Bryan Piccioli United States $1,675,000
7 Damian Salas Argentina $1,425,000
8 Jack Sinclair United Kingdom $1,200,000
9 Ben Lamb United States $1,000,000

Poker on the Back Burner for Blumstein

Speaking to PokerGO in 2020, “Poker is on the back burner for me. I mean, I definitely enjoy playing tournaments here and there. I haven’t really had a successful run since then, and I obviously wish I could,” said Blumstein.

“I enjoy the game, and it’ll always be a part of my life…I’m still trying to figure out what I really want to do with my life, which again is a great problem to have,” he added.

Scott Blumstein’s Top 5 Cashes Since WSOP Main Event Win

November 2019 $10,000 Poker Masters $10K NLHE 6th $58,200
September 2017 $3,500 WPT Borgata Main Event 52nd $10,508
March 2018 $1,600 Parx Casino Big Stax 9th $10,012
June 2018 $3,500 MSPT Big Blind Ante Event 71st $9,119
March 2019 $3,500 WPT Venetian Main Event 77th $6,370
Name Surname
Calum Grant

Editor & Live Reporter

Calum has been a part of the PokerNews team since September 2021 after working in the UK energy sector. He played his first hand of poker in 2017 and immediately fell in love with the game. Calum’s proudest poker achievement is winning the only tournament he has ever played in Las Vegas, the prestigious $60 Flamingo evening event.

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