As you may already know, Joe McKeehen triumphed over the 2015 November Nine in dominating fashion. The Pennsylvania poker pro easily dispatched his opponents at the Main Event final table through a combination of skill and great cards. Now that McKeehen has joined the other 40 Main Event champions and collected a $7.68 million prize, it’s time for the poker ambassador discussion to begin.
To be honest, nobody is really throwing out the term “poker ambassador” any more because it’s so early-2014. But no matter how you label it, players have already begun scrutinizing every little aspect of McKeehen, from his neck beard to the goofy facial expressions that he made towards the cameras.
What’s more is that he’s followed in the tradition of other recent Main Event champs in wearing sports jerseys to the table. You can read more on this in a TwoPlusTwo thread that’s spawned on the subject, but the general consensus is that McKeehen by himself isn’t convincing recreational players to flock towards the game.
But on the other hand, the whole ‘average guy’ appearance (no well in hell I’m making the ‘average Joe’ joke) can be appealing to the typical viewer. And from a broader perspective, we should consider that McKeehen himself admitted that the unshaven/jersey-monger appearance is just part of the image he wants to portray. Here’s a look at that post:
“I wanted to give off the image that it was my table to all of the other players and that they would have to fight me tooth and nail for any little thing they could get. A lot of my table talk was to do either the same exact thing, or to make me look stupider than I actually am. Anyone that’s played with me deep in a tournament has likely experienced this one way or another. I also made a lot of faces for the crowd in between hands. They laughed more often than they didn’t. I was enjoying myself. I (clearly) didn’t care how I came off on television because I was there to win a poker tournament, not make a bunch of people all over the world think I had my life in order. Hard to argue with the results in this case. Even if, I dressed up a little. I bought sports jerseys! I followed the tradition of Merson and Riess as winners. Pro tip: wear a jersey if you make it to the november 9 and your equity gets an automatic boost.”
So there you have it: a quirky guy who purposely looked like a slob to throw his opponents off. Maybe this isn’t the dashing Phil-Ivey type who’s going to draw more people to the felt. But at least he’s got some personality and is unlikely to run from the game along with his big score.