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WSOP November Nine Notebook: The story behind 'Joey Ice Cube'

10 November 2015

LAS VEGAS -- At first it was an annoyance. Every time World Series of Poker Main Event chip leader Joe McKeehen won a pot on Sunday night, a large man in the eighth row would stand up and start the solo chant, “JO-EEEY ICE CUBE! . . . JO-EEEY ICE CUBE!”, much to the chagrin of opposing fans.

While every other player at the final table had a decent-size rail with creative props and wardrobes, McKeehen had a band of one. The Joey Ice Cube Guy.

When play resumed on Monday night at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, there he was again. He left his Philadelphia Eagles baseball hat in his hotel room and donned a Philadelphia Phillies red t-shirt, but the chant was still there, and it was even more annoying to fans sitting around him.

Dave Naccarelli is the man behind the "Joey Ice Cube" chant at the Rio during the WSOP Main Event final table.

Dave Naccarelli is the man behind the "Joey Ice Cube" chant at the Rio during the WSOP Main Event final table.

But as the night wore on and the field dwindled from six players to three, the crowd slowly started to have fun with the chant. Tournament Director Jack Effel, who also announces the action to the crowd, got into the act about 90 minutes into the evening when he referred to McKeehen as “Joey Ice Cube,” prompting a huge laugh. The chant was starting to win people over — or at least not annoy them quite as much.

But where does the nickname come from? Casino City found out.

“People think that I say it because he’s got ice water in his veins, and he does, but that’s not why I call him that,” said the Joey Ice Cube Guy, whose real name is Dave Naccarelli.

The story goes back eight years. Naccarelli’s nephew has been close friends with McKeehen since they were young boys, and he refers to himself as an “adopted Uncle to Joe.” When McKeehen was 16, he and a group of family members were helping a cousin move. McKeehen had a reputation as being a bit lazy. As everyone else was breaking their backs moving the heavy stuff, McKeehen was sitting on the couch. But he did get up one time to empty and fill the ice cube trays in the freezer, and when Naccarelli saw him do it, he pounced on it.

“I just start calling him Joey Ice Cube and it’s been that way ever since,” he said.

Naccarelli said he realized the chant was getting under people’s skin, but wasn’t apologizing.

“Hey, I’m just out here having fun and I’m not disrespecting anyone else, or their fans,” he said. “This is an incredible story. We’re just soaking it up.”

Naccarelli also defended his “nephew” from claims that he was a bit of a sour ball at the table.

“I hear people saying that Joe is easy to hate, but that’s a bunch of bull,” he said. “Joe’s a good kid. He’s genuine and he acts like he wants to act. But he’s not a bad person. He’s actually very likable.”

McKeehen, wearing the same red T-shirt he wore on Day 7 back in July to go along with gray sweatpants and white sneakers, was noticeably more talkative at the table on Monday night than on Sunday. Antonio Esfandiari mentioned as much on the ESPN telecast when he said, “Last night Joe seemed angry, like he didn’t want to be here. Tonight he’s a lot looser and engaging.”

And why not? The 24-year-old will hold 67% of the chips in play when the cards go in the air on Tuesday night, when he’ll try to fend off Josh Beckley and Neil Blumenfield and win the coveted bracelet.

“I think back to the time that he came over my house when he was 15 and we were playing poker,” remembered Naccarelli. “He lost $20 and left the house all mad. I think it was all the money he had at the time. Now he’s playing for $7 million. It’s an unbelievable story.”

Tanking controversy
There was a lot of talk throughout Sunday and into Monday night about the slow pace of play at the final table, and the man getting the most grief was Ofer Zvi Stern.

But when the 37-year-old native of Israel bowed out in fifth place, he said he wasn’t totally aware of the major backlash he had received and didn’t apologize for his style of play.

“I’ve heard some remarks regarding that,” he said. “And I do realize that sometimes it may seem like it’s too long, but for me it’s rather crucial to take another moment and make sure you make the optimal play. If you need to take an extra moment in order to make the correct decision, then you should take it.”

Stern was coached during the final table delay by 2014 Main Event champion Martin Jacobson, who also defended his student.

“He’s a really good guy and it’s unfortunate that he comes off bad on TV because people think he’s tanking, but he was actually making legitimate decisions and I think when people see the hole cards he was dealing with they’ll get a better understanding,” said the Sweden native, who cashed a check worth $10 million for winning last year’s Main Event.

“It’s not his fault. He’s playing for millions of dollars and a world title. There’s nothing that says he can’t take his time. He wasn’t doing it to piss anyone off. He was just doing it to make sure he made the correct decision.”

Overall, Jacobson was happy with the way Stern played and enjoyed working with him.

“There were a few things we could have done differently, but at this point it doesn’t matter,” he said. “He played very well and it was a great experience.”

After busting out, Stern made no bones about who he was rooting for among the players remaining.

“I’m a big fan of Neil (Blumenfield),” he said. “I like him as a person and I think he’s an awesome player. I like his personality and demeanor. He’s one of the best players out there and because he’s less experienced I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves. He’s a great player.”

Checks and raises
Three-handed play begins on Tuesday at 6 p.m. local time and the television broadcast coverage begins on a 30-minute delay on ESPN. The players returning are guaranteed at least $3,398,298 for third place. Second place wins $4,470,896 and the top prize is $7,683,346, the least amount a Main Event champ will pocket since 2005. But according to the WSOP, it is at least 67% more than the average salary of any other major U.S. sports league athlete . . . Seventh-place finisher Federico Butteroni was at the Rio on Monday night for a short time taking in all of the action and told us he was rooting for Max Steinberg . . . Blumenfield, the 61-year-old former software executive from San Francisco, will be attempting to become the 16th amateur to win the Main Event, and the first since Peter Eastgate in 2008. Eastgate was the seventh consecutive non-pro to win the Main Event, but since that time the professionals have turned the tables. Blumenfield is also older than Beckley (25) and McKeehen (24) combined.
WSOP November Nine Notebook: The story behind 'Joey Ice Cube' is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT