In poker, there's no such thing as "inevitable."
But this week, Joe McKeehen came as close to that label as possible.
On Tuesday night, the 24-year-old North Wales man, the runaway favorite in the World Series of Poker, won the championship title, a hulking diamond bracelet, and the $7.68 million grand prize.
A day after the win, after partying and catching up on sleep, McKeehen remained his typical understated self.
"It's something you don't do every day. You don't go on TV and play a game for way, way, way too much money," he said from his suite at the Rio in Las Vegas. "I had a blast."
After months of focusing on nothing but the tournament, which began this summer, McKeehen said, he hadn't begun to think about what's next.
Moving out of his parents' house? Going to Disneyland? Maybe. The only thing he can say with certainty is that there will be more poker in his future.
McKeehen's swift rise to poker's highest echelon required a good amount of both skill and luck. Only once in the tournament did he lose a big pot.
"He had no bad luck," said Norman Chad, ESPN's poker commentator. "Everything was in rhythm. If you have the most chips and you're running good, it's almost impossible not to win."
McKeehen did have the most chips - not just at the end, but throughout the three-day tournament of no-limit Texas Hold 'Em.
Coming out of July's qualifying rounds, McKeehen owned one-third of the total chip count. He ousted five of the first seven players.
Only 30 minutes into Tuesday's final head-to-head battle, McKeehen's last opponent was all-in. A few moments later, he, too, was out.
"I was like, 'Wow, this just went really smooth. It's over. That was really fast,' " McKeehen said, recalling his thoughts when that last card was flipped. He won with two pairs, 10s and fives - a relatively undramatic hand in such a high-stakes game.
Josh Beckley, 24, of Marlton, entered the second day of the finals in last place and worked his way up to No. 2. Even after busting against McKeehen on the last hand - he could muster only a pair of fours to go with the fives - Beckley walked away with $4.47 million.
McKeehen's parents had only ever watched him play on TV or through an online stream, seeing the players talk but not hearing what they said.
Not knowing upset them.
"We didn't know it was friendly banter," said Brent McKeehen. "Maybe somebody was talking smack about our son. Or trying to get into his head."
Cheering for him at table side in Las Vegas all week was a different experience.
"Everybody was wonderful. These people were real gentlemen," said Gina McKeehen. "We learned a lot about Joe these last few days. We saw a side of him that we've never seen before."
It was different for Joe McKeehen, too, who said his cheering section of family - including his 10-year-old brother - friends, coaches and fellow players gave him an advantage.
"Initially I didn't think anything of it, but as the time came, it meant a lot for them to be there," he said. They chanted his nickname - "Joey Ice Cubes" - and sent a chilly glass to Chad in the broadcast booth. (McKeehen earned the nickname in high school, when he went to help a friend move and ended up just holding the door open and filling the ice cube trays.)
Chad, who interviews every player before the big event each year, said McKeehen was the most aloof he had ever encountered.
He answered only two questions, by email, in 10 words or less.
"Before Sunday, he declared a media blackout. He wanted to be in a zone, he didn't want outside distractions," Chad said. "I think I said in the telecast, 'He's a mystery inside of a riddle inside of an enigma.' "
McKeehen has a math degree from Arcadia University, but even before winning $7 million, he said he didn't expect to have much use for it.
Gina McKeehen said the family is proud and happy for whatever comes next in her son's life.
"If there's one hope I have for Joe, it's that this isn't his only pinnacle," she said. "Whatever Joe chooses, that's what we want for him."
McKeehen said he'd love to hit this pinnacle again, and "it would probably be a little bit easier next time. Now I know what to expect." Still, he acknowledged that this will likely remain a once-in-a-lifetime event.
The odds of getting to the Final 9 two years in a row? About one in seven million, Chad said.