Darvin Moon closes in on World Series of Poker championship

Darvin Moon, a logger from western Maryland, is back in the spotlight as one of the two finalists in this year's World Series of Poker No Limit Texas Hold 'em main event.
By J. Freedom duLac
Monday, November 9, 2009

LAS VEGAS -- Somebody pinch Darvin Moon. Seriously.

The self-employed lumberjack from Western Maryland's panhandle is down to the final two in the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event, and will play late Monday night for the $8,546,435 first-place prize against Joe Cada, a young, cocksure poker pro from Shelby Township, Mich.

Moon, a self-effacing, self-taught amateur from Oakland, Md., whose ruddy, jowly face seems to have been kissed by kismet, is living every poker player's dream, having outlasted and out-lucked nearly the entire field of 6,494 players.

"Pretty awesome, isn't it?" Moon said.

Yet as Saturday blurred into Sunday at the tournament's final table, Moon's eyes appeared to be sealed shut as he sat onstage at the Rio Hotel and Casino's Penn and Teller Theater -- even with massive pots forming and millions of dollars in prize money at stake in poker's marquee event.

Lost in the reverie of his storybook run, perhaps? Not exactly.

"Fell asleep a little bit," Moon admitted afterward. "I was zoned out."

And that was just 13 hours into a grueling session that began at 1 p.m. Saturday and wouldn't end until Cada eliminated Frenchman Antoine Saout, in third place, at around 6 a.m. Sunday. It was the longest final table in Main Event history, and it's to be continued: Moon and Cada will return Monday at 10 p.m. local time to play heads-up Texas Hold 'Em until one player has all of the chips. (ESPN will show the final table Tuesday night at 9 Eastern time. The Washington Post will continue to provide live coverage on a blog, Darvin Moon's Poker Adventure.)

Cada has a nice head start in the showdown, with nearly 136 million of the chips. Moon, the chip leader when the nine-player final table convened Saturday, has 58,850,000 chips -- roughly the same number he had at the start of the day.

"I lost 80,000 chips, but I'm about 4 million wealthier in the real green [stuff]," he said after what was either an early breakfast or an incredibly late midnight snack Sunday morning. Moon and his wife, Wendy, left Vegas in July with a $1,263,602 check, the minimum each of the final nine players would win. He is now guaranteed at least the second-place payout of $5,182,928.

Before he left the theater Sunday morning, Moon stopped to get a close-up of the cash bundles placed near the final table. "I want to count this to make sure it comes back on Monday, when I take it all home," Moon said to the guards.

Both Moon and Cada got lucky at the final table, winning big hands in which they were mathematical underdogs, including the one on which Moon eliminated Phil Ivey, one of the world's most famous and feared poker players. (Ivey had an ace and a king; Moon had an ace and a queen and won when the dealer turned over one of the three queens remaining in the deck -- much to the dismay of Ivey's fans and fellow poker pros, who were skeptical of Moon and critical of some of his plays. Though it wasn't just the poker purists getting on Moon's case; after he'd tried to bluff Saout and got caught, the logger's own mother, sitting next to the stage, told him: "If I'd a done that, you'd tell me I made a donkey play." Moon laughed.)

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