For 'Darvin Gump,' it's no big deal

Logger says he's out of luck, but everyone knows the Main Event leader is bluffing

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 6, 2009; 6:17 PM

LAS VEGAS -- Darvin Moon, self-employed logger and newly minted poker millionaire from Western Maryland's panhandle, opened the door of his luxe, 1,100-square-foot suite at the Rio Hotel & Casino on Thursday, and in skipped the bellhop with the luggage and the chirpy questions.

"How are you? First time with us?"

"Second," Moon said flatly. "And hopefully last."

"Soooo sorry to hear that. You don't like it?"

"Don't like Vegas," Moon replied. "I just come here to win a little money and then go home."

A little money! That's like saying there are a couple of lights on the Vegas Strip, or there's a bit of bare skin being flashed around town.

Having already banked a seven-figure check for his early efforts at the World Series of Poker's Main Event in July, Moon has returned to the Rio to see if he can't win a little more money and then some: First place at poker's marquee event pays $8,546,435, and oddsmakers have listed Moon as the favorite to win.

"Lotta work to be done," Moon said matter-of-factly.

He's a self-effacing, self-taught amateur from Oakland, Md., who insists he's not particularly great at the game, that it was just dumb luck that got him here, that he's in over his head as the worst player of the nine remaining in a field that began with 6,494.

The final table convenes on Saturday just after noon local time. (Don't look for it on TV quite yet: ESPN, which has been broadcasting the tournament in edited, tape-delayed form since the summer, will show the finale Tuesday night at 9 EST. A live audio webcast will be available at And The Washington Post has live coverage of Moon and the rest of the action on a blog, Darvin Moon's Poker Adventure.)

"If Darvin can pull it off, I think it becomes the stuff of storybooks," said ESPN's poker commentator, Norman Chad, who loves the narrative of a guy who walks in from the woods and takes the chip lead, a story line Moon is only happy to play up.

In July, when he left Vegas with a $1,263,602 check -- the minimum each of the final nine players will win -- Moon declined an offer to be driven to the airport by limousine. "I done paid my $7 to ride the shuttle, and that's what I was going to ride," he said.

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