Thursday, July 16, 2009 | 3 a.m.
Final Table Chip Count
- Darvin Moon — 58,930,000
- Eric Buchman — 34,800,000
- Steven Begleiter — 29,885,000
- Jeff Shulman — 19,580,000
- Joe Cada — 13,215,000
- Kevin Schaffel — 12,390,000
- Phil Ivey — 9,765,000
- Antoine Saout - 9,500,000
- James Akenhead — 6,800,000
- Long break awaits the ‘November Nine’ (7-16-2009)
- Final table set for World Series of Poker (7-15-2009)
- Unique announcers and massive crew combine for memorable ESPN broadcasts (7-15-2009)
- Women make strong showing in Main Event (7-14-2009)
- Poker players relax with massage at table (7-11-2009)
- ESPN’s feature table provides as much publicity as profitability (7-8-2009)
- Oldest player exits World Series of Poker (7-7-2009)
- Hundreds of poker players turned away from main event (7-6-2009)
- Poker pro Annie Duke doesn’t like her nickname (7-1-2009)
- Bach pulls out marathon HORSE victory (7-1-2009)
- Behind the scenes, tournament has stable of 850 dealers (6-6-2009)
He is a 45-year-old pine forest logger who proudly displays scars caused by chainsaw accidents.
He is from such a small town that the entire population would barely take up half of the hotel rooms at the Rio.
He speaks fondly of his favorite pair of work boots and he always wears a New Orleans Saints hat despite living in the heart of Pittsburgh Steelers territory.
He is Darvin Moon and he could be the next World Series of Poker Main Event champion.
After eight days of play, Moon has amassed a stack of 58,930,000 chips and will return to Las Vegas in November as the chip leader at the final table. His stack is a staggering 24 million chips more than his next closest competitor, Eric Buchman.
"I never expected this," said Moon, who had never visited Las Vegas before this trip. "It's overwhelming. I'm sure when I wake up in the morning it will all sink in."
Moon's long journey from obscurity to the spotlight of ESPN's cameras began in West Virginia where he won his seat at the Main Event in a qualifier at the Wheeling Island Casino. He played in six qualifiers, making three top-10 finishes before earning his ticket to the WSOP.
Moon is the first to admit, though, that despite his massive chip stack he is outclassed in the Main Event. The final table is packed with proven poker talent with Phil Ivey, James Akenhead, Kevin Schaffel, Steven Begleiter, Joe Cada, Antoine Saout and Jeff Shulman.
"In Wheeling I'm as good as anybody," Moon said. "Here, I'm maybe No. 6,300 out of the what 6,500?… Everybody at this table is better than I am. If I don't hit cards, I won't get them."
But the cards have been falling Moon's way since the start of the tournament. He has never had to put all of his chips at risk once in the entire event.
His luck really showed on the final hand of Day 8 Wednesday when Moon knocked out Jordan Smith in 10th place. Moon's pocket eights held up against Smith's pocket aces when Moon flopped a set of eights.
"I had unreal cards," Moon said. "… How can't you win with the cards I had? It's overwhelming. My cards ran like that the whole tournament. I didn't have to gamble at all. Not once."
Moon's efforts thus far to make the final table have earned him at least $1.26 million. If he can hold on to his chip lead, he will bring a gold bracelet and $8.54 million back to Oakland, Md.
Yet Moon insists nothing will change if he becomes a multimillionaire.
"As soon as I get home, I'm going back to work in the woods," Moon said. "We won't change. We'll stay the same. We're pretty humble. We're small-town people and we like it that way."
Carnival lasts all year at the Rio. With a float occasionally passing overhead and dropping beads while feathered dancers fire up the gamblers below, the Rio tries to keep its 120,000-square foot casino jumping with excitement. Special Brazilian mixed-drinks are also served throughout the casino. The hotel suites tend to be larger than similar priced rooms on the Strip and many offer excellent views with floor to ceiling windows.
The Rio offers some quality shows like "Penn & Teller" and "Chippendales." Many come to the Rio for the nightlife at the VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor, or McFadden's Irish Pub on the casino level.
Others come for a bit relaxation at the Rio Spa or pool area and still others come to shop at the hotel's 60,000 square feet of shops. In each of these endeavors, the Rio attempts to make the experience a bit more fun and spontaneous.
The Rio also offers guests a variety of dining choices from all-American food at the All-American Bar & Grille to Gaylord India Restaurant for something a little spicier and even Carnival World Buffet for the indecisive.
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].