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October 21, 2017

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Humble logger could become a true people’s champion


Associated Press

Darvin Moon looks up following a hand during the World Series of Poker at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 15, 2009. Moon is the chip leader when the final table resumes on Nov. 7.

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

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."

Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].

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