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World Series of Poker:

Live Main Event blog: Cada and Moon set to square off heads-up


Sam Morris

Nine players gather for the final table of the 2009 World Series of Poker Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009, at the Rio in Las Vegas.

Updated Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009 | 6:01 a.m.

Final Table Chip Count

Q&A with Jeff Shulman

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WSOP Final Table

Fans cheer before the start of the final table of the 2009 World Series of Poker Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 at the Rio in Las Vegas.  Launch slideshow »

Showing Their Cards

With the final table set, ESPN's Norman Chad and Lon McEachern weigh in on life behind the scenes of the World Series of Poker.

Cada rivers Saout to move on

The next world champion of poker will either be a self-employed logger from western Maryland or a barely-legal whiz kid from Michigan.

Joe Cada just knocked out Antoine Saout in the Main Event to conclude play today. This final table is already the longest in the history of the event.

And it looked like it would go longer. But Cada, who had Ace-King, caught a King on the river to give him a pair of Kings against Saout's pocket eights.

The hand completed one of the most amazing comebacks in the history of poker. At one point Saturday, Cada was down to $2 million chips. Now, he has nearly $150 million entering heads-up play with Moon Monday night.

Moon has around $60 million. Saout had a quite a memorable day as well. He battled from eighth place to take third and a prize of nearly $3.5 million. But his dreams of becoming the first French-born player to win a bracelet are shattered.

Cada and Moon will play for the bracelet and $8.5 million first-place prize. If Cada wins, he will be the youngest world champion ever. If Moon wins, he will be the biggest underdog to ever take the bracelet.

Saout falls to pocket deuces

Just when you thought these 17 hours of poker at the Rio couldn't get any crazier, Antoine Saout called Joe Cada's all in.

Saout had a clear advantage with pocket queens. Cada showed pocket deuces. The flop came seven, two, nine. And everyone forgot it was 5:30 in the morning.

The Penn & Teller Theater erupted in cheers for Cada. A queen failed to come on either the turn or the river and Cada doubled up. Saout doesn't seem to be showing too much emotion, which is a good sign for his fans.

He's still clearly in this. Although he's short-stacked at about $40 million, one double up could get him in prime position to make the final two. Just ask Cada.

This was the first pot of three-handed play.

Moon rises again

It took two consecutive tries, but Darvin Moon has successfully taken Eric Buchman out of the Main Event.

Buchman doubled up through Moon two hands ago with three kings. But Buchman shoved right back all in on the next hand with Ace of diamonds, five of clubs. Once again, Moon called. He showed king of diamonds, jack of diamonds.

The board gave Moon a King and was no help to Buchman. It's quite a weird finish for Buchman, who didn't play in many pots and stayed steady throughout the 17 hours of play — until less than an hour ago when he went all in with Ace-Queen.

Buchman receives more than $2.5 million for his fourth place finish. Moon now has $75 million chips and only slightly trails Antoine Saout. Joe Cada is the shortest stack with $40 million.

Saout takes commanding lead

Congratulations, Antoine Saout. Barring a major collapse, the Frenchman will be one of the final two who reconvene at the Penn & Teller Theater Monday for the Main Event championship.

Saout just doubled up through Eric Buchman. Buchman has been the most patient player of the four left so far. Therefore, it was curious that he pushed all in pre-flop. After a long deliberation, Saout decided to call.

And what a call it was. Saout flipped over Ace-King against Buchman's Ace-Queen. Unlike earlier when Darvin Moon's AQ beat Phil Ivey's AK, Ace-King held up for Saout. He caught a king on both the flop and the river for three of a kind.

Saout now has nearly $90 million chips, while Buchman has below $10 million. Moon has $56 million and Cada has $40 million.

No one pulling away at final table

One thing no one in the Rio can complain about is the competitiveness of the play between these final four.

Every hand is changing the chip standings, as all four players have consistently been within $15 million of each other for the last 30 minutes. With such even stacks, it's likely that this is going to last at least a few more hours.

Darvin Moon appears to be the only player eager to push all in, as he's done it three times this level alone. Eric Buchman has started to play a lot more hands, while Cada and Saout have remained playing the way they have all day.

Cada is not afraid to re-raise frequently before the flop. Saout has played selectively aggressive.

Comeback Cada

Not to get too caught up on this, but if Joe Cada makes the final two it could be the greatest comeback in the history of poker.

Earlier this evening, Cada had only $2 million chips. That was less than 1 percent of chips in play at that moment. Now that the final table is down to four players, Cada is in second with $50 million chips and pretty much dictating the play.

Cada has played far more aggressively than the other three remaining players — with plenty of pre-flop raises and re-raises. So far, it's worked. Of course, that could be dangerous and come back to hurt him.

But if no one else is taking control, Cada might as well. It might be time for Peter Eastgate to start worrying about his record for being the youngest player to ever win the Main Event.

Shulman's pocket sevens can't hold on

And then there were four.

A couple hands after a 20-minute break, Antoine Saout eliminated Jeff Shulman in fifth place. Shulman will win $1.95 million for his finish.

Shulman pushed all in with $5 million chips with pocket sevens. Saout called with ace-nine. The flop came ten, nine, six. Saout's pair of nines held on to knock out Shulman.

Now, the poker should get very interesting. Four players remain and they are all within around $30 million chips of each other. Saout is the leader with nearly $63 million, while Darvin Moon, who came into today as the chip leader, is short-stacked with $31 million.

All is calm at the Penn & Teller Theater

Action has slowed considerably here at the Rio since the field whittled down to five players.

Almost every hand for the last hour has been decided by a pre-flop raise. Antoine Saout has maintained a slight lead, but Eric Buchman is right behind. Joe Cada and Darvin Moon are both in decent position chip-wise.

The only player who could be getting desperate is Jeff Shulman. With blinds at $400,000-$800,000 with a $100,000 ante, Shulman's stack of $14 million is in danger. But Shulman has made it this far by exercising extreme patience. No reason to change that approach now.

Play has now lasted 14 hours and 225 hands. It could be a while before two more are eliminated with the pace this is currently going.

Moon loses an all in call, finally

Joe Cada has quadrupled his stack in the span of a few hands.

Minutes after Cada beat Shulman with pocket threes, Darvin Moon moved all in with king, nine off-suit. Cada made an easy call with pocket aces.

Believe it or not, Moon did not pull out another miraculous victory. Despite catching a nine on the flop, Moon did not improve from there.

Cada has made an incredible comeback just to get to this point. Earlier in the day, he was crippled to the point of only having $2 million chips. But he's survived a handful of all ins and played perfectly in between.

With $45 million chips, Cada has a great shot to be one of the final two. He is fourth on the table, while Moon plummets to fifth with just less than $40 million.

Shulman suffers tough beat against Cada

Will anyone survive an all in/call situation with a superior hand? That's becoming a legitimate question here at the Rio.

Less than an hour after Phil Ivey and Steve Begleiter bowed out despite stronger starting hands, the same happened to Jeff Shulman.

Joe Cada pushed all in with pocket threes and Shulman wasted no time to call with pocket jacks. Of course, a three came on the flop. No jacks hit the board.

Cada doubled up and Shulman is all but done. The editor of CardPlayer magazine is down to about $7 million chips at this five-handed table. It certainly appears that he will be the next one out.

But with the way things are going, who knows? Don't forget that a little while ago, Cada had only $2 million chips. He's up to $22 million now.

Moon and Ace-Queen: A match made in heaven

Darvin Moon just might be in love with Ace-Queen.

About 20 minutes after eliminating Phil Ivey with an Ace-Queen starting hand, he did the same to Steven Begleiter. It was even more dramatic this time around.

Begleiter had pocket queens and they held up all the way to the turn. Then, the dealer turned over the river card and it was an Ace of diamonds.

Twice in a row, Moon has booted opponents with an inferior starting hand. Perhaps, this really is destiny. The logger from western Maryland has re-gained the lead in the Main Event with more than $63 million chips.

Begleiter exits with nearly $1.6 million for his efforts.

Ivey goes down with much fanfare

Give Darvin Moon credit: He had the courage to call Phil Ivey's all in. And it paid off.

Moon's ace-queen off-suit cracked Ivey's ace-king off-suit to send poker's greatest player home in seventh place. Moon caught a queen on the flop to beat Ivey.

Ivey had moved all in three previous times in the last hour, but no one called him. Moon decided it was time. Ivey makes $1.6 million for his seventh place finish.

The crowd was certainly rooting for Ivey. When the hands were exposed, chants of "Ivey" filled the room. Ivey calmly continued to chow down on an apple while he watched his Main Event dreams fade away.

After eight hours of seven-handed play, six remain in the Penn & Teller Theater.

Cada, Buchman split a big pot

After nearly seven hours without an elimination, it looked like there was a chance for one right before midnight.

Joe Cada went all-in and was quickly called by Eric Buchman. Cada flipped Ace-King of hearts. Buchman showed Ace-King of clubs.

The board read jack of diamonds, four of clubs, seven of diamonds, queen of clubs after the turn. One more club and Buchman would have sent Cada home in seventh place.

But Cada dodged the club with a jack of hearts and moved on with a chopped pot. With seven players still remaining after 12 hours of play, this final table looks like it will play into the morning before getting down to heads-up.

Saout's got heart(s)

Antoine Saout's memorable day at the final table just got a whole lot better.

After a flop of eight of hearts, three of clubs, nine of hearts, the Frenchman pushed all in for about $25 million against Steven Begleiter, who called after assessing the situation for a few minutes.

Saout showed Ace-King of hearts. Begleiter showed eight of clubs, seven of spades. The turn was a ten of hearts to give Saout a flush and his cheering section in the top left of the Penn & Teller Theater went wild.

Saout is now the chip leader for the first time of the tournament with more than $50 million chips. Hard to believe this is the same guy who started the day with merely $9 million chips.

Cada on a roll

Hand No. 150 has just been completed, as Joe Cada took it down with pre-flop raise.

Shouldn't that count for something extra? Technically, it did. It was the first hand at the new blind levels of $300,000-$600,000 with a $75,000 ante.

Cada has been the story of the last hour. After falling to barely $2 million chips, he has survived a couple of all ins and taken down a couple other pots to make his stack a healthy $18 million.

He also seems to have Phil Ivey's number. After beating him with pocket fours, Cada beat Ivey in another pot that went all the way to the river. A queen came on in the turn in the hand and Cada decided to slow-play his top pair.

It paid off as Ivey bet $1.5 million chips on the river, only for Cada to call and show his top pair. Ivey mucked his cards.

Ivey now has barely $8 million chips and desperately needs to double up. Problem is players seem even more tentative to call an Ivey bet — except Cada, of course.

Cada stays alive by beating Ivey

The moment everyone has been waiting for just took place in the Penn & Teller Theater — Phil Ivey in a pre-flop showdown.

With a short stack, Joe Cada pushed all-in with pocket fours for less than $5 million chips. After a long stare-down, Ivey called with ace of spades, eight of clubs.

No aces, fours or eights hit the board, so Cada's hand held up. It's a tough blow for Ivey, who now is short stacked with barely more than $10 million chips. Cada now has $12 million.

Meanwhile, Steven Begleiter has taken the top for the first time today. He has about 300,000 more chips than Eric Buchman, who has held the lead for hours. Begleiter went to the top after winning a couple of mid-sized pots, while Buchman lost a little chunk to Cada earlier.

Cada goes all in and wins

One hand after falling to Jeff Shulman, Joe Cada went all in after Eric Buchman raised in the seat before him.

Buchman showed four of clubs, five of clubs for his hole cards. Cada showed jack of clubs, four of diamonds. After an uneventful board, Cada doubled up.

Cada, however, still has a very short stack at around $5 million. Look for another all in from Cada within the next 20 or so minutes.

Cada barely hanging on

The two short stacks just finished a showdown, with Jeff Shulman doubling up in the process.

Shulman, with less than 7 million chips, pushed all in before the flop. After thinking through it for at least five minutes, Joe Cada decided to call.

It's a decision he'd probably like back. Shulman exposed Ace-King off-suit, while Cada flipped over Ace-Jack off-suit. With a board of three of hearts, ten of spades, nine of spades, queen of diamonds and four of diamonds, Shulman's lead held.

Cada is not looking good. He has barely more than $2 million chips and blinds are at $250,000-$500,000 with a $50,000 ante for about the next hour. Look for him to go all in as soon as he has a decent opportunity. Shulman now has $15 million chips.

Nightcap Preview

It’s been an eventful day so far at the Rio for the Main Event final table, and yet it’s just begun.

Two players, James Akenhead and Kevin Schaffel, were eliminated during the afternoon. The nightcap is scheduled to start in less than 30 minutes with seven players. Play will resume until two players remain, regardless of how long that takes.

Let’s take a look around the table, starting with the chip leader.

Eric Buchman: Buchman got a gift when he knocked out Schaffel with pocket kings. Schaffel had pocket aces, but Buchman turned four of a kind.

Still, the New York poker pro has played solid since then and built on his lead. Going forward, he is obviously the favorite to win it all.

Darvin Moon: It’s amazing Moon has only lost 20 million chips considering how poorly he’s played. His blunders are the talk of the final table so far.

First, he pushed Antoine Saout all in despite having nothing after the flop. Later, he re-raised Steven Begleiter to all but force him all in. But when Begleiter pushed his stack to the middle of the table, Moon folded instead of paying the additional $6 million chips to finish the hand.

Moon is still in good position, but really needs to calm down and stop his erratic play if he wants to make it to Monday.

Steven Begleiter: Begleiter has played steady all day. He’s added a little more than $10 million to his stack through winning a couple big pots.

He’s also lost a couple of big ones. His day has really been that simple.

Antoine Saout: The day had to belong to Saout, whose stack is nearly $20 million chips bigger after seven hours in the Penn & Teller Theater.

He appears to be playing the most aggressive at the table and is picking his spots well. The way he is playing, it would surprise no one if he snuck into the final two.

Phil Ivey: Quietly, Ivey has put together a very efficient day. He’s doubled his stack and hasn’t been in any high-pressure situations.

If Ivey makes it to three- or four-handed play, he’s got a clear advantage with his talent level.

Joe Cada: Joe Cada’s cheering section has made this poker tournament feel like a boxing match.

They are loud, obnoxious and unwavering in their support. Cada has looked content to let other short stacks knock themselves out, while he swoops in to take a pot every once in a while to stay alive.

Jeff Shulman: Apparently, Shulman just isn’t getting cards. His stack has shrunk and is more than 50 percent lower than it started.

With Shulman trailing, it will be interesting to see if his approach changes tonight.

Blinds will start at $250,000-$500,000 with a $50,000 ante. Stay tuned. will keep you updated until the end.

Ivey beats Begleiter out of pot

Headed into the dinner break, seven players still remain at the Main Event final table.

An interesting hand just unfolded between Phil Ivey and Steven Begleiter. Ivey, in big blind position, called Begleiter's original raise.

The board came down queen of hearts, jack of diamonds, queen of diamonds, jack of clubs, three of hearts. On the river, Ivey bet more than $2 million. After thinking about it for nearly five minutes, Begleiter folded.

Ivey now has more than $16 million chips and is fifth going into the break. Begleiter dropped to third at $41 million chips, narrowly behind Darvin Moon. Jeff Shulman is now short-stacked at $7 million and it seems like the Las Vegas native hasn't won a pot in hours.

Regardless of how the night goes, they will play until two players remain. In other words, it could be a long night at the Rio.

Begleiter outplays Moon for big pot

After a nearly hour-long lull in action, the last hand before a short break got the crowd at the Penn & Teller Theater riled up.

Darvin Moon and Steven Begleiter built a $10 million pot before the flop. It came down three of spades, four of spades and two of diamonds.

Begleiter bet $5 million chips, and Moon re-raised to $15. Without flinching, Begleiter announced he was all in. Moon's face turned red and he deliberated for a few minutes before folding.

Begleiter raked in the large pot and now has around $44 million chips, good for second at the final table. Eric Buchman leads with a little more than $50 million chips. Darvin Moon still has around $42 million in third. At 8.5 million, Phil Ivey is the short stack.

Buchman turns quad kings, eliminates Schaffel

For the second time this afternoon, pocket Aces met pocket Kings in an all in situation.

But this time the Aces didn't hold up. Kevin Schaffel moved all in with about $19 million chips with the Aces and Buchman quickly called with the Kings.

Buchman became visibly frustrated when he saw Schaffel's Aces. Little did he know that he would be jumping up and down with friends less than a minute later.

Buchman caught a king on both the flop and the turn to make four of a kind. Schaffel leaves the Rio with $1,300,231 and an eighth place finish. The swing did not catch Buchman up with Darvin Moon, but he is much closer now.

Blinds will remain at $150,000-$300,000 with a $40,000 ante for a while as play will resume seven-handed.

Schaffel beats Akenhead...again

Kevin Schaffel single-handedly knocked out James Akenhead.

A couple hands after crippling Akenhead's stack, Schaffel called Akenhead's all in for less than $5 million chips. Akenhead turned over pocket threes. Schaffel showed pocket nines.

The nines held up — and Schaffel actually caught a third one on the river — and Akenhead exited stage left. For Schaffel, his ascent up the leader board continued. A few hands ago, Schaffel was short-stacked. Now, he has almost $20 million chips and is in either fourth or fifth out of the remaining eight players.

Akenhead will receive no additional prize money for his finish. All nine members of the final table had already been given $1.26 million for making the final table. That's all Akenhead gets. The eighth place prize is $1.3 million.

Schaffel makes most of his Aces

A showdown can't get any better than the one that just happened at the final table.

After a flop that read jack of diamonds, nine of clubs, four of clubs, Kevin Schaffel moved all in with his stack of less than $7 million chips. James Akenhead called.

Akenhead showed his pocket kings, only to see Schaffel's pocket aces. The aces held up and Schaffel is no longer in such a dire position.

Schaffel let out a big grin after he won the pot. There have now been three players with the shortest stack to push all-in and get called. All three won and all nine are still alive.

Saout's full house beats Moon

It might take even longer than expected to get down to two players on this year's Main Event final table.

The two players at the bottom of the chip standings just doubled up. One hand after James Akenhead survived a precarious situation against Eric Buchman, chip-leader Darvin Moon put Antoine Saout all-in after the flop.

The bad news for Moon was that Saout had just flopped two-pair of jacks and deuces. On a board of king-jack-two, Moon had only Ace high with his hand of A-4 off-suit. Saout ended up with a full house of twos with jacks.

It was quite the change in the Penn & Teller Theater. Throughout the first two hours of play, only one hand of hole cards were exposed. In the last 10 minutes, there have been two all-ins and both were called.

Akenhead miraculously survives

It was bound to happen sometime. And it finally did.

James Akenhead, short-stacked with barely $4 million chips, pushed all in for the second consecutive hand. Unlike the first time through, he got two callers this time.

Steven Begleiter, two seats over, made the original call. But then Eric Buchman re-raised to $12 million and pushed Begleiter out.

Buchman showed Ace-King. Akenhead showed King-Queen. Then, the improbable happened. Akenhead built on his lead by getting a King on the turn.

Akenhead had only three cards in the whole deck to save him: the other queens. On the river, the dealer put down a queen. Akenhead immediately ran to his crowd of fans and celebrated, while Buchman just shook his head.

Moon still strong, Saout playing agressive

A hand after folding to Joe Cada, Antoine Saout went all in.

With less than $10 million chips, Saout has some ground to make up. But not much came on the hand where he went all in. The rest of the table folded around and he took only the blinds and antes.

The winner so far is, not surprisingly, Darvin Moon. The logger from western Maryland has increased his lead by pushing his stack of chips over the $60 million mark. Only a few more minutes remain before the blinds are raised to $150,000-$300,000 with a $40,000 ante. During the first break, poker pro Daniel Negranu was interviewed on the Penn & Teller Theater stage.

Negranu predicted that action would pick up when the next level started with the blind increase. If he's right, things are about to really start heating up at the Rio.

First hour is complete

With one hour in the books at the Rio, there have been 25 hands and three flops.

Play has never moved on to the turn. Last year's final table started extremely slow as well, so this comes as no surprise.

But it will pick up at some point today. The question is when.

Ivey wins pot after significant action before the flop

Phil Ivey saw an opportunity and didn’t pass it up.

Joe Cada raised to $4.25 million before the flop and Jeff Shulman called. Ivey wasted no time in pushing all in.

It took Cada a few minutes to think it over, but he folded. Shulman folded immediately after and Ivey got a big boost by raking in all their chips.

Not much action to begin the final table

The first 30 minutes of the final table have been relatively uneventful.

So far, we’ve only seen two flops. In the latest one, it was a showdown between Phil Ivey and Joe Cada.

Ivey checked and Cada bet more than $1 million. Ivey folded to give Cada the biggest pot of the day so far. Cada seems to be off to a fast start, as he has taken more pots than anyone else.

In other news, Darvin Moon has stuck to what he’s said all along: He accepted no sponsorships. There’s no telling how much Moon was offered to simply wear a patch of on an online poker site.

But Moon didn’t do it. He went with the same New Orleans Saints hat that has accompanied him throughout the Main Event.

As for other sponsors, PokerStars has Kevin Schaffel, Eric Buchman and Joe Cada on the final table. FullTilt’s roster is James Akenhead, Phil Ivey and Steven Begleiter.

Antoine Saout has stuck with Everest Poker, where he won a $50 satellite to get into the Main Event. Jeff Shulman is wearing patches from CardPlayer and Spade Club, two of his own companies.

Introductions have concluded, play has begun

Tournament director Jack Effel just finished introducing the November Nine one-by-one.

And here we go. It’s more than an hour after the final table was supposed to start play, but slight delays are to be expected.

Every player received a nice ovation from the crowd during Effel’s speech about him.

Although poker players are known for their stoic demeanor, nearly every player showed a little emotion during their introduction. Even Phil Ivey let out an uncharacteristic large smile.

How could he not? Ivey was the only one of the nine who received a standing ovation from more than just his own fan section.

Last year's champion Peter Eastage and poker legend Doyle Brunson said the honorary "shuffle up and deal" to start the championship.

"Can you imagine poker coming to this?" Brunson asked. "It looks like a football game."

This is no golf tournament

Believe it or not, there are not many sporting events with an environment that rivals the Main Event final table.

The Penn & Teller Theater is packed and rowdy. The Joe Cada fans are specifically making themselves heard.

His friends and family are seated in the far right balcony and decked out in yellow Michigan shirts with “Cada” imprinted on the back. They welcomed Cada to the stage with a loud “Joey” chant.

It was only to be overtaken by the Steven Begleiter fans, who chanted their customary “Begs”.

World Series of Poker commissioner Jeffrey Pollack is currently addressing the crowd as the players assemble their chips. We’re literally minutes away from hearing “shuffle up and deal”.

Final Table nears its starting time

Excitement is in the air at the Penn & Teller Theater in the Rio as less than 30 minutes from now, the dealer will shuffle the cards and the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event final table will be under way.

The building should be a lot calmer by then. Right now, it's chaotic. The line of spectators waiting to get in stretches all the way back to the convention ballrooms in the Rio. Considering this theater holds less than 2,000 people, some fans are going to come away disappointed at not getting a chance to catch the action.

Inside the theater, plastic bags are placed at each of the nine player's spots on the table with their chips concealed inside. The smallest bag is at Seat No. 2, where James Akenhead will sit.

Akenhead enters the final table short-stacked with less than 7 million chips. He will be the player to watch early, as he will be the most desperate to make something happen. With blinds starting at $150,000-$300,000 and a 40,000 ante, one time around the table costs a player nearly $700,000 chips.

If Akenhead gets a chance, don't be surprised if he plays aggressively early. One player who certainly won't take that style is Darvin Moon, who has more than 30 percent of the chips on the table. Honestly, Moon could probably coast to a top four finish with the advantage he has.

So far, Steven Begleiter and Antoine Saout are well-represented in the theater. A few of Begleiter's fans have already started the "Begs" chant and it looks like Saout supporters have towels to wave with the French flag.

Bluff Magazine has distributed its World Series of Poker preview issue around the auditorium and guess who is on the cover. Of course, it's Phil Ivey. His mere presence has made this final table one of the most intriguing in years.

But can Ivey pull it off? With 9.7 million chips, it's going to be tough. Personally, I think Las Vegas' own Jeff Shulman might be in the best position of anyone. He's the second best player at the table and fourth in chips. So he's my pick to win it all. What does everyone else think?

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