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Live Main Event blog from the Rio


Justin M. Bowen

Joe Cada (left) and Darvin Moon start the final round of the 2009 World Series of Poker Monday at the Rio.

Updated Monday, Nov. 9, 2009 | 1:25 a.m.

Final Table Chip Count

Q&A with Jeff Shulman

World Series of Poker

Joe Cada, a 21-year-old poker professional from Michigan, holds bundles of cash after winning $8.5 million in prize money at the World Series of Poker tournament at the Rio Tuesday Nov. 10, 2009. Darvin Moon, a 45-year-old logger from Maryland, came in second. Launch slideshow »

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 »

Cada wins with pocket nines

One year ago, Joe Cada could not have legally played in the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Now, he's won it. Cada pushed Darvin Moon all in with pocket nines. Moon flipped over queen of diamonds, jack of diamonds.

The flop came eight, two, seven with no diamonds. The turn proved a little scare for Cada as a face card was shown. But it was a king, not a jack or queen. The river was a seven.

Cada was immediately engulfed on stage by his friends and chants of "Joey". Moon went to shake his hand. Moon wins $5.1 million for his second place finish. Cada gets $8.5 million and most importantly, the gold bracelet.

Cada wins biggest hand of the tournament

Joe Cada really didn't want to watch. That much was apparent.

He turned his back and said a few words to his friends moments before the card that would determine his Main Event life was exposed. Darvin Moon had just pushed him all in after the turn.

The board read ten of clubs, five of diamonds, nine of hearts, ten of diamonds. Moon had seven of spades, eight of spades. Cada had jack of hearts, nine of diamonds. So Cada led with a pair of nines, but any 6 or Jack would mean Moon takes the bracelet.

Moon stood up and stared straight at the board. Cada walked back to his friends, content not to watch. After a long pause so ESPN could catch the drama, the dealer put a three of hearts on the river. Cada survived.

And he now has the lead. Cadas' double-up gave him a 17 million chip advantage over Moon. So much for Moon's big lead.

Moon making moves

For someone who claims to know very little about the game, Darvin Moon is playing textbook poker with a large lead.

He's raising on almost every hand pre-flop to bully Cada into making tough decisions. He's won the majority of the recent pots, but Cada just took down a notable one.

The board read eight, ten, ten, nine, seven. Cada had a six to make a straight and re-gain some chips. He's going to need a few more hands like that to get some momentum against Moon.

And what do you know? Another big pre-flop raise from Moon. A lot of Moon's doubters might change their minds after this performance.

Moon goes up nearly $100 million

A Darvin Moon supporter just let out a loud cheer of encouragement.

"Let's go Moon," the guy yelled. "Pulling away."

That might be a little premature, but so far the heads-up novice is schooling the heads-up specialist. Cada just pushed in a $13 million bet, and Moon wasted no time to raise it $30 million. Cada folded immediately.

Moon now leads by nearly $100 million chips. Of course, this is far from over. One double-up and Cada makes this even. His cheering section has now started a "Let's go Cada" chant.

Moon putting pressure on Cada

Darvin Moon came back from a short break ready to raise.

Moon has re-gained the chip lead after a 20-minute break with a couple of big raises. He also won one hand that went all the way to the river with a pair of eights.

This is Moon's biggest lead of the night, as he has a $30 million advantage over Cada.

Big raise from Moon means big pot for Moon

No one pushes Darvin Moon around. Not Joe Cada, anyway.

Cada raised to $8 million before the flop, but Moon was undeterred. He raised to $25 million.

That left Cada with a tough decision. He rubbed his head, flopped around for a little bit and folded.

Think this is a close heads-up match? Tournament director Jack Effel just announced that Moon has $97.65 million chips, while Cada has $97.15 million chips.

Moon improves at the end of first level

Blinds are increasing to $600,000-$1.2 million and Darvin Moon is about $5 million ahead of where he started tonight's action.

A lot of pre-flop folds have taken place in the last few hands. There hasn't been anything beyond a flop for a while at the Rio.

The last full board that was played, Moon bluffed with jack-high. Cada showed a pair of 10s to win the pot.

Cada re-gains chip lead

Joe Cada made Darvin Moon visibly uncomfortable on that hand.

After Cada bet $35 million on the river, Moon fell back in his seat and started to ponder his situation. Eventually, he folded. The board read jack, four, two, queen, five with no flush possibilities.

Cada had already bet $16 million on the turn and Moon called. Cada now has a solid chip lead after losing it for a few minutes.

Cada flushes Moon with diamonds

Joe Cada just showed why he's known for being such a tough heads-up player.

Cada had King of diamonds, nine of diamonds as his hole cards and flopped a flush. But instead of aggressively going at Moon, he slow played it with a check.

That made Moon put about $5 million more in the pot on the turn and river. Cada raked in one of the bigger pots of the first few hands. It's back and forth here at the Rio. Cada has a small advantage.

Moon's two-pair beat Cada's two-pair

That was about as good of a first hand as anyone could ask for.

Joe Cada raised after Darvin Moon called from the small blind. The flop came three of spades, king of spades, two of diamonds.

Moon bet $10 million on both the turn and river. Cada called both times. The full board read three of spades, king of spades, two of diamonds, ace of diamonds, king of clubs.

Moon showed pocket queens for two pair. Cada showed pocket nines for a smaller two pair. Moon took the big pot.

Those were some great hands to start the action.

Effel welcomes Moon and Cada to the table

Both Darvin Moon and Joe Cada have played it cool to this point, but this moment had to be surreal.

World Series of Poker tournament director Jack Effel just introduced Moon and Cada to the crowd as they took their seats. The fans went wild. Neither Moon nor Cada showed much emotion, but had to be amped up on the inside.

They will start with $500,000-$1 million blinds momentarily. Vince Neil is now walking on stage to help say "shuffle up and deal."

Start time delayed, but Cada and Moon are at the table

It's 20 minutes past the scheduled start time and there's no sign of getting the cards in the air anytime soon.

That's what happens when there's this kind of pageantry. World Series of Poker officials have placed the $8.5 million the winner will receive at the center of the poker table for a photo opportunity.

Meanwhile, Joe Cada and Darvin Moon are mingling with a number of notable poker pros in the audience for tonight's action. Spotted players include Phil Hellmuth, Barry Greenstein and Greg Raymer. Also, Steve Begleiter, Antoine Saout and Eric Buchman have all returned to watch the heads-up match after being knocked during Saturday's round.

The table lasted a record-long 17 hours Saturday before two players emerged. Tonight is expected to be much shorter. Both Joe Cada and Darvin Moon have shown they don't hesitate to push all in. How fast will one of them say those two magic words tonight? We'll find out shortly.

Cada and Moon have made two women especially proud

Nearly 6,500 people in the World Series of Poker Main Event could not beat Darvin Moon.

But one person in the Penn & Teller Theater tonight has beaten him at poker multiple times. It’s his mother, Eleanor Moon.

“He wouldn’t like me to tell you that, though,” Eleanor said.

Eleanor said she started playing poker at the same time Darvin did about four years ago. It started with penny antes around the kitchen table. Eventually, they progressed to $20 or $30 buy-in tournaments.

And now, Moon is playing for $8.5 million and a coveted gold bracelet heads-up against Joe Cada starting at 10 p.m. at the Rio.

“Whatever happens, happens,” Eleanor said. “I’m proud of him whichever way it goes.”

Ann Cada echoed the same sentiments about her son. Ann, however, seemed a little more nervous than Eleanor.

“Every time I think about it, my stomach does summersaults,” Ann said.

Surprisingly, Ann said she was not nervous when Joe got down to $2 million chips during Saturday’s session. Joe had less than 1 percent of the chips in play and appeared to be on the brink of elimination.

But at that moment, Ann turned to Joe’s agent and told him she thought he’d still make it to the final two.

“Joe is a climber,” Ann told him. “He’s gotten down there before. He’s going to climb back up.”

Ann can take a little bit of credit for Joe’s success. She said that they always played family games as Joe was growing up.

And Joe was always extremely competitive and usually won. She knew he had a gift for poker when he started playing online as a teenager.

But that doesn’t mean she supported his decision to become a professional poker player almost immediately after he graduated from high school.

“I wasn’t thrilled with the idea. I wanted him to still go to college and do that,” Ann said. “But he started getting so good and he’s living his dream. He’s traveling all over the world. How many people can truly say they absolutely love what they’re doing?”

If Cada can become the youngest Main Event champion in history tonight — he’ll be starting with $78 million more chips than Moon — he’ll love it that much more. Same goes for Moon.

“It’s still a dream,” Ann said. “It doesn’t seem like it’s happening.”

“It’s unreal,” Eleanor said. “It’s something I never expected to happen.”

Here are a few other tidbits that came out of this afternoon’s press conference:

— Joe Cada confirmed that he had backers for the Main Event. Anything that he wins, he will have to split evenly with the people who staked him. Cada said he had to find backers after he lost about $150,000 in the couple of months leading up to the World Series of Poker.

“There’s a lot of people out there with backers,” Cada said. “I didn’t feel like dropping $60 or $70,000 on the World Series so I got backed.”

— When Darvin Moon checked into the Rio last week, he paid with cash. He does not have a credit card. Says he doesn’t need one. And nothing will change when he gets at least $5.1 million in prize money. Asked what he will do with the money, Moon had a simple answer.

“Put it in the bank,” Moon said.

No travel? No new jewelry for his wife? Anything?

“Just put it in the bank,” Moon said.

— Darvin Moon knows he’s at a major disadvantage in both chips and skill level against Joe Cada. That doesn’t mean he will be fine with a second place finish.

““Would you be happy with second,” Moon asked. “You answer that one yourself. Next question.”

Similarly, Cada offered a quick response to how he would feel as the runner-up in the Main Event.

“Crushing,” Cada said. “I would be crushed.”

Action is set to start in less than an hour. It could be a quick night with the aggressiveness of Moon and Cada. Stay tuned to for all your coverage.

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