Friday, March 5, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Darvin Moon swore his life wouldn't change after he finished in second place in the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event.
Moon said that he would go back to his home in Oakland, Md., and run his logging business and that the $5.1 million he won in the Main Event would affect nothing.
It hasn't worked out that way. Back in Las Vegas for the first time since his monumental run at the Rio, Moon said life has been a whirlwind for the last five months.
"You try to keep everything as normal as possible, but you just can't," Moon said. "My life has changed a lot more than I thought it would."
Everywhere Moon goes, he is noticed. People want his autograph. They want to know what he did with his prize money, which is nothing except buy a couple new pieces of timber.
The scene was no different Thursday night at Caesars Palace where Moon joined 63 other top poker players for the invitation-only 2010 National Heads-Up Poker Championship draw party.
The lottery balls paired Moon against online qualifier William Huntress in the first round of the $20,000 buy-in tournament, which kicks off at 1 p.m. today at the Caesars Palace poker room.
"I'm looking forward to winning," Moon said. "What else is there to look forward to?"
To do that, Moon will have to navigate through an elite field of professional players. Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu and last year's Main Event champion Joe Cada are just a few of the names in the bracket-style tournament.
Matches will run all day Friday through Sunday leading up to the national championship.
"It takes a lot of skill and mental toughness to get through a field of such exceptional players," said Huck Seed, last year's champion.
Most of the players participating spend their lives traveling around the world playing in poker's biggest tournaments. Not Moon.
The biggest game he's played in since the Main Event is a local one among friends in Oakland.
"I've done all right," Moon said. "I've held my own."
Moon sported his trademark New Orleans Saints hat to the draw party. Moon was a special guest of the Saints for their entire playoff run and watched them win the Super Bowl in Miami against the Indianapolis Colts.
"It was pretty wild," he said.
About as wild as another strong showing in this tournament would be for Moon this weekend.
The draw party succeeded in providing a number of intriguing first round heads-up matches. Included in that group is 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event champion Peter Eastgate facing off against Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier, a French professional considered one of the best tournament players in the world.
Also on the first day, Phil Hellmuth will square off against Howard "The Professor" Lederer.
"This is all about serving notice that Phil Hellmuth is back," said Hellmuth, who hasn't won a major tournament in three years.
Moon seemed to be taking it all in Thursday. Although he said he wouldn't play in many tournaments after his Main Event score, this was too much for Moon to pass up.
"They called and told me that I was invited to it, so I brought $20,000 out of my own pocket and got in it," Moon said. "It's a guaranteed quarter-million in the final two. That would be great."
Transport yourself to the opulent and excessive Roman Empire at Caesars Palace. But the ever-changing Caesars Palace is far from ancient. The hotel and casino is constantly raising the bar for what visitors can expect in a Vegas resort experience.
Caesars Palace features 3,348 rooms and suites in five towers, including the new luxury boutique Nobu Hotel and Restaurant, which opened Feb. 4, 2013, in the totally remodeled Centurian Tower. Caesars features 129,000 square feet of gaming space, including the Strip’s largest poker room and a 250-seat sports book. Other amenities include about two dozen restaurants, a four-level shopping mall, four pools, a spa, Pure and Poetry nightclubs and Pussycat Dolls.
Dining options include restaurants from world-renown chefs Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay and, on Feb. 4, 2013, Nobu Matsuhisa.
You never know what characters you’ll run into at Caesars with regular performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Bette Midler, Elton John and maybe even the emperor himself.