n the final hand, Darvin Moon –45- called an all-in bet from Joe Cada, 21, and with us$ 150 million in chips in the pot - 70% of the chips in play - none of the last five cards paired Moon's queen-jack; Cada's pair of nines held up, and he had outlasted 6,494 participants who began play more than four months ago at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Moon, of Oakland, was one of two closely watched amateurs to make the final table; the other was investment banker Steven Begleiter, 47, of Chappaqua, who went out of this tournament early Sunday in sixth place. Both came to Las Vegas with a compelling backstory and made it to Saturday's "November Nine" final table with commanding chip stacks.
Cada, from the Detroit area, risked alienation from his parents to participate. He cut his poker teeth in online play as a teenager; against his parents' will, he quit college to play cards for a living. But he soon won enough to pay cash for his house and managed to reconcile with Mom and Dad, who were in Las Vegas to cheer him on.
This was Cada's first full year being age eligible in Vegas, and he ended up bringing a mountain of chips to the heads-up finale in front of a large and raucous crowd that had waited in line up to six hours: us$ 136 million in chips to Moon's us$ 59 million. He had survived numerous flings with elimination to get that far, at one point running dead last at the table of nine.
Moon made it to the heads-up finale with a string of improbable TKOs, including one of highly touted pro Phil Ivey, who went out in seventh place, and then Begleiter. Those two knockouts came in rapid succession, and both times Moon held ace-queen, was behind at the start and then got just the card he needed.
In Ivey's case, Moon faced an ace-king but won when he paired his queen. In Begleiter's case, Moon faced a pair of queens and won when he paired his ace. Says Little: "He was getting better-than-average distribution throughout the tournament," which is pro-speak for landing killer cards.
Moon's run of good cards may have unnerved some at the table. Bloggers reported bad blood after the logger eliminated Begleiter, who seemed to be a marked man at the table of nine the way his raises were consistently met with big reraises that prompted him to fold. But Begleiter says he has no issues with Moon: "He's a gentlemen and very good poker player. I shook his hand before the flop on the last hand and again after he knocked me out."