After almost 15 hours of play, the final table of the World Series of Poker, which began at noon PST on Saturday, has finally come to a pause with Joe Cada and Darvin Moon surviving the marathon battle. The two will begin heads-up play at 10:00 p.m. PST on Monday night with Cada holding the chip lead.
The day began with hordes of people lined up outside the Penn & Teller Theater, some getting there as early as 6 a.m. PST. After a series of introductions, Peter Eastgate joined the Godfather of Poker, Doyle Brunson, to do the honors of starting the final table by uttering "Shuffle up and Deal."
Action began slowly and steadily with no excitement for the first few hours. The crowd waited with bated breath for the first big bust-out hand or the first big double-up. It was James Akenhead who broke the snooze-fest, hitting the rail first. After surviving his first all-in confrontation, hitting a miracle queen on the river with his king-queen vs Eric Buchman's ace-king, Akenhead could not ride his momentum, however, next running his pocket kings into the pocket aces of Kevin Schaffel less than an hour after the initial double-up. He hit the rail shortly thereafter when he moved the remainder of his chips in with pocket threes only to run into Jeff Shulman's nines.
Next to hit the rail was PokerStars-sponsored Kevin Schaffel. Schaffel, beneficiary of most of Akenhead's chips, got involved, again with aces, this time against the pocket kings of PokerStars-sponsored Buchman who had him covered. The flop was disastrous for Schaffel, and he need an ace or a ten to survive. The on the turn put the nail in the coffin for Schaffel, eliminating him in eighth place and catapulting Buchman toward the chip lead.
Play slowed considerably after Schaffel's elimination, and it seemed as if the players were hunkering down for a long night. The legendary Phil Ivey was still a clear favorite among the crowd. His patience showed, and it seemed as though nobody was tempted by the idea of doubling him up. Finally, after letting himself slip close to the dreaded ten-big blind threshold, Ivey made his final stand. Moving all-in with , Ivey found one caller, the Maryland logger, Darvin Moon, who was well-behind with . The flop, however, was a cruel one for Ivey, as Moon flopped a queen that put Ivey on the brink of elimination and the crowd into a frenzy. The turn and river were no help, and Phil Ivey was eliminated in seventh place.
Moon used the Ivey elimination to give himself a burst of momentum that saw him knock out the sixth-place finisher, Steve Begleiter, just minutes later. After a preflop raise from Begleiter, Moon quickly waved his hands signaling he was all-in. Begleiter quickly made the call with pocket queens and was well ahead of Moon's . The flop was safe for "Begs" with the landing on the felt. While the turn card was good for Begleiter, the on the river, however, sent the crowd back into a frenzy and another wave of chips over to Moon.
The pace slowed to a halt as the players had been at it for well over 12 hours. At one point, play went close to 15 hands without seeing a flop. Finally, Shulman, who had become the short stack, and who had a lot of difficulty moving up the chip counts during the day, made his final stand with pocket sevens. Antoine Saout who had reraised Shulman's initial raise, was pot-committed and called with . The board frowned on Shulman, though, as the dealer ran it out . Saout's pair of nines were good enough for him to take the pot and eliminate Shulman in fifth place.
With the final table reaching four-handed play in the wee hours of the Las Vegas morning, Moon, who had relinquished his chip lead with a few ill-timed bluffs, began to turn up the heat. Even though there was no need to move all-in with the chip stacks all hovering in the 60 big-blind raise, Moon seemed uninterested in doing anything but moving all-in. His strategy worked; none of the other players wanted to risk their entire stack, which allowed Moon to climb back into the lead.
Buchman was eliminated next when his could not hold up against Moon's . Moon hit a king on the turn, knocking out the PokerStars-sponsored Buchman and bringing everyone a step closer to ending the day.
After a short break, the action picked up and the remaining three players seemed exhausted and willing to get their chips in with any playable hand. Cada miraculously doubled up when he hit a deuce on the flop with his pocket deuces while allin against Saout's pocket queens. Just minutes later, the two battled again, this time with Saout holding pocket eights against Cada's . The flop was good for Saout and so was the on the turn. The river, however, sealed the Frenchman's fate as the shook the felt and caused the small crowd to roar one final time for Cada who will enter heads-up play on Monday with 136,925,000. Cada will face off against the Moon who is sitting at 58,875,000.
PokerNews will be there starting at 10:00 p.m. PST on Monday night and you can follow all the action right here in our live reporting pages.