WSOP Main Event, ESPN: Top 10 Moments of the Final Table
After four months and 26 hours of coverage from ESPN, the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event is finally in the history books, Joe Cada coming back from only four big blinds to smash Peter Eastgate’s record and becoming the youngest-ever Main Event champion.
Clocking in at over 20 hours over two days, this Main Event final table was the longest in WSOP history and one of the most exciting ever witnessed. Filled with dramatic suckouts, thrilling river cards, and crackling tension, Cada’s road to the bracelet produced some of the best poker television ever. It was difficult to narrow it down, but here are our choices for the top ten moments from ESPN’s two-and-a-half-hour “super-sized” final-table coverage.
10. Saout Earns an Early Double-Up on Moon’s Bluff-Gone-Awry
It started off as a simple steal. Antoine Saout opened a junk hand, , from the cutoff hoping to take the blinds uncontested, but Darvin Moon put the kibosh on those plans, coming in with a call from the small blind. The flop, however, was boffo for the young Frenchman, who hit bottom two pair. Moon decided to lead into Saout for 2.5 million and Saout quickly came back with a raise to 6.75 million. Rather than give up his hand and wait for a better opportunity, Moon decided to three-bet shove, setting Saout all-in for 9.9 million, perhaps not realizing that the move came without fold equity given Saout's stack size. Saout insta-called the additional 3.15 million and turned over his two pair, shocked to see that Moon was on a stone bluff with nothing more than ace-high.
"I doubled him up. I doubled him up," Moon said, turning to face his supporters in the stands.
"Not the two hands I expected," Kevin Schaffel said laughing.
"It's all right. It's all right," Moon said, looking back at his wife, Wendy, who looked like she was about to cry.
The on the turn gave the entire theatre a sweat, Moon picking up a wheel draw. With the way Moon had run up to this point, it seemed as though fate would intervene and bring him an improbable river card.
"Saout needs a five or he will be le wamboolzed!” Norman Chad quipped as the dealer burned and turned.
It was the , making Saout deuces full and giving him a huge boost to 22 million in chips.
9. The King-Nine Four-Bet: Moon Doubles Up Cada
Cada scored a key double-up when Moon once again got frisky with a marginal hand. Moon opened for 2 million with , Cada three-bet to 5.6 million with , Moon instantly moved all-in, and Cada snap-called.
"Tim-berrrrr!" Chad joked as the cards went on their backs.
Although the flop gave everyone a sweat as Moon hit top pair, the turn and river blanked, Cada doubling to over 45 million. With play five-handed, Cada now had nearly as many chips as Saout and Eric Buchman, putting the bracelet back within his reach.
8. The Four Kings: Eric Buchman Snaps off Schaffel’s Aces
"I wouldn't celebrate yet, you've got a six-outer," Moon said in his slow drawl.
Buchman’s fans went bezerk. Holding pocket kings, their man had successfully cracked Schaffel’s aces, the flop coming down to make him top set. But as Moon knew all too well, anything can happen at the poker table.
Schaffel’s fans, decked out in matching “Schaffel Up and Deal” shirts, pleaded for a ten or an ace but instead got a dagger in their hearts as the hit the turn, Buchman making quads. Schaffel was drawing dead and went out in eighth place as his fans crossed their arms and dropped their heads in disbelief.
7. Cada’s Huge Heads-Up Call
Had a jack or a six hit the river in this hand, we’d have a very different Main Event champion.
Joe Cada twisted his face in agony as he faced a decision for all his chips, the board reading . With the in his hand, Cada had to wonder whether Moon held a ten or maybe an overpair. Or a sneaky set of fives. Cada tanked for over five minutes, heaving with sighs, his face contorting before finally declaring a call. Cada was well in the lead with his two pair, but Moon had outs with his . Time stood still for both players before the peeled off on the river, leaving Cada safe from elimination.
"It was a good semi-bluff. You're playing awesome” Cada said, complimenting Moon’s aggressive play as he raked in the pot. "I play heads-up all the time and you're a really tough opponent.”
6. The Ace on the River: Moon Eliminates Begleiter
Shock waves thundered through the Rio once again when Moon, holding against Steve Begleiter’s pocket queens, hit an ace on the river, sending the former Bear Stearns executive to the rail in sixth place. What the ESPN broadcast revealed, however, was that in the middle of all that pandemonium, Phil Hellmuth stepped out of the stands and in front of the camera’s lens to shake Begleiter’s hand and offer a few words.
"I was really impressed. You really played great," Hellmuth said as Beglieter left the stage.
Quite ironic, don’t you think, considering Hellmuth’s statements to the contrary in that Time magazine piece on Begleiter where he called Begleiter “a loose cannon” who would “call big raises and reraises with hands that no pro would play” and “at some point (would) make a mistake.”
Anything for camera time. Right, Phil?
5. The River Three-Outer: Akenhead Hits a Miracle
All-in and trailing, his tournament life on the line with against Buchman’s , James Akenhead and his rowdy cheering section were probably thinking about hitting the nearest bar when the flop came down and the fell on the turn. Only three cards in the deck could have saved the young Brit. "Queen" screamed his pals Karl Mahrenholz and Praz Bansi.
It was as if an earthquake rumbled down the Las Vegas Strip when the fell on the river. Akenhead’s supporters swarmed him as if he were a Major League Baseball player who’d just hit a game-winning home run. As the Brits broke into song, Akenhead reclaimed his spot at the table, his stay of execution granted.
4. The Queen in the Door: Darvin Moon Eliminates Phil Ivey
The crowd was on their feet. Seasoned pros with millions in prop bets on the line crossed their fingers and looked heavenward. Phil Ivey was all-in with against Moon’s , a nearly 3-1 favorite to double up. Hold. One time. Please.
“Good hand,” Moon said, looking at Ivey.
"Good hand? Good hand he said!" Ivey laughed. "Well it's better than mine," he said, biting into an apple.
As we all know now, the flop was a disaster for the seven-time bracelet winner, coming down .
"How do they put a f***ing queen right in the window," Mike Matusow muttered, as he and Howard Lederer looked on.
Ivey, however, calmly took another bite of his apple as he waited for the turn and river to seal his elimination, still chewing as he shook hands around the table and made his exit.
In the front row, Cliff “JohnnyBax” Josephy (one of Joe Cada’s backers) couldn’t hide his ear-to-ear grin as he mentally counted up the tens of thousands more he just won with his horse taking a bigger lead in the race.
3. The Deuce on the Flop: Cada’s Set Sends Saout Packing
Everyone had barely recovered from Buchman’s fourth-place elimination, when Cada stuffed his 40 remaining big blinds in the middle, four-bet shoving with pocket deuces, only to run into Saout’s pocket queens. It looked like curtains for Cada, who had already escaped elimination so many times, but there was still plenty of run-good left in the 21-year-old Michigander. The hit the flop, and the room exploded as Cada leapt into the embrace of his yellow-shirted fans while Saout’s cheering section looked ready to burst into tears.
2. He Folded… What?
For those of us in the media who were there from start to finish watching every hand unfold, the ESPN broadcast finally revealed the cards players held in many of the hands that had left us scratching our heads:
- On the last hand before the dinner break, Ivey opened from under the gun, then folded to Saout’s three-bet after a long stay in the tank. We were “wamboozled” to discover that Ivey folded in that spot while Saout held .
- Hand 53 saw Cada make a river raise on a board of , Moon looking him up with for aces up. As it turned out, Cada was bluffing with nothing more than a small busted flush draw, the in his hand.
- During heads-up play, Cada twice folded a winner, first laying down his to Moon’s four-bet with , then giving up his on a board when Moon held the same hand.
1. The Worst Fold… Ever?
If there’s a hand to go down in poker lore as the worst fold ever made, this hand is certainly a leading candidate. Holding , Moon opened for 1.3 million from first position, then called Begleiter’s 3.9 million three-bet. The flop was huge for “Begs,” who held two overs and the nut flush draw with his . Moon missed entirely and checked, Begleiter firing out 5.35 million. Most players would just give it up right here, but Moon came back with a check-raise to 15 million, representing the vast majority of Begleiter’s 21 million remaining chips. Begleiter moved in, the pot swelling to nearly 45 million. Moon needed another 6 million to call.
"Wow. WOW,” Moon said, sitting back in his chair. “Don't matter how much it is either, I'm calling or I'm not."
As Joe Sebok said on the live audio broadcast, “If I had a tarot card and a Snickers wrapper I’m calling.” But that’s Joe Sebok. And this is Darvin Moon.
Despite getting over 7 to 1 on a call, Moon found a fold, leaving every mouth inside the Penn & Teller Theatre agape. Even more improbably, Moon’s fold ended up being mathematically correct, as he was only a 7% favorite to win. Shockingly, Moon had a deadly accurate read on Begleiter’s hand, putting him on . But then, in an even worse bluff than the one he made with A-4, Moon lied, telling his wife and supporters that he folded pocket queens!
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