WSOP Main Event: Joe Cada aims for Eastgate's crown, youngest and richest
There are some poker commentators on World Series final table day who end up sounding like an little league soccer coach. "You're all winners!" they insist, citing the fact that each of the November Nine, who reconvened at the Rio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, today was guaranteed at least a million dollars before a card was even dealt.
But the format of final table play -- nine down to two today; two to one on Monday -- always meant we would never be able to crown a winner in this first passage of play. And that means there always had to be seven players leaving Las Vegas who felt like losers, despite their bulging wallets and an achievement that they will inevitably look back on with pride.
Before we get too negative and list that unfortunate handful, let's focus on the two who are still in with a chance of entering the most prestigious winners' enclosure in poker. Our heads up duo, decided after a marathon 17 hours play, are these:
Joe Cada, USA, PokerStars player: 136,925,000 chips
Darvin Moon, USA, 58,875,000 chips
They were the survivors from the buffeting of a spiteful day, enduring what by anyone's standards was an exacting, fatiguing session at the felt. Cada in particular will be the first to admit he might be watching this one from his hotel room. He was all in with pocket threes against Jeff Shulman's jacks mid-way through the day. The three in the window kept him alive. And when they were down to three players, he was all in with deuces against Antoine Saout's queens. Yep, that's a deuce on the flop right there.
"I wouldn't change much," Cada said of his day. "Some of the situations were unfortunate. Luckily I sucked out, but that's part of the game."
Cada also won a crucial flip three-handed, rivering a king with his A♦K♠ to finish the job against Saout and his pocket eights. The Frenchman missed out by a whisker after a day that has done wonders for his reputation. But Cada, who was at one point down to two million, proved that PokerStars' finest never give up. And now look at him. He's massive chip leader playing heads up poker for the World Championship. It would make him the youngest ever.
As for Moon, he knows all about the chip lead. He held that accolade for two months, finishing the summer's passage of play with almost a third of the chips in play and returning here with a nonchalant and enviable attitude of: "If I win, I win. If I lose, I lose."
Moon just played his game today, and that meant putting his chips to work and doing his fair share of eliminating opponents, chief among them Phil Ivey, many spectators' tip for the title. Moon's ace-queen downed Ivey's ace-king. The self-confessed recreational player took out the pro.
His reward, like Cada's, is to return to the Penn and Teller Theater on Monday night to see who picks up the bracelet. And, oh yeah, $8.5m.
To get to those two, we had to lose seven, and they fell in the order best displayed on the payouts page. The short version of how they went out looks a bit like this:
The Brit thought it was his day when he rivered a queen with Q-K to double up against A-K. But he ran kings into Kevin Schaffel's aces, and James Akenhead was aching in ninth.
Kings against aces. Kings against aces. The PokerStars qualifier Kevin Schaffel will be seeing them in his sleep. After being on the right side of it to oust Akenhead, Schaffel again had the bullets against Eric Buchman's kings. But there was a king on the flop and another on the turn: that's quads to put Schaffel on the rail.
Phil Ivey played the kind of game befitting one of the best exponents of this craft in the world. But after picking his spots and grinding good, his big slick slipped up against Moon's ace-queen. That was a hand that seemingly couldn't lose today; Ivey certainly couldn't beat it and he was out in eighth.
Remember what I said about ace-queen? It couldn't lose, right, at least not in the hands of Darvin Moon. This time, Moon took it up against the pocket queens of Steven Begleiter. Ace on the river. Ouch. Begleiter gone.
Another player who couldn't gain a whole lot of traction today, Jeff Shulman finally found a decent spot with pocket sevens to move his stack in. Antoine Saout found ace-nine and the call. A nine on the flop sealed Shulman's fate.
Only Joe Cada rode a more extreme rollercoaster ride than Eric Buchman today. Buchman was chip leader for long periods and also a short stack at times. He also dished out that beat against Schaffel when he would have been crippled had it gone the other way.
Eventually he traded chips four handed with Darvin Moon, but then his A♦5♣ lost to Moon's K♦J♦ and that was terminal. Hear it in his own words:
Watch WSOP 2009 Nov9 Eric Buchman exit on PokerStars.tv
Undoubtedly one of the most accomplished final table performances we've seen, Antoine Saout will be staring at the ceiling in his bedroom tonight, muttering something like: "Zut alors." He was up to close to 90 million three handed and seemingly a lock for the heads up duel. But back to back massive beats by Joe Cada scuppered his chances. "Merde," means something rude in French.
The long version of all that is available in the following posts. Click through and let us know our long day was appreciated.
Any minute nows...
One hour in the books
Analysing the opening echanges
Short stack fight back
James Akenhead eliminated
Cold deck accounts for Schaffel
Schaffel sick, Buchman bouyed, dinner
The baying crowd returns, refreshed
Joe Cada's 25-hand rollercoaster
Coming up on Sunday
Goliath gone, David suspected
It's a skill game
Money makes the play slow down
Pursuit of Happy-less
The other side of the witching hour
Antoine Saout, Buchman out
So that's it for this epic. We'll restart on Monday at 10pm. An interesting statistic to leave you with: Darvin Moon is entering the heads up passage of play with approximately the same number of chips with which he came to the final table. That means that Joe Cada hoovered up all the rest.
Can he make himself the youngest World Series champion in history? "The bracelet is everything to me," Cada said. "Being the youngest is definitely a bonus. The $8.5 million also a bonus. So all three of those things would be my dream."
Here's what else Cada had to say.
Watch WSOP 2009 Nov9 Joe Cada Heads Up Interview on PokerStars.tv