The wait was over, and a 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event champion was to be crowned. The most exciting tournament of the year reached its final stage - literally and figuratively - and the energy surrounding the heads-up match was nothing but electric.
At 6am PT on November 8, after more than 17 hours of WSOP Main Event final table action in the Rio’s Penn & Teller Theater and in the midst of the lights and cameras of the ESPN crew, the final two players were left to relish in their accomplishments and prepare mentally and physically for the last step of their 2009 WSOP journey. Everything that led to that moment was exciting but exhausting, as Darvin Moon and Joe Cada bobbed and weaved through a tough final table to accrue the following chip stacks:
|Darvin Moon || 58,850,000 |
|Joe Cada ||135,950,000 |
On November 9, the two met on the Masquerade Stage at the Rio to take questions from the media, and hours later, they came to the Penn & Teller Theater in preparation for a 10pm scheduled start time for their heads-up match. What were they playing for? In addition to the most coveted prize in all of poker, the World Series of Poker Main Event gold bracelet, Moon and Cada would duke it out on the felt for the following prizes:
|1st place: ||$8,547,042 |
|2nd place: ||$5,182,928 |
After the introductions and a “shuffle up and deal” from Motley Crue’s Vince Neil, the action got underway with a full house of very excited poker fans.
The very first hand brought action. It started with Moon attempting to limp in, but Cada raised 2.5 million more, and Moon calmly called. After the flop came , Cada bet 3.5 million, but Moon took the opportunity to raise to 10 million. Cada called, which brought the on the turn. Moon was the first to bet, and the 10 million was check-called by Cada. When the hit on the river, both players checked, and Moon showed . Cada flipped over , and the sizable pot went to Moon.
After the first seven hands, Moon put a significant dent into Cada’s stack with new chip counts as follows:
|Moon || 93,150,000 |
|Cada ||101,650,000 |
Moon hurt his opponent further with a hand that started with a Cada raise and Moon call to see a flop. Cada bet 3.5 million, and Moon check-raised to 8.5 million. The on the turn was checked around, but the on the river prompted Moon to bet 7.25 million. Cada called, but when Moon showed , Moon took the pot and the chip lead.
|Moon ||101,850,000 |
But Cada wasn’t to be held back for long. Moon raised and Cada called to see a flop. Moon was the first to bet and made it 4 million to go, and Cada called. The on the turn drew a 6 million-chip bet from Moon, but Cada raised it up to 16.75 million. Moon called, and the appeared on the river. Cada made a massive bet of 35 million, and Moon considered his options before finally folding. With that pot, Cada took his lead back.
|Moon || 72,200,000 |
|Cada ||120,600,000 |
Cada trusted his instincts on several subsequent hands, reading Moon as holding weak hands and being correct. One of those started with a flop, turn and river. It was then that Cada bet 3 million and Moon raised to 13 million. Cada called with , and his pair of tens was good enough to beat the of Moon - jack high. The resulting chip counts saw Cada gaining ground.
|Moon || 66,400,000 |
|Cada ||128,400,000 |
But confidence is easily lost in a heads-up match when a hand goes awry. Cada experienced such a feeling, or seemed to per the stunned look on his face after a key hand. Cada started the action with a raise, and when Moon reraised to 8 million, Cada called. After the flop of , Moon bet out 5 million, and Cada called without hesitation. The on the turn brought an all-in move from Moon, along with more energy than we’ve seen in…well, maybe ever. He stood up almost immediately after pushing his chips toward the middle, and his confidence must have shattered Cada’s, if only briefly, because the young player quickly folded.
|Moon || 82,450,000 |
|Cada ||112,350,000 |
Cada found more trouble in a hand that never even saw a flop. It started with a 3 million-chip raise from Moon, which was followed by a 10.2 million reraise by Cada. Moon reraised it up to 28 million, and Cada seemed disturbed by the move. He thought and looked at his opponent over and over, finally making what looked like an agonizing fold. Though the audience and media couldn’t hear the words said at the table, it looked like Moon’s lips spoke the word “bluff” when speaking to Cada.
Cada got himself together after being flustered by the aforementioned hand, and a break helped him do that. At the break, the chip counts showed Cada just ahead of Moon.
|Moon ||95,500,000 |
|Cada ||99,300,000 |
The first hand back from break saw a hand go to the river with minimal betting, but Moon took the pot and the slight chip lead. And several more hands saw aggressive play by Moon, who found himself with a significant chip lead in a matter of minutes.
|Moon ||127,600,000 |
|Cada || 67,200,000 |
It got even worse for Cada when he raised preflop and found Moon calling to see a flop of . Moon bet 5 million, and Cada raised to 13 million. Moon started to reraise and pushed several stacks of chips out from his corner, at which point Cada threw his cards away. It was then that the tables had turned completely from the beginning of the match.
|Moon ||145,200,000 |
During play thus far, several all-in moves were made but none were called. It was time.
Cada started the hand with a standard 3 million-chip raise, and Moon called to see the flop. Both players checked, but when the came on the turn, Cada bet out 3 million again. Moon rather quickly check-raised all-in, which put Cada into the think-tank for more than a few minutes. Finally, he quietly called and showed for two pair, and Moon turned over the for the open-ended straight draw. Nearly everyone in the theater was on their feet, and when instructed, the dealer turned over the river card, which allowed Cada to double up and not only stay alive but retake the chip lead. His immediate reaction looked like he was near tears of joy, but he composed himself and returned to the table.
|Moon ||86,500,000 |
|Cada ||108,300,000 |
Confidence seemed to come back to Cada. And it couldn’t have been better timing.
Eight hands after Cada’s double-up, it was time for another decision. Cada started the action in the 356th hand of the final table with a 3 million-chip raise. Moon reraised to 8 million. Cada looked back at his cards and decided to reraise all-in. Moon also looked at his cards…and called.
Cada showed .
Moon showed .
The flop brought , which changed nothing. Cada walked to his support group for some encouragement and received a hug from his backer, Cliff “JohnnyBax” Josephy. The came on the turn, which was scary only for the moment that people saw a face card. And finally, after a dramatic delay, the fell on the river.
Darvin Moon was eliminated in second place and was awarded $5,182,928 for it.
The champion was Joe Cada! Not only did he become the youngest WSOP Main Event champion in history, beating Peter Eastgate’s record from the previous year, but he was immediately awarded the WSOP gold bracelet that sat atop a pile of money totaling $8,547,042.
Immediately upon seeing the river card and realizing he was the champion, Cada was about to be mobbed by his friends and family in the stands but immediately put his hands out to push them away. He walked over to Moon, extended his hand to congratulate him on the match, and had a brief conversation with his former opponent. After that classy move, Cada then returned to his crew of supporters and allowed the celebrations to begin.
We could be mistaken, but there may have been a few tears shed by the clearly emotional newly-crowned champion.
Pollack officially announced the victory, then attached the WSOP bracelet to Cada’s arm. Cada fought back the tears and finally embraced the moment with a smile that extended across his youthful face. He took the microphone when offered, and he first asked that the audience give another round of applause to Moon. He went on to briefly thank all of his supporters, many of whom took off from work or school to be in Las Vegas, and told them how much it meant to him.
With that, the pictures of Cada with the money, the bracelet, the WSOP staff, his family, and many combinations thereof ensued. And the night of celebrations was only just beginning.
Congratulations to Joe Cada, the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event champion!