Finally! The night for which the entire poker world had waited. The playing out of the November Nine, and the crowning of the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event champion. After an almost four-month hiatus, Phil Ivey, Darvin Moon, Eric Buchman, Steven Begleiter, Antoine Saout, Joe Cada, Kevin Schaffel, Jeff Shulman and James Akenhead reconvened at the Rio hotel in Las Vegas to finally answer many questions. Would Ivey cement his status as the best poker player in the world, and perhaps lay claim to being the best of all time? Would Darvin Moon continue his magical run of incredible cards? Would Joe Cada break Peter Eastgate’s record for the youngest ever to win the tournament? And would Jeff Shulman really throw the bracelet in the garbage if he won it? The answers to these and many more questions were to be revealed in tonight’s telecast. Here’s what transpired:
On the very first hand shown, Moon called in the cutoff with A-3 unsuited. Ivey called in the small blind with J-10, but Kevin Schaffel then raised to 1.2 million with pocket nines in the big blind. Moon, showing a very different approach right out of the gate, then three-bet to 3.3 million, causing both Ivey and Schaffel to lay down their cards.
Next, Jeff Shulman raised in early position with a pair of fives, and Ivey pushed all-in for 8.7 million with K-K. Joe Cada woke up with 10-10 and agonized for a few minutes, before folding, and Shulman’s cards went into the muck soon after. Had Shulman played as tightly as he usually does and folded his fives, Ivey would have made the first raise, and Cada might have gone over the top, doubling Ivey up early on. But it was not to be.
The first player to be in danger of elimination was James Akenhead, who went all-in with K-Q offsuit. Steve Begleiter called with pocket tens, but Eric Buchman re-raised to 12.1 million with A-K. Begleiter folded, and Akenhead had one foot out the door with a flop of 2-3-J and a king on the turn. But the miracle queen came on the turn, and Akenhead survived! It was not to be the last time that players had prayers answered on this night.
Antoine Saout raised the next hand to 850,000 with J-2. Moon called with A-4 in the small blind. Saout hit the jackpot when the flop came K-J-2!!! Moon fired out 2.3 million, and Saout raised to 6.75 million. Moon inexplicably pushed all-in, and Saout instantly called. Moon sheepishly said “I doubled him up”, and although the logger turned an inside wheel draw with a 3, the river was of no help, and Saout suddenly had almost 22 million chips.
Joe Cada raised to 1 million with the mystery cards in the wild card hand. Moon called with A-10 offusit. The flop was 4-8-9, with two clubs. Both players checked, and Moon checked again when the came on the turn. Cada then bet 1.4 million, which Moon called. When the fell on the river, Moon fired out 2.5 million, only to have Cada raise to 5.5 million. Moon called, and Cada turned over 6-3 of clubs for the busted flush draw.
James Akenhead’s luck turned when he ran pocket kings straight into Kevin Schaffel’s aces. The board offered no help, Schaffel survived and Akenhead was back on life support, and was then eliminated when his pair of threes didn’t improve against Schaffel’s pocket nines, which made a full house on the river.
Kevin Schaffel was dealt aces once again, this time against Eric Buchman’s kings. However, Buchman hit his set on a flop of Q-J-K, and then added insult to injury by turning quads!!!! Schaffel was eliminated in eighth place.
Next, Moon raised to 1.3 million with K-Q offsuit, and Begleiter re-raised to 3.9 million with . Moon called, and the flop brought 3-4-2, with two spades. Begleiter led out for 5.35 million, and Moon raised him to 15 million, whereupon Begleiter went all-in with his flush draw and two over cards. Although Moon was getting 7.5 to 1 odds to call, he actually was an even worse underdog than that, with only the two non-spade kings as outs, and he laid it down. Strangely, after the hand he told his wife that he had queens, so either he was lying to her, or completely misread his hand.
Ivey showed that he was not going to go quietly, with two aggressive plays that typified his style. First, when Shulman raised to 1.5 million with pocket nines, Ivey pushed all-in from the big blind with K-Q offsuit, forcing Shuhlman off his hand. Then, Begleiter raised to 1.25 million with pocket sevens, which Ivey called with . The flop of Q-J-K, with two diamonds left Ivey without a made hand, but as the favorite. Ivey checked and Begleiter made the continuation bet of 1.75 million, which Ivey just called. Both players checked the on the turn, but when the fell on the river, Ivey made a bluff disguised as a value bet, when he led out for 2.5 million, and Begleiter folded the best hand!
However, things quickly turned bad for Ivey, first when he folded his pocket jacks to a re-raise by Antoine Saout, who had a pair of sevens, and then when he lost a race to Joe Cada, when his A-8 didn’t improve against Cada’s pocket fours. It was an omen of what was about to come.
First, however, Steve Begleiter and Antoine Saout tangled in a huge hand that shifted the balance of power at the table. Begleiter raised to 1.5 million with , and Saout, in the small blind, re-popped it to 4.5 million with . Begleiter called, and the flop of put Begleiter in the lead, but gave Saout a huge draw. All the money went into the middle, and Saout got the on the turn to complete the nut flush, making him the chip leader.
Then, the moment most poker fans had been dreading happened. Ivey pushed all-in for his last 6.5 million with A-K, and Moon called with A-Q. While Phil Ivey calmly munched his daily good luck apple, the queen in the door flashed as part of a 6-6-Q flop!. The turn and river brought no help, and the world’s best player was eliminated in 7th place.
Moon’s luck with A-Q continued soon after, when he re-raised Begleiter all-in, after Begs had raised under the gun to 1.6 million with pocket queens. After a flop of 7-4-8 and a turn of a 3, Moon hit yet another three-outer when his ace came on the river, knocking out Begleiter in 6th place, and elevating Moon back into the chip lead.
It looked as if Joe Cada was going to be the next player eliminated, as he was all-in with pocket threes against Jeff Shulman’s jacks. But Cada flopped the set on a flop of 8-4-3, and when no jack came on the turn and river, Cada stayed alive, and Shulman was reduced to just 12 big blinds, and was soon eliminated in 5th place by Antoine Saout, when the Frenchman flopped a pair of nines with his A-9, besting Shulman’s pocket sevens.
After Buchman took a large pot from Saout when he pushed him off top pair with a slow played pair of aces, the two tangled again, when Buchman raised enough to put Saout all-in with A-Q. Saout tanked, and finally made the call with A-K, then flopped a king and turned another one to take over the lead with almost half the chips in play, while Buchman was crippled. He was eliminated in 4th place, when he pushed with A-5 against Moon’s . In classic Moon style, he hit the king on the river to take out the New York pro.
Cada raised to 2.5 million with pocket twos, and Saout re-raised to 5.75 million with queens. Cada then made the very questionable push all-in, and Saout called, creating a 79.65 million-chip pot. But Cada hit his set again, on a flop of 7-2-9!!!! No queen came on the turn or river, and Cada, through the most unlikely of runs ever seen at a final table, was suddenly the chip leader! He padded his lead soon after, when Saout pushed all-in with pocket eights, and Cada called with A-K. The way Cada was running, it was just a matter of time, and sure enough, the king came on the river, knocking out Saout in 3rd place, setting up a heads-up match between definitely not the two best players at the table, but certainly the two luckiest, with Cada holding more than a 2-1 advantage.
Although Moon has almost never played heads-up poker in his life, and Cada considers himself a heads-up specialist through his online play, it was Moon who was the aggressor for much of the session. Starting with a huge disadvantage, Moon showed no fear in moving chips into the middle, and twice pushed Cada off hands, once when Cada was leading with A-Q against A-J, and another time when both had the identical hands. At one point, Moon had completely reversed the chip stacks, and HE held a more than 2-1 lead! However, one critical hand derailed the amateur’s title hopes, when Cada raised to 3 million with J-9 offsuit, and Moon called with . On a flop of 10-5-9, both players checked. When another 10 came on the turn, Moon checked once again, and Cada bet 3 million. Moon then pushed all-in with just the straight draw! Cada thought long and hard, but finally made the big call! When a blank hit the river, Cada doubled up back into the lead.
All the chips went into the middle pre-flop on the final hand, when Cada raised to 3 million with pocket nines, Moon three-bet to 8 million with , and Cada pushed. Moon decided to make a stand right there, and he called. The board was no help to Moon, and Joe Cada was the 2009 Main Event champion, and, at 21, the youngest ever, supplanting Peter Eastgate just one year after he set the record!
While the final table contained so many miracle suck-outs it often seemed as if it was a $1 + rebuy online tourney, it was certainly an exciting spectacle, and ESPN did a fine job milking the drama for all it was worth. They will be hard-pressed to have a final table quite as compelling as this one when next year’s tournament rolls around.