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Best of Vin Narayanan

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Instant final table analysis: Cada, Moon somehow outlast the rest

8 November 2009

LAS VEGAS -- The best way to look at Saturday's action at the World Series of Poker Main Event final table is that Darvin Moon finished with 58.8 million chips, essentially the same amount that he started with. And Joe Cada took everyone else's chips and now has 135.9 million chips.

Saturday's action – which spilled into Sunday morning and didn't end until 5:55 Vegas time -- had an odd ebb and flow. It took six hands to see a flop, and almost 30 hands to see a river card. For almost two and a half hours there was very little serious action. But after 2 hours and 20 minutes of play the floodgates burst open when James Akenhead moved all in and was called by Eric Buchman. Akenhead survived, but that hand was the start of chips flying everywhere.

darvin_moon

Despite some questionable calls, Darvin Moon survived to make it to the heads-up portion of the WSOP Main Event final table. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

2004 Main Event champ Greg Raymer identified the likely reason behind this in a quick chat with Casino City while play was going on.

"In hindsight, the slow play early in the day wasn't surprising," Raymer said. "How would you like to be a player that flew in a 100 family members and friends and lasted 10 minutes? That's why Phil Ivey was the only person who was all in early. If he got eliminated, he'd just say 'that's poker.' But that survival thought process had to be in the mind of some the players on close calls."

The two players who had the most intriguing days -- and by intriguing I mean they'll be questioning their strategy when they look back on the tournament -- are Joe Cada and Darvin Moon.

Cada began the day fifth in chips with 13.215 million. But by Saturday's dinner break, he was sitting at 10.7 million, and he was only that high thanks to a late rally. Unlike the tight, aggressive posture adopted by most of the players at the table, Cada was a little bit looser, and played in a lot of hands. Unfortunately for Cada, he made some questionable decisions and lost most of those hands, forcing him to spend most of his time and energy clawing his way back into contention.

Cada's worst move of the day came when he called Jeff Shulman's all-in bet. Shulman had barely played a hand all day, and pretty clearly had an extremely strong starting hand, but Cada made the call and Shulman turned over A-K. Cada had A-J, lost the race, and ended up with around 2 million in chips. But Cada fought back, pushing all in several times, mostly as the underdog. Somehow, Cada survived, and eventually drew within striking distance of the leaders before delivering an awful bad beat to Antoine Saout when he hit trip deuces on the flop to crack the Frenchman's pocket queens.

Dropping down to 2 million might have been the best thing to happen to Cada Saturday. He adopted an all-in or fold strategy, and he rebuilt his stack to around 40 million within a couple of hours.

Meanwhile Moon showed some jitters -- and possibly inexperience at big-stack poker -- in two critical hands. The first big mistake came after Moon and Antoine Saout were engaged in a hand that saw a K-J-2 flop. Moon pushed Saout all in with a sizable bet and the Frenchman called quickly. Saout had a J-2 for two pair and Moon had an A-4 for, well, nothing. Saout won the pot, and Moon lost a nice stack of chips. The other curious play from Moon came against Steve Begleiter. In a hand that ESPN will no-doubt spend plenty of time dissecting, Begleiter pushed out a 5-million-chip bet after 3-4-2 flop. Moon raised to 15 million and Begleiter went all in for another 6 million. After thinking about it for a minute, Moon decided not to call Begleiter's raise of 6 million and mucked his hand. It will be interesting to see what kind of cards Moon had, because the value to call Begleiter's hand was there.

Moon managed to recover from the Begleiter hand, but then he gave the chips away again in another strange hand. In this hand, Moon pushed all in with K-9, and was called by Cada, who had pocket aces. The aces held up, and Cada who had been battling back from a short stack was back in the game.

When Eric Buchman was eliminated, he noted that Moon was gambling much more than he had during the summer, and he thought that accounted for some of the mistakes Moon was making.

antoine_saout

Antoine Saout made a charge at the final table, going from the second-shortest stack all the way to the chip lead. But in the end he finished third. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

Phil Ivey was remarkably patient Saturday. He carefully picked his spots to get involved. Ivey's caution kept him in the game. But his reputation kept him from getting action. Nobody wanted to double up Ivey, so when he entered a pot, he usually took it down. Unfortunately for Ivey, he wasn't able to build up a decent chip stack because players were generally avoiding him. The combination of Ivey's patience and the lack of action on his bets kept Ivey tethered to the short-stack zone. And he was never able to build up the chip stack he needed to be truly dangerous, and ended up finishing seventh as a result.

One player who might wish he had played more hands is Jeff Shulman. Shulman, whose name was rarely heard Saturday, spent much of the day in the dreaded short-stack zone due to lack of action. And as a result, whenever he did catch playable cards, he faced agonizing decisions -- often against Ivey -- on whether he should take a stand, or live to fight. But Shulman kept grinding away, and finished in fifth. When asked to assess the remaining players in the field, here's what Shulman had to say:

"Darvin Moon is playing well. He made a few mistakes early, but he's playing well."

"Joe Cada is just relentless."

"Eric Buchman has been playing perfect poker."

"Antoine Saout has been playing great."

Saout had the best day outside of Cada. Saout was eighth in chips entering final-table action, and he patiently worked his way to the top of the leaderboard through solid play. Saout was arguably once card away from being the odds-on favorite to capture the Main Event crown. Now, he'll be watching Cada and Moon battle it out -- just like everyone else.

Instant final table analysis: Cada, Moon somehow outlast the rest is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
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Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.