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Best of Vin Narayanan

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Ivey falls short in quest for WSOP Main Event title

8 November 2009

LAS VEGAS -- The World Series of Poker Main Event final table is down to its final two, and it does not include Phil Ivey. Instead 21-year-old Joe Cada and the logger from Maryland, Darvin Moon, survived the nearly 17-hour day and will face off late Monday night for poker's most coveted title.

Saturday's marathon final table began at 1 p.m. with Ivey as the favorite, and ended at 5:55 a.m. Sunday morning with fan favorite nowhere in sight.

Ivey, widely regarded as the world's best poker player, couldn't find anyone to gamble with at the Rio Saturday night/Sunday morning and eventually bowed out in seventh place. He won $1,404,002 for his efforts, but failed to capture the big prize -- a Main Event championship.

buchman_cada

Eric Buchman held the chip lead for a good portion of Saturday night, but in the end Joe Cada was the leader and will face Darvin Moon heads-up (photo by Vin Narayanan)

Ivey attempted to play several hands throughout the night. But because no one at the table seemed willing to double him up, Ivey mostly collected antes and blinds. Eventually, he saw his chip gradually dwindle as the antes and blinds increased.

With his back up against the wall, Ivey was dealt A-K and pushed all in. Moon called and turned A-Q. A queen hit on the flop, and Ivey received no help from the turn and the river and exited the tournament.

Ivey refused to talk with the media after his exit. But about 30 minutes after he busted out, he was on Full Tilt Poker playing $2,000-$4,000 Stud Hi Lo on two tables.

While it's no surprise that Moon, the runaway chip leader entering final table action, has reached the final table, Cada's presence comes as a bit of the shock.

If the 21-year-old from Michigan wins the Main Event, he'll become the tournament's youngest champion, overtaking last year's champ, Peter Eastgate, who was 23. And he traveled an improbable path to get there.

Early in Saturday's final table action, Cada lost the bulk of his chips and had only 2 million remaining. Then he began a string of incredible double ups, putting his chips at risk several times, mostly as the underdog. Somehow, Cada climbed into the final grouping of three players, and then authored the worst bad beat of the tournament.

With 39 million chips, Cada pushed all in with pocket deuces. The chip leader, Antoine Saout (80 million), called with pocket queens. Cada hit a deuce on the flop to win the hand and grab the chip lead. Cada finished the job a few hands later when Saout went all in with pocket eights. Cada called with ace-king and a hit an ace on the river to knock Saout out of the tournament.

A crestfallen Saout was left telling the press "that's poker" when asked whether he realized he was one card away from like become the first French Main Event champion.

When heads-play begins back at the Rio Monday night at 10 p.m. Vegas time, Cada will have 135.9 million in chips while Moon will come in with 58.8 million.

A boisterous full house at the Penn & Teller Theatre in the Rio watched Cada and Moon outlast the rest of the final table to reach heads up play. And following the lead of the 2008 Dennis Phillips contingent, fans for the 2009 Main Event were prepared to cheer.

Cada boasted the loudest, and possibly the largest cheering section, with his backers wearing yellow t-shirts with a block "M," representing both his Michigan roots and his own support for the University of Michigan.

Surprisingly, Saout clocked in with the second-loudest cheering section. Wearing blue shirts with Saout and the Everest poker logo. Saout's fans regularly jousted with Cada contingent early on, trying to drown out Cada's cheering section with chants of "Saouuuuuut."

Cada's fans responded with chants of "USA, USA, USA." And the Saout fans, not to be outdone, began singing the French national anthem.

Steve Begleiter fans also sported blue shirts, with "Begs" printed on them. And Schaffel supporters had t-shirts with "Schaffel Up and Deal" on them.

Ivey didn't have any fans wearing special t-shirts cheering him on -- though Ja Rule was here rooting for him. But that hardly mattered because it seemed everyone in the Penn & Theatre was a Phil Ivey fan. Ivey received a thunderous ovation when he was introduced to the crowd, as the whole crowd, regardless of who they were cheering for, saluted Ivey.

Doyle Brunson, who joined 2008 Main Event champion Peter Eastgate on stage to kick off play telling dealers to "shuffle up and deal," saluted the crowd before play began.

"Can you imagine poker coming to this?" Brunson asked the crowd. "This looks like a football game."

Action at the final table started slowly, with players not seeing a flop until the sixth hand when Schaffel managed to get Saout to give up 750,000 chips with 1.5 million post-flop bet. Ivey, who began the day with 9.765 million in chips, didn't get involved in many pots early. But when he played, he made an impact.

After Ivey checked a Kh-4d-3d flop, Cada bet 1 million. Ivey gave Cada an extended death stare before folding. A few hands later, Ivey moved all in pre-flop. Cada spent two full minutes thinking about before folding. Jeff Shulman, the original raiser folded as well.

Saout, who began the day in eighth-place with 9.5 million chips was the next player to go all in, two hands later, and didn't get a caller -- making it two all-ins the first hour of play with no bust outs.

"In hindsight, the slow play early in the day wasn't surprising," said 2004 Main Event champ Greg Raymer. "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."

Raymer, who was taking in the action near Casino City's perch in press row, wasn't shy about picking a winner with most of the day still remaining either.

"If you asked me if I had to pick one player to win this tournament, it would be (Eric) Buchman," Raymer said. "He has the chip stack and he's experienced. When it gets down to three-handed and four-handed play, you just don't know how Moon, or some of the others will play. Moon might excel. But you know Ivey, Shulman and Buchman will play well."

Two hours and 24 minutes after play began for the day, James Akenhead pushed all in pre-flop for the second-straight hand and Begleiter called the 4,015,000 bet. Buchman raised it 12 million and Begleiter folded. Akenhead turned over K-Q and Buchman showed A-K. The flop missed both players, leaving Buchman in the lead. A king came on the turn, making Buchman a mortal lock to win the hand. But a miracle queen gave Akenhead two-pair and an unlikely triple up.

"My mind just froze when the queen came out," Akenhead said. "I didn't know what was happening," added the British poker star, who waded into the arms of his supporters to celebrate the big pot.

jeff_shulman

Jeff Shulman wasn't much of a factor at the final table and ended up finishing fifth and going home with $1.9 million. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

On the very next hand, Moon showed the first chink in his armor. Moon, the big stack entering final-table action with 58.93 million, played very few hands in the early going Saturday. But when he did enter the fray, he bet big, and no one wanted to tangle with him. Moon, sporting his usual New Orleans Saints hat and no advertising logos, picked up about 3 million chips in the first hours of play.

But right after Akenhead tripled up, Moon pushed Saout all in with the board reading K-J-2. Saout called instantly and turned over J-2 for two pair. Moon showed A-4, needing Akenhead-like luck to win the hand. A 3 came on the turn, giving Moon a straight-draw as the crowd in the theatre groaned. Moon was not their choice to win. A deuce came on the river, giving Saout a full house and some of Moon's chips. It also left Moon looking a bit flustered, something that wasn't seen this summer during Moon's impressive Main Event run.

The hot action continued a few hands later when a short-stacked Schaffel pushed all in with pocket aces. Akenhead called with pocket kings, but Schaffel's aces held up to give the scratch golfer from Florida a new lease on life in the tournament.

Minutes later, Schaffel and Akenhead tangled again, and this time it cost Akenhead his seat in the tournament.

Akenhead pushed all in with pocket threes and Schaffel called with pocket nines. The nines held up and Akenhead became the first player out of the Main Event final table.

"I feel like I played my best," said Akenhead, who began the day as the shortest stack at the table and won $1,263,602 for his efforts.

Schaffel's wild WSOP continued minutes later when he peeked down at his cards and discovered pocket aces again. Schaffel pushed all in again, and an astonished Buchman stared at Schaffel open-mouthed as he tried to decide what to do. Buchman called and revealed pocket kings, and the race was on.

The flop came out K-J-Q and the crowd let a roar. Schaffel's aces had been cracked. A king on the turn sealed Schaffel's fate. Buchman had knocked him out with quad kings.

"I'll talk about anything but poker," said Schaffel with a smile on his face as he addressed the media after his elimination. He was kidding. He was in pain. But he was gracious -- and grateful.

"What can you do," said Schaffel, who won $1,300,228. "I got my money in with aces twice."

"There's no good way to lose," the Floridian explained. "The flop was bad enough. But then I thought I still had outs. I win that hand 4 out 5 times."

"This summer has been great," added Schaffel, who vowed to play in the Main Event again. And when Casino City asked what he learned about himself, he didn't hesitate in answering.

"I learned how to handle things this summer. Once the chips are in, you have no control over what happens. But just like life, you have to learn how to handle whatever happens."

While Steal's loss to Buchman's quad kings might qualify as the most heartbreaking hand of the night, the title for most intriguing hand of the night goes to a battle between Moon and Begleiter that took place about 15 minutes after Schaffel's elimination.

After some serious betting pre-flop, the two players looked at a 3-4-2 flop. Begleiter pushed 5 million chips into the center of the table. Moon raised to 15 million and Begleiter went all in for 6 million more. Moon, thought about it for a minute, and folded. The big pot vaulted Begleiter into second place, and left Moon looking up at Buchman and Begleiter for the first time at the final table.

The players broke for dinner -- and Mike Sexton's induction into the Poker Hall of Fame -- shortly after Moon's curious play, and when they returned, play slowed way down.

Gone was the frenetic pre-dinner pace, and in its place was a plodding methodical tempo that left fans restless for action as players looked for places to pick up chips.

Saout, who had been successfully doubling up and winning pots all night, took the chip lead in this stage when he beat Begleiter in a made-for-TV hand.

Holding 8c-7c, Begleiter hit top pair on the flop and pushed all in. Saout, with the Ah-Kh in his hand and two hearts on the board, called. Saout hit his flush on the turn and doubled up to assume the chip lead with around 48 million chips.

Begleiter's stumble against Saout was the beginning of the end of the former Bear Stearns executive. Minute's after Ivey's exit from the tournament, Begleiter called Moon's all-in bet with pocket queens. Moon turned over ace-queen, and spiked an ace on the river to eliminate Begleiter.

"I'm a little numb," Begleiter said after his elimination. "I came here to win."

"I'm very happy with how I played," Begleiter added. "I'd rather lose this way than by making some horrible play."

Begleiter, who won $1,587,133 for finishing in sixth place, also said that he didn't pay any attention to the people criticizing him based on the televised hands they saw.

"Of the two-thousand hands I played, I'm sure I played some of them wrong," Begleiter said with a smile. And when asked of his future as a poker player, Begleiter had quick response.

"You have to ask my wife," he said with a chuckle.

With five players remaining, the action slowed down to a snail's pace. At one point, players went 18 hands without seeing a flop. And it took almost three hours for the next player to bust out.

Shulman, who had been nursing a short stack for much of the night, picked up a pocket sevens and decided to make a stand and pushed all in. Saout called with A-9 and the flop came up 10-9-6, giving Shulman a pair of nines. The nines held up, and Shulman went home in fifth place.

"I played pretty well," said a good-humored Shulman after his elimination. "I wouldn't change any of the plays I made. I have no regrets."

When asked about the strategy that coach Phil Hellmuth promised would blow people away, Shulman was quick with a quip. "That strategy wasn't going to blow anyone away," Shulman said with a laugh.

He also had some fun with a reporter who asked how his father Barry had reacted to Shulman's fifth-place finish. "He told me how disappointed he was in me," Shulman said jokingly. And when the reporter asked if that's what Barry had really said, Shulman rolled his eyes and said, "of course not."

Shulman, who has been an open critic of Harrah's management of the World Series of Poker, said he would return to play in the Main Event again. And then he asked how much money he had won. That would be $1,953,395.

For about an hour after Shulman's elimination, Buchman, Saout, Moon and Cada traded chips. And then Buchman and Saout started to tango, and things got interesting.

First, with the board reading 2-10-3, Buchman raised Saout 10 million in post-flop betting to make 25 million to go. Saout thought about it, and thought about it, and thought about it some more before folding and ceding the chip lead to Buchman. At this point, Buchman had around 53 million while Saout had just under 39 million.

Nearly 30 minutes later, Buchman pushed all in pre flop, and Saout called. Buchman, with the bigger stack, turning over Ah-Qc. Saout turned Ad-Kc and it was on. Saout picked up a king on the flop and a king on the turn to win the hand and cripple Buchman. After the hand was over, Saout had about 89 million and Buchman had 9.8 million. Moon was sitting in second with about 54 million, while Cada was in third with about 42 million.

At 5 a.m. Sunday morning, 20 minutes after Moon crippled Buchman and 16 hours after play began Saturday afternoon, Buchman took one last shot at getting back in the tournament. With about 22 million in chips to his name, Buchman pushed all in pre flop with A-5. Moon took the challenge and called with K-J. The flop missed both players, but Moon hit a king on the turn to eliminate Buchman.

"I'm disappointed but happy," said Buchman after his elimination. "I thought I played well. I'd like the ace-queen hand back (against Saout), but that's about it (that I'd like back)."

In the first hand after Buchman's elimination, Cada went all in with pocket deuces and was instantly called by Saout, who had pocket queens. Cada caught a deuce on the flop to win the hand takeover the chip lead with 78 million chips. Moon who sat out the hand was second with 75 million and Saout had 41 million after suffering the bad beat.

Ivey falls short in quest for WSOP Main Event title is republished from Online.CasinoCity.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.