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Ivey reaches final table at WSOP Main Event

16 July 2009

LAS VEGAS -- The final table for the World Series of Poker Main Event is set, and it includes Phil Ivey. The poker superstar won a critical hand late in the day to assure himself a spot at the final table. He's joined at the final table by Darvin Moon, James Akenhead, Kevin Schaffel, Steven Begleiter, Eric Buchman, Joe Cada, Antoine Saout and Jeff Shulman after nearly 8 hours of play (not counting breaks) Wednesday. The Main Event now goes on a break and will resume in November, with the winner taking home $8,546,435.

"So far I've just made the final table," Ivey said after reaching the final table with 9.765 million in chips. "It's a pretty big accomplishment. Winning it would be the top of the line for me. But this is definitely up there."

The Main Event is the only poker mountain that Ivey hasn't conquered, and the popular pro says he wants it badly.

"You have no idea -- I can taste it now," Ivey said of the possibility of winning the Main Event. "It's like I'm here. Today was a very tough day for me. I lost a lot of tough hands early. I grinded back and now I'm right in the hunt."

Phil Ivey

Much to the delight of fans at the WSOP Main Event, Phil Ivey reached the final table. (Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Fan-favorite Antonio Esfandiari finished in 24th place and won $352,832. Leo Margets, the last woman left in the tournament, finished in 27th. She also won $352,832 for her efforts.

Moon ended the day as the chip leader, with 58,930,000 in chips.

Moon admits he's in a position he never dreamed of being in.

"I didn't expect this," Moon told Casino City after reaching the final table. "It's overwhelming. When it sinks in the morning, it's really going be something. But here I am."

Moon, who qualified for the Main Event through a casino in Wheeling, West Virginia, also said he knows he's not the best player at the table.

"In Wheeling, I'm as good as anyone there," Moon said. "Here, 6,300 are better than me. There might be a 150 I can beat and the rest of them are better than me. I had cards that were unreal. I had pocket 8s and flopped top set, the guy pushes all in. How can't you win like that. My cards have run like that the whole tournament. I didn't have to gamble at all. I never had my chip stack in the whole time in the tournament. It's just great to have cards run like that for eight days."

Moon also says he hasn't been playing poker long. "About three years," Moon said. "I watch poker on TV a lot. And I pay attention to it."

Darvin Moon

Darvin Moon has only been playing poker for three years. But he's the chip leader at the final table. (Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Not all of the players were as enthusiastic about the possibilities of winning a Main Event bracelet. Shulman, who will enter final-table action with 19.58 million in chips, said he would be happy to win the tournament, but he wanted no part of the bracelet.

"It's a sign of Harrah's corporate greed," Shulman said. Shulman is an editor at CardPlayer, which used to own live reporting rights for the WSOP. Those rights now belong to Bluff.

Play began Wednesday with 27 players and three tables in the Amazon Room inside the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

The two ESPN tables (featured and secondary) were in use, along with a third "outer" table that had TV cameras surrounding it, but had no cameras in the table to see the hole cards.

Fans lined up three deep along the rail outside both the secondary and outer tables. They filled the seats surrounding the featured table. They jammed their way into the Jack Link's Beef Jerky Wildcard Cafe, which sits on a raised platform that overlooks both TV tables. And they were vocal.

There was no need to run between tables to figure out what had happened in a pot. All you had to do was listen to the crowd reaction.

When Marco Mattes when all in with pocket queens against Ivey's pocket jacks, the roar across the Amazon Room was deafening. Then fans began calling for a jack, so Ivey would pick up more chips. When no jacks fell on the board, the crowd groaned, and the announcement that Mattes had doubled up at Ivey's expense could clearly be heard around the room.

Mattes' good fortune didn't last however. He busted out in 23rd place and won $352,832.

Later in the night, Jamie Robbins was all in with pocket tens and ran into Cada's pocket aces and once again, the sound of the crowd was all that was needed to tell the outcome of the hand. When Robbins spiked a 10 on the river to win the pot, the fans let out a roar that shook the rafters and echoed throughout the vast Amazon Room. In fact, it seems nothing gets a crowd going like seeing aces cracked.

Fans also seemed to have figured out the key to getting the TV cameras to focus on them -- loud cheers in unison for their favorite player. Begleiter's fans yelled "Begs, Begs, Begs" every time he won a pot. Billy Kopp's fans went with the more traditional "Billly!" And Ben Lamb's fans were, well, they were just over served.

Begleiter was also one of the movers and shakers on Wednesday. He ended up with 29.885 million in chips.

The field consolidated to the two TV tables after Tommy Vedes busted out after nearly three hours of action. Veddes won $352,832 for his efforts.

After four hours of play, the field had been narrowed to 15 players. Just before the players went on their second break (they take a break every two hours), players on both tables were all in for their tournament lives and the crowd went nuts. On the featured table, Ian Tavelli's pocket nines couldn't crack Begleiter's pocket kings, and Tavelli exited the tournament in 17th place. Lacay Ludovic then lost his all-in confrontation against Shulman when Shulman paired his king on the flop to beat Lacay's pocket sevens. Both players won $500,557.

Once the field reached 15, play slowed down. While it took just four hours to eliminate the first 12 players of the day, it took another 3 hours and 20 minutes of play to reach 10 players.

Lamb and his raucous crew went home in 14th place. Lamb won $633,022 for his deep run in the Main Event. James Calderaro was the next to hit the rail, winning $633,022 for is 13th-place finish.

Billy Kopp

Billy Kopp looked like he might contend for the Main Event crown until he ran into Moon. (Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Kopp was the next to go, and he exited in dramatic fashion in a hand against Moon. On fourth street, with three diamonds on the board, Moon check-raised Kopp to 6 million in chips. Kopp moved all in for another 14 million and Moon called. Kopp flipped over a three of diamonds and a five of diamonds for a baby flush. Moon turned over the queen and jack of diamonds for the higher flush and busted Kopp. Kopp finished the tournament in 12th. But his $896,730 was little consolation as he raced for the exits in absolute disbelief.

The big win by Moon -- which gave him about 45 million in chips -- was hardly unexpected. He told the world yesterday he was only playing big hands.

"It's easy to play when you get hands like I was getting," Moon said. "It's just unbelievable. It's like a dream. I got pocket aces and flopped trips, and someone was betting into me. But I had pocket kings one time and the other guy pushed all in over the top of me. I just mucked my hand pre-flop. I mean, he has to have aces. What else can he have? That's just my style. I play tight. When I get them I bet and when I don't, I fold."

Moments after Moon's big win, the next elimination occurred, reducing the field to 10. Robbins moved in and was called Ivey, who turned over the ace and ten of hears. Robbins turned over the king of clubs and the queen of spades. With the crowd demanding "no paint, no paint," the remaining cards were dealt. There was no paint, and the crowd shouted its approval. Ivey had reached the final ten.

Robbins won $896,730 for finishing in 11th.

Moon eliminated Jordan Smith minutes after Robbins had departed to set the final table. Smith earned $896,730 for his efforts.

Ivey reaches final table at WSOP Main Event 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.