WSOP Main Event Heads-Up Flashback: Joe Cada vs Darvin Moon

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Young gun vs. people's champ.

It may have been one of the most unexpected World Series of Poker Main Event final tables in the last decade.

In 2009, 21-year-old American Joe Cada became world champion after he defeated amateur Darvin Moon.

When there were only three players left Frenchman Antoine Saout, who qualified online through Everest Poker, was very close to taking the lead and, probably, the win.

But after dropping to just five blinds earlier in the final table, Cada went on a massive rush and got incredibly lucky on two crucial hands that would prove fatal to the Frenchman.

Darvin Moon was the chip leader at the beginning of the final table after an unexpected run through the tournament that included busting Phil Ivey with a bit of luck.

He started behind Cada when the heads-up began, though, with 58.85 million chips to Cada's 135.95 million. Moon took the chip lead back before losing a big pot on a failed bluff. He finally lost on the 88th hand of heads-up with Q♦ J♦ vs 9♦ 9♣.

Cada was crowned 2009 World Champion and became the youngest ever to hold the title.

Joe Cada: Young Gun with Big Game

Success came very early in poker for Cada. With a blackjack dealer mom and a dad who works in the automotive industry, he quickly found poker to be the best way for him to earn a living.

Joseph Cada

He was already long a professional by 2009 after getting his start online when he was 16. Despite a good previous year ($550,000 in earnings) Cada was still backed for the 2009 Main Event.

After battling through 6,493 opponents and winning a little more than $8.5 million (out of which half went to his backers), Cada managed to maintain his live presence since and his collection of WSOP cashes (3) has grown since then. 

As of the beginning of the 2016 WSOP he's up to 15 cashes including 5 final tables (with a 2nd place in 2012) and 2 victories. Cada won another bracelet in 2014 in a $10k No-Limit Hold’em 6-handed Championship event heads-up against Jeremy Ausmus.

It was a victory all the more impressive considered the final table was filled with talents including another future World Champion, Sweden's Martin Jacobson, 2013 November Niner JC Tran, Max Silver, Erick Lindgren and Dario Sammartino.

He has just two cashes on the EPT (his best an 11th in San Remo in 2011) but he seems to love the Heartland Poker Tour with 5 cashes and 3 final tables since 2013.

Outside of poker, Cada opened a bar in 2011 with his father called Cada’s Poker & Sports Grill, near his hometown of Shelby, Michigan. It closed in 2013.

Darvin Moon: No Internet, No Problem

Maryland logger Darvin Moon, now 52, lived the dream of millions of poker players when he made it all the way to the final table of the biggest poker tournament in the world.

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He then lived out the dream of another entirely different cross-section of the poker world: that of an anonymous player who happily went back to anonymity with a gigantic pile of cash.

Low-key by nature, the man with the New Orleans Saints cap famously declined all sponsorship offers during his epic run. It wasn't until 2011 that he even agreed to sign a contract with the Heartland Poker Tour.

Moon also claims that he’s never played online. He didn’t even own a computer or have access to the Internet when he reached the final table nor, reportedly, did he have a credit card.

His second-place finish is a fairytale similar to Chris Moneymaker’s. Moon won his seat in the Main Event in a $130 satellite and almost didn’t play it, considering cashing in the $10k buy-in instead.

Moon hasn't cashed again at the WSOP, where he usually just plays the Main Event. Only eight cashes (and just one over $10k) fill his HendonMob page, three of which are on the Heartland Poker Tour.

He mostly just enjoys small poker games with friends, even though he did take part in the National Heads-up Championship in 2010.

The money he won during the Main Event didn’t really change his life. A year later Moon and his wife Wendy still lived in the same house and had the same jobs.
Nothing had changed two years later, as he told us in 2012 and in a CardPlayer interview:

"I still do what I used to do: playing some poker, enjoying my life. I still work in the woods. ... Do I regret finishing second? How can you have regrets when you win 5.2 million dollars?

 

"After paying taxes it’s not that much if you start living the big life. I’ve always been poor and I know I can be poor again. We lived with 20-25k a year for 26 years. Now I can live a comfortable life. But I’m still working, because that’s how my family was raised ...

 

"And if I haven’t left my company, it’s out of respect for my employees, who kept me alive for 25 years."

Darvin Moon became a role model for his unassuming style and for showing big winners don't necessarily lose their head after binking a big score. His discretion doesn’t make him the best 'global poker ambassador,' per se, but the poker world could do well with some more air time for him.

The Final Table in Video

(1) Joe Cada drops to 5 BB: 52’00
(2) Darvin Moon busts Phil Ivey: 1h03’30
(3) Joe Cada gets lucky against Antoine Saout: 1h31’15
(4) Joe Cada busts Antoine Saout: 1h34’20
(5) The final hand: 1h57’00

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