Moon hopes to hunt down the $8.55 million first prize
By Oskar Garcia
LAS VEGAS — Darvin Moon's preparations for a run at the $8.55 million top prize at the World Series of Poker included an extended hunting trip last month in Wyoming where he slept in a two-room cabin without electricity and pretty much avoided any contact with the outside world.
The 46-year-old self-employed logger from Oakland, Md., will get plenty of attention this weekend as the chip leader heading into tomorrow's final table of the richest tournament in poker.
Moon said he played some cards, but didn't hire a coach for the 115-day break because he didn't think he could learn enough to effectively sustain a change to his style.
Moon told The Associated Press he thinks it's more important for him to prepare for a mental marathon at the no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event — 14 to 17 hours, he predicts, to narrow nine players down to two who will go head to head on Monday night.
"I'm not going to come in ninth. ... my plan is to come in first," Moon said. "You have to have patience."
And plenty of luck, too, which Moon credits for propelling himself and eight others to the top of a field of 6,494 players at the tournament that began play July 3 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Moon's opponents include Phil Ivey, a 32-year-old poker professional from Las Vegas regarded by many as the best card player alive. Five others at the final table make a living gambling, including 30-year-old Eric Buchman, 21-year-old Joe Cada, 52-year-old Kevin Schaffel, 25-year-old Antoine Saout and 26-year-old James Akenhead.
Jeff Shulman, 34, of Las Vegas, placed seventh at the main event in 2000 and has cashed 15 times at the series, but makes most of his money as the president of CardPlayer Media, which publishes a popular poker magazine. Steven Begleiter, a 47-year-old former Bear Stearns Cos. executive who works for a private equity firm, sits third in chips.
"Everybody knows what they're doing, and probably with a little bit of luck that's how we all got there. There's no flukes here," said Schaffel, who bought a house during the break and spent time golfing, going out with friends and playing $10 to $20 no-limit cash games.
"Everybody has had dreams, has had nightmares, has been up in the middle of the night thinking about it — I don't care who you are, including Ivey — and it's just going to be so much fun to be there and see what happens," he said.
Ivey, a seven-time gold bracelet winner at the world series, spent part of last month in or near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, playing online poker and exercising with a trainer.
"We do cardio for 45 minutes, then we lift weights for a half-hour, then we do yoga for an hour and then we go golfing," Ivey told Pokerroad.com for its "Life of Ivey" video blog dated Oct. 21. Through a spokeswoman, Ivey declined an interview with the AP.
Ivey said in July that he would spend part of the three-and-a-half month break preparing specifically for his final table opponents, but wouldn't say how.
Shulman has taken a different route from Ivey during the break, hiring 11-time gold bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth to coach him for the final table.
"Of course, as much profiling as you can do, after three and a half months if you don't like the way you played you can just change it — or at least you can attempt to change it," Shulman said.