A 21-year-old from the Detroit area and a 46-year-old lumberjack who had never been on a jetliner until this year reached the final of the World Series of Poker here early Sunday.
The unlikely duo, Joe Cada and Darvin Moon, outlasted seven other competitors in a marathon 17-hour session that took 276 hands of poker and will now meet on Monday for an 8.5 million dollar jackpot.
"I just got really lucky, but that's part of the game," said Cada, whose mother works at a casino in Detroit and tried to dissuade him from gambling. "It's just really amazing that I'm here, though."
Coming in third and earning 3.5 million dollars was 25-year-old Antoine Saout of St. Martin des Champs, France, a former engineering student who was eliminated when Cada produced a pair of kings.
The World Series of Poker's Main Event is a No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em contest that is the most prestigious and richest gambling tournament of the year.
The nine finalists who met this weekend outlasted a field of 6,494 entrants and each received at least 1.26 million dollars.
Cada is now in first place with 135.95 million chips to Moon's 58.85 million, a dominant position all the more surprising because eight hours earlier he was in last place with just 2 million chips.
He then began a stunning run of good cards in big hands. If he wins the tournament on Monday, he will be the youngest ever to do so, eclipsing the record set last year by then-22-year-old Peter Eastgate of Denmark.
Cada said he began playing on the Internet when he was 18.
Moon's survival is less surprising because he began the day with a dominant chip lead. But his journey is no less intriguing, coming from a rural area outside of Washington DC where he and his wife live in a small manufactured home and he operates a lumber company.
He gained his entry into the World Series by winning a poker tournament that cost him 130 dollars in a casino near his home.
"I'm just going to relax for the next day and see what happens," said Moon, who doesn't have a credit card or use the Internet and sat with his head in his hands looking impassively throughout the lengthy game.
Even when he won a hand, his face showed no reaction.
Cada and Moon outlasted a tough final nine that included Phil Ivey, the 32-year-old superstar who is second on the list of all-time poker winnings and was a favorite of fellow poker professionals.
Since the poker boom began earlier this decade with the popularity of playing on the Internet, a well-known pro has not won the game's biggest prize.Reuse content