Darvin Moon, Ultimate Amateur Poker Player, Dies at 56

Posted on: September 21, 2020, 03:13h. 

Last updated on: September 21, 2020, 04:36h.

Darvin Moon, the Maryland logger who 11 years ago became an unlikely star on poker’s biggest stage, has died because of complications arising from surgery. He was 56.

Darvin Moon
Darvin Moon won the respect of the poker world through his integrity and humility rather than his prowess at the table. (Image: WPT)

Moon’s second-place finish to Joe Cada at the 2009 World Series of Poker was one of the most memorable runs by an amateur in the tournament’s history. The self-taught recreational player charged through a field of 6,494 to win $5.2 million, taking some serious scalps along the way, including that of the great Phil Ivey at the final table.

Moon qualified for the tournament by winning at a $130 satellite during a trip to the Wheeling Island Casino in West Virginia, his final haul representing a 40,000 percent return on investment. But such was the perilous state of the logging business at the height of the last recession that he almost cashed in the $10,000 winning ticket before the Series even started.

Cheering the Underdog

Moon was first to admit that he lacked skill at the table, but he found other ways to earn the respect of the poker world – through his integrity and humility.

He turned down lucrative sponsorship offers to wear online poker-operator branding on his way to the final table because he “didn’t want to answer to anybody.” Instead, he wore a New Orleans Saints hat for the duration because he said he “liked cheering for the underdog.”

And he promised the money wouldn’t change him – not much, at least. After the WSOP, he kept his small logging business going out of loyalty to the workers.

We’ve lived on 20 to 25 thousand dollars a year for 26 years. I can now live the rest of my life comfortably. I am still working, because my entire family was raised that way,” he told Card Player in 2010.  

“I’ve had guys who worked for me who kept me alive the first 25 years, and I can’t just tell them, ‘You don’t have a job’. So I just keep working.”

Had His Critics

Moon’s play was widely criticized on the final table. Extraordinarily, the first time he had ever played heads up poker was when he faced off against Joe Cada for the world title, and his lack of experience shone through.

He didn’t play a great deal of poker after his win, although in 2011 he became an ambassador for the Heartland Poker Tour and was a popular figure among the tour’s players.

“Thanks for the memories Darvin Moon,” tweeted the World Series of Poker on Sunday. “You inspired so many people and starred in one of the most memorable final tables in WSOP history. We will never forget. Rest In Peace.”