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Sponsors + Darvin Moon just don't add up

darvinfinaltableNo companies could convince Darvin Moon to let them land their logos on his WSOP clothing in exchange for money. He's happy, however, to rep the New Orleans Saints and Wheeling Island Casino for free. (Photo by Laura Rauch/AP)

LAS VEGAS -- And now, a word from Darvin Moon's paid sponsors:

(Cue chirping crickets.)

When the World Series of Poker Main Event resumed Saturday, all nine players wore black shirts with baseball caps, and there were logos everywhere -- mostly for Internet poker sites.

Phil Ivey, Steve Begleiter and James Akenhead had Full Tilt logos on their shirts and hats. Joe Cada, Kevin Schaffel and Eric Buchman were serving as real-life poker stars for Poker Stars. Jeff Shulman was repping Spade Club, while Antoine Saout was backed by Everest Poker.

And by backed, I mean paid handsomely: The Internet poker sites pay the players at the Main Event final table top dollar to serve as human billboards for their brands, with six-figure deals the industry standard and win-it-all bonuses that can reach seven figures, according to one poker agent. (As one of poker's biggest stars, Ivey has a long-standing deal with Full Tilt; Akenhead had signed on with Full Tilt, too, before the World Series began.)

As for Darvin Moon, he was wearing his usual New Orleans Saints cap with the team's fleur-de-lis emblem on the front and a black polo shirt emblazoned with subtle, stitched purple-and-gold logos for Wheeling Island, the West Virginia casino where Moon won his WSOP seat in a satellite tournament. "I'm just doing it out of respect," he says.

The Saints aren't paying Moon, either, but the team has sent him a bunch of free hats and shirts and has invited him to be their guest at multiple games. "We don't have any formal agreement with Darvin," says Greg Bensel, the team's vice president of communications. "I just reached out to him because he's a committed Saints fan who lives in the middle of Steelers country and has done something special at the World Series of Poker."

Surrounded by so many bigger, brighter logos, Moon looked a little bit like the guy driving the family sedan in a NASCAR race when the final table convened on Saturday.

The Internet poker sites wanted to land him, of course -- even if he's never played a single hand of poker online (and, in fact, doesn't even use the Internet, not even for email). The sites kept making offers to get Moon to slap their logos on his outfits, and he or his lawyer Jack Turney kept saying no, thanks.

The money was good (one even offered a small ownership stake), but it was never going to be good enough, Moon says, given that deals would have obligated him to travel to poker tournaments in places he didn't want to be and participate in other sponsor events that just didn't interest him.

"When I'm done with this tournament, I'm done," he says. "But these guys want to sign me for a year and say: 'You've gotta do this, you've gotta do that.' You become their" property. (Moon actually used a more forceful word that rhymes with "rich.")

"I've been self-employed my whole life. I've never had a boss, I never want to have a boss. I do what I want to do every day. I'm turning down a lot of money, but I don't really care about it. I told them: 'You don't have enough money to sign me and tell me what I have to do.'"

At least one poker site eventually offered Moon six figures for a final table deal in which he'd wear their logos on Saturday and Monday at the final table and then they'd be done with each other. But the deal stipulated that the company would pay Moon's $10,000 buy-in at the 2010 Main Event and give him a five-figure bonus to wear its logos again. "They said there were no strings attached, but I told Jack, my lawyer, to throw it in the trash. They'd have me tied up for next year. How is that no strings attached?"

Moon's stance has made him both a curiosity and a hero in the poker world, as he's been told repeatedly here how great it is that he's so principled and isn't selling himself out. Not that the overtures and offers have stopped; during a break at the marathon final table session on Saturday night/Sunday morning, for instance, poker pro Phil Hellmuth told Moon that he'd really like to find a way to get Moon signed to Ultimate Bet. Moon told Hellmuth that they couldn't afford him.

"My freedom and my happiness isn't worth all the money in the world," Moon said after Hellmuth walked away

By J. Freedom du Lac  |  November 9, 2009; 2:31 PM ET
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Darvin Moon seems like the real deal everyman and you have to appreciate and respect that, but I would be interested to know what he plans to do with his winnings since it seems pretty clear that he is simply going back into the woods with his modular home and chainsaw. He does not travel or have a passion for expensive toys except for maybe fishing gear, hunting rifles or an ATV and he appears to have a small family with no children. I guess that one could see him buying a nice Class A motor coach so that he could travel with his friends to the casinos in West Virginia. The one thing I don't see is him being broke and suicidal in 5 years like some people who win a big lottery prize.

Do you have a sense that he really wants to win the bracelet? What would it mean to him? Maybe second place and is it possible that he quickly gets tired playing heads up and lets Cada win?

Posted by: skipper7 | November 9, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Since I know nothing about poker but never had to pay for beer playing cribbage (bottle a point, double for a skunk). I would say that Moon has his dream and the Kid is working on his. I would play conservatively and let the Kid make the mistakes. If the Kid beats him, he beats him. The internet is one thing, face to face is another. If the chips even out, play a little harder to keep the pressure. There is a different mindset if you really, really, want to win. Moon is more like a lion that knows he will be fed, but he's looking for a sign of weakness or a bit of luck.

Posted by: Beacon2 | November 9, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't matter what happens, he's already won. If he doesn't sell out, he's got my vote for whatever.

Posted by: capsfan77 | November 9, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Moon may not have the university degrees, but he's extremely smart. He has a lawyer to handle his business matters and isn't relying on family and friends. Very smart.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 9, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Best reporting here in years by the WaPo.

Anytime the WaPo tries to reference or write about working people, we just roll our eyes.....what ignorance....

What do you expect from a bunch of rich kid, clubby reporters...Stick to what you know..$100,000 yr nanny's.

Great reporting J. Freedom du Lac

Posted by: SilverSpringSteve | November 9, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Oops. Just read the Balto City Paper article about his legal troubles and debts. No wonder he has a lawyer.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | November 9, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm from Maryland but I am now reluctantly here in Las Vegas where this is going on. People here are astounded at Moon's views. I've known lots of people just like him. That's what I miss. People here have lost all of life's values. They are mostly rude and in a big hurry and will never experience what Moon has. He is blessed.

Posted by: MRGB | November 10, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Oops. Just read the Balto City Paper article about his legal troubles and debts. No wonder he has a lawyer.

Posted by: I-270Exit1

He's a poker player, not a choir boy - I think he was only half joking when he quipped about his last autograph being on his release from jail...

Posted by: jhorstma | November 10, 2009 2:23 AM | Report abuse

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