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World Series of Poker for dummies: A primer

LAS VEGAS -- If "expected value," "double-gutted straight draw," "Durr" and "Lon McEachern" mean something to you, stop reading this post right now.

If, however, you're interested in the ballad of Darvin Moon but don't understand the lyrics, well ... this one's for you.

The primer is after the jump.

The World Series of Poker Main Event began here in July with 6,494 players, each of whom paid $10,000 to enter -- or had their entry fee paid by somebody else. Moon, for instance, won his seat by finishing first at a $140 tournament at Wheeling Island Casino in West Virginia. Poker's most prestigious event attracts the game's best-known players, but it's open to any and all comers. And with so many amateurs and small-time grinders entering each Main Event, an unknown player seems to win just about every year.

The game is no-limit Texas hold 'em, in which each player is dealt two down cards ("hole cards.") There are three community cards on the flop, one on the turn and one on the river. The goal is to make the best five-card hand with a player's hole cards and the community cards. There are two forced bets in every hand (the small and big blinds), and four rounds of betting. Players can bet all of their chips at any time. At this stage in the tournament, there are also antes -- mandatory contributions from every player in every hand.

Each player at the Main Event received 30,000 chips, which have no real monetary value. It's a freezeout format, meaning you're out of the game when you're out of chips. The tournament ends when one player has all of the 194,820,000 chips in play.

With nine players remaining in the tournament, Moon, the laconic logger and poker hobbyist from Oakland, Md., has almost a third of the chips, with 58,930,000.

The Main Event has been on hiatus since July 15, primarily to build hype. Last year's tournament was the first to take an extended break once the field had been whittled down to the final nine players, known as the November Nine. "We really just wanted to shift from a 'Who Won' paradigm to 'Who Will Win,' hoping the change would hold intrigue and drama that didn't exist in poker before," says WSOP spokesman Seth Palansky.

The final table begins shortly after 3 p.m. EST on Saturday at the Rio Hotel's Penn and Teller Theater. But don't look for it on TV in real time: ESPN, which has been broadcasting the tournament in heavily-edited form since the summer, won't air the final table until Tuesday night at 9 eastern. However, Bluff Media plans to do a live audio webcast from the final table.

The November Nine will play (and play ... and play) until there are just two players remaining, at which point the tourney will break until Monday night.

Each player at the final table has already received a check for $1,263,602, which is the ninth-place prize this year. The top eight will receive additional checks depending on where they finish the tournament. The first-place prize totals $8,546,435. It doesn't take a poker genius to figure out that that's a whole lot of simoleons for playing cards.

By J. Freedom du Lac  |  November 6, 2009; 12:15 PM ET
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Next: Darvin Moon will face Joe Cada for the WSOP title

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