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Would a Darvin Moon win be good for poker?

moonelks.jpgSpreading the gospel of poker, one local Elks tourney at a time. (By Ricky Carioti/TWP)

So, would a Darvin Moon win be good for poker? There's been much debate about this in recent weeks, especially on pokernerd forums such as Two Plus Two.

A representative yes "vote": "I say good because every working class man in the US is going to try playing poker if they haven't already." .Or, to put it more colorfully: "darvin moon wins = more fish."." That math is based on what happened after the 2003 Main Event, when Chris Moneymaker, the perfectly named Tennessee accountant and poker hobbyist, improbably took the World Series title and help trigger a post-millennial poker explosion that swelled the game's ranks. (One obvious bit of evidence: The 2003 Main Event attracted 839 entrants; in 2004, the number was 2,576. This year's field was 6,494 players deep.)

On the "no" side, one Two Plus Two poster writes: "Moon is not going to do anything to promote the game. He's just gonna retreat into his country hamlet in Maryland. But more importantly, Moon's victory severely undercuts the argument that poker is primarily a game of skill. And that is bad right now because Congress will soon debate Barney Frank's proposed legislation restricting Internet gambling. Thus far, Moon has been the biggest luckbox of this WSOP and perhaps in main event history, next to Hal Fowler in 1979."

The anti-Moon crowd usually suggests that the best possible outcome this year -- if not the only acceptable one -- would be a Main Event win for poker pro Phil Ivey, who is widely considered the game's best player. If Ivey wins, the thinking goes, it might help prove to lawmakers considering legislation to regulate Internet gaming that poker is not, in fact, a form of gambling, because skill trumps luck.

Who's right? Maybe everybody.

"I see huge upsides for both players winning," ESPN poker announcer Lon McEchern says. "I'm not sure you're going to have a Moneymaker effect with Darvin Moon, but it's going to re-instill the hope with people who are your everyday up-at-6 work-till-dark players who are watching these shows that they have a chance. As for Phil Ivey winning, obviously it would be one of the best things to ever happen to the game and you might have another resurgence."

McEchren's broadcast partner, Norman Chad, makes Ivey his annual pick to win the World Series. He ranks Moon ninth in skill level among the November Nine.

Yet he's hardly rooting against the amateur from Oakland, Md. -- unlike the 2003 Main Event, when Chad wanted the flamboyant poker pro Sam Farha to beat Moneymaker when they were heads-up for the Main Event title.

"I was rooting for Sammy Farha. Why? I was an idiot. I was stupid and did not see the effect that a Chris Moneymaker win would have. It's not the same thing here, not as drastic. But if Darvin can pull it off, I think it becomes the stuff of storybooks."

Moon's take? Let everybody else argue about his impact on the game should he manage to win the World Series. He'll be too busy laying low in the woods of Western Maryland to throw himself into the debate.

"I don't think I'd be bad for poker, but I wouldn't be good for it," he tells me. "I'm not going to be an ambassador for poker like Dennis Phillips is. I'll play in the World Series next year, but that'll probably be the only big tournament I'll play in. As soon as I finish up [this year], I'll come back home and go into the woods. I'm not gonna run and hide; I'm just going back to work cutting timber. And that probably doesn't make me good for poker."

By J. Freedom du Lac  |  November 5, 2009; 10:32 AM ET
 
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