Poker’s Everyman is Darvin Moon

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Whenever we interview an old-school professional poker player (and by old school we just mean someone who was making a living playing poker before Chris Moneymaker came along), we usually ask them if they’re happy for the poker boom. Seems like a simple answer, since more people are playing poker now than ever, and that means more money in their pockets. But you’d be surprised how many people wish they could go back to anonymity.

Think about it. You’re there in your day job as a professional house painter and all of a sudden millions of people want to watch you paint and take your picture or get your autograph. Why? Because they like the way you do trim around windows, or they enjoy how you open the big 10-gallon buckets of paint. It’s reminiscent of those silly Peyton Manning commercials when he’s cheering for the butcher: “Cut that meat! Cut that meat!”

Sound ridiculous? But that pretty much is what happened to these pros who were thrust into stardom, and thrust from a profession that had been shunned or frowned upon for decades. T.J. Cloutier, while at dinner with us on the recent Ante Up Poker Cruise, said he used to tell people he owned Cloutier Investments before the World Poker Tour made its splash on the Travel Channel. That’s more than 40 years of hiding what he did for a living. Now people are falling over themselves on the streets of Cozumel, Mexico, just to say “Hey, T.J.!”

If you choose to be a pro poker player these days you understand the ramifications and celebrity that might go along with it. Don’t want to be famous? Don’t want to be on TV or on the cover of a magazine? Then think twice about this profession.

But what about the guy who just enjoys playing poker, wins a little satellite in his home casino and then has a great run in a huge event? How do you prepare for the attention? The constant requests of your time and life have to be taxing. Such is the case of Darvin Moon, only he was smart about it. When he made the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event last year, he let everyone know upfront he was uncomfortable with the media attention. He also said the money wouldn’t change him, regardless of where he placed, and that any money he won would go right into the bank. He’ll be the first one to tell you out of the 6,494 players in the main event about 6,300 were better players than him.

We were honored he agreed to an interview after we found out he’d be in Daytona Beach, Fla., on May 16 for the second annual Venetian Deep Stack Charity Classic.

We asked him about his newfound celebrity and how he’s dealing with it, how happy he was when his beloved Saints won the Super Bowl, how his life has changed (or hasn’t) and how he found his way to the Sunshine State for the fantastic event that supports the philanthropic efforts of the Congregation B’nai Torah.

Also in this issue is a special report on the Seminole Compact and no-limit poker in Florida; we look at when children should learn how to play poker; we chat with Eric “Rizen” Lynch, and find out what an AED is and how it can save your life in a poker room. Next month look for full coverage of the Florida Million and the Louisiana State Poker Championship.

We’ll see you at the tables.

Christopher Cosenza and Scott Long

• Ante Up columnist Bryan Oulton’s mother passed away on Easter. Ante Up has made a donation in Yvonne Oulton’s name to the Frankie Foundation (www.frankiefoundation.com) and encourages its readers to the same.