For all the reluctance to go "all in" on casinos (and only recent acceptance of slot machines), Marylanders know a thing or two about poker. Perhaps it's the nature of a state that wagered against the British Empire in 1776 and took Union (mostly) in the Civil War. We know a winning hand when it's dealt.
But even that can't explain how lightning has twice struck state residents in the biggest event in poker, if not in all of gaming. Three years ago, an Anne Arundel County accountant named Steve Dannenmann finished second in the World Series of Poker No-limit Texas Hold 'em World Championship. Early Tuesday morning, it was a 46-year-old logger from Western Maryland named Darvin Moon who nearly won it all.
If Mr. Dannenmann was an unlikely contender (his friends said he wasn't even the best player at their regular game), Mr. Moon was an even greater revelation. ESPN viewers who witnessed his performance (and the network surely re-runs the preliminary rounds from this summer frequently enough to include millions of people in this category) saw a player for whom the term poker-face was invented. If emotion ever registered in his face, the cable network never captured it.
In a game that's often dominated by either professional players such as Phil Ivey, whom Mr. Moon eliminated last weekend, or online players such as eventual champion Joe Cada, a 21-year-old from Michigan, Mr. Moon was a throw-back. He doesn't own a computer or even have an e-mail address and isn't exactly a Las Vegas poker room regular.
One suspects most of the cable audience was rooting for Mr. Moon, at least since the departure of Mr. Ivey, a formidable player and crowd-pleaser. If nothing else, Mr. Moon has achieved a level of celebrity uncommon in his neck of the woods.
Of course, there's also one other thing he's achieved. Second place has its compensations - a total of $5.18 million in prize money. You have to cut down an awful lot of timber to match that payday.