Joe Cada

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In the end, the amateur who had been catching every card he needed since last July couldn't catch one more — and the $8.5 million first-place prize in the World Series of Poker's main event went to a pro who became the youngest winner ever of this Texas-hold-'em showcase.

Joe Cada made history in Las Vegas on July 15, 2009 when he became the youngest ever player in a WSOP Main Event. At just 21 years of age, Cada survived a strenuous 12-day battle amongst a field of 6,494 competitors to join the ranks of the November Nine. Joseph is currently the 5th place chip leader with 13,215,000. Joe Cada, a 21-year-old card playing phenom, has become the youngest player in history to win the Texas Hold 'Em main event at the World Series of Poker. With his 22nd birthday just one week away.

On the final hand, Darvin Moon, 45, called an all-in bet from Joe Cada, 21, and with $150 million in chips in the pot — 70% of the chips in play — none of the last five cards paired Moon's queen-jack; Cada's pair of nines held up, and he had outlasted 6,494 participants who began play more than four months ago at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

(See 10 things to do in Las Vegas.)

Moon, of Oakland, Md., was one of two closely watched amateurs to make the final table; the other was investment banker Steven Begleiter, 47, of Chappaqua, N.Y., who went out of this tournament early Sunday in sixth place. Both came to Las Vegas with a compelling backstory and made it to Saturday's 'November Nine' final table with commanding chip stacks.

Moon is a real-life logger and self-described hillbilly who's never owned a computer or carried a credit card. Before his flight to Las Vegas last July, he had never flown, and his 1,100-sq.-ft. complimentary suite at the Rio was larger than his home. Begleiter's longtime employer, the investment house Bear Stearns, collapsed in the financial panic last year. He embodies a new breed of recreational player with keen math and risk skills honed at day jobs and attracted by poker's rising stakes.

(See how to plan for retirement at any age.)

No one argues that this game isn't part luck and part skill — only how much of each is involved. So the heads-up play that started at 1 a.m. E.T. on Tuesday and pitted the unassuming Moon against the calculating Cada was apropos. Cada, from the Detroit area, risked alienation from his parents to participate. He cut his poker teeth in online play as a teenager; against his parents' will, he quit college to play cards for a living. But he soon won enough to pay cash for his house and managed to reconcile with Mom and Dad, who were in Las Vegas to cheer him on.

(Read 'Are People Gambling Less?')

This was Cada's first full year being age eligible in Vegas, and he ended up bringing a mountain of chips to the heads-up finale in front of a large and raucous crowd that had waited in line up to six hours: $136 million in chips to Moon's $59 million. He had survived numerous flings with elimination to get that far, at one point running dead last at the table of nine. 'He looked like he was about to cry,' says Jonathan Little, a poker pro who had a table-side seat. But Cada inched back with a series of unchallenged bets, then doubled his stack with a dramatic all-in showdown in which he showed three threes, and he was on his way.

(Watch the video 'Poker Comes to China.')

Moon made it to the heads-up finale with a string of improbable TKOs, including one of highly touted pro Phil Ivey, who went out in seventh place, and then Begleiter. Those two knockouts came in rapid succession, and both times Moon held ace-queen, was behind at the start and then got just the card he needed. In Ivey's case, Moon faced an ace-king but won when he paired his queen. In Begleiter's case, Moon faced a pair of queens and won when he paired his ace. Says Little: 'He was getting better-than-average distribution throughout the tournament,' which is pro-speak for landing killer cards.

Moon's run of good cards may have unnerved some at the table. Bloggers reported bad blood after the logger eliminated Begleiter, who seemed to be a marked man at the table of nine the way his raises were consistently met with big reraises that prompted him to fold. But Begleiter says he has no issues with Moon: 'He's a gentlemen and very good poker player. I shook his hand before the flop on the last hand and again after he knocked me out.' You never know: they may meet again next year.

Dan is co-author of With Purpose: Going from Success to Significance in Work and Life (HarperCollins, spring 2009). He writes 'The Boom Years' column for Money magazine and is a regular contributor to TIME magazine and Time.com. Visit his website, dankadlec.com, to view his latest work and see what he's up to next.

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Chad Holloway

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Joe Cada WSOP Main Event Final Table Profile

Seat:8
Chip Count:23,675,000 (6/9)
Hometown:Shelby Charter Township, Michigan
Age:30
Twitter:@cada99

After Day 1C of the 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event, which started players with 50,000, former champ Joe Cada bagged up just 16,500. He was near the bottom of the counts. Obviously, you can call it a comeback as he now finds himself at the final table.

'I don't know if I would have been as patient back then. I was a little bit more patient this year.'

'It was a lot more of a grind this time,' Cada told PokerNews. 'I knew that it was a long eight days and I felt like I had room to come back. I had 9K at one point in this tournament and I just grinded a short stack. I was like maybe one-fifth of average almost the entire tournament. I just had to pick my spots and try to shove on people that were raising too much and just try to pick up some hands.'

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It marks the second time he’s been in this spot as nine years ago, he topped a field of 6,494 players to win the 2009 WSOP Main Event for $8,547,044. At the time, he was 21 years and 11 months old, and became the youngest player in WSOP history to win the Main Event. Not only that, he did it by besting a final table that included Phil Ivey, Jeff Shulman, and Darvin Moon.

'It feels unreal. What other feelings are there?' Cada said after returning to the final table. 'We'll see how it turns out. I don't know..cards..you never know.'

An online poker player before striking it big, Cada, born November 18, 1987, still resides in Shelby Charter Township, Michigan.

'It was a lot more of a grind this time.'

He made headlines earlier this summer for two reasons. First, he bested a 363-player field to win the 2018 WSOP Event #3: $3,000 NLHE Shootout for $226,218 and his third bracelet. His other gold hardware came back in 2014 when he took down Event #32: $10,000 NLHE 6-Handed Championship for $670,041.

The other headline he grabbed was around Father’s Day, which is when he put his father, Jerry Cada, into the $1,000 Super Seniors Championship. The story was heartwarming as not long before Jerry spent over a month in a coma after suffering a stroke. During his recovery, Joe spent time teaching his dad the poker ropes. Joe was on his dad’s rail, but now it’s time for the father to root on son once again.

As for playing it out in the coming days as opposed to the defunct November Nine break, Cada's all about it.

'I like it better. I'd rather just get this thing over with and see where it lies. The three months..you toss and turn a lot thinking about where it's going to end.'

HOW HE GOT HERE

DayEnd-of-Day Chip CountRank
1c16,5003,252/3,470
2c93,8001,032/1,655
3211,000672/1,182
4559,000249/310
52,965,00056/109
68,850,00019/26

KEY HANDS

One of Cada’s pivotal hands came with 15 players remaining in Level 34 (200,000/400,000/50,000) when he three-bet jammed for 6.875 million holding ace-six suited. The initial raiser, Frederik Jensen, called with ace-ten and Cada was in trouble. Fortunately for him, the board ran out with three hearts, including one on the river, to give him new life.

Cada on the hand: 'I don't know if I would have been as patient back then. I was a little bit more patient this year. I mean I got lucky with that ace-six of hearts but honestly, if I didn't ship that, for the next two hours, I wouldn't have won a hand. I would have just been blinded out. He actually made a really good call with ace-ten. That's a tough spot there. I got lucky with that and I was able to get in some really good situations where I was able to run my stack up.'

They're playing tight and I'm raising into the two chip leaders. There's no reason why I can't have a straight or two pair there.'

In another big hand, Cada executed a three-barrel bluff against Alex Lynskey, who had flopped top pair on a king-high board. Cada’s river shove sent his Australian foe into the tank and eventually, he folded. Cada’s brazen bluff lit up the Twitterverse and showed that he was willing to put it all on the line for another shot at the title.

'It was just situational. I was lucky enough for a jack or a queen to come off because that was the only way I was going to continue with the bluff,' Cada said of the hand. 'That board's my range. They're playing tight and I'm raising into the two chip leaders. There's no reason why I can't have a straight or two pair there. It's so hard to have any bluffs besides an ace, which I did but it's not often. It's just situational.'

If Cada were to win the Main Event, he would join the ranks of Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Stu Ungar as repeat winners. Similarly, a fourth bracelet would put him in a company that includes Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, Brian Rast, and Amarillo Slim, just to name a few.

Finally, Cada is the first Main Event champ to return to the final table since 1995 winner Dan Harrington went back-to-back in 2003-04.

Cada has a favorable position at the table. The two big stacks are to his right, and the two short stacks are to his direct left. Cada has the experience and knows how to close the Main Event out, which just might be the edge he needs to make poker history.

2018 WSOP Main Event Final Table Seating

Joe Cada Hendon

SeatPlayerCountryChip CountBig Blinds
1Artem MetalidiUkraine15,475,00026
2John CynnUnited States37,075,00062
3Alex LynskeyAustralia25,925,00043
4Tony MilesUnited States42,750,00071
5Nicolas ManionUnited States112,775,000188
6Aram ZobianUnited States18,875,00031
7Michael DyerUnited States109,175,000182
8Joe CadaUnited States23,675,00039
9Antoine LabatFrance8,050,00013

There is 1:23:57 remaining in Level 36 (300,000/600,000, with a 100,000-ante).

Joe cada poker

Joe Cadagin

2018 WSOP Main Event Final Table Payout

PositionPrize
1$8,800,000
2$5,000,000
3$3,750,000
4$2,825,000
5$2,150,000
6$1,800,000
7$1,500,000
8$1,250,000
9$1,000,000

2018 WSOP Main Event Final Table Stats

Joe Cada Wsop

PlayerWSOP CashesWSOP BraceletsCareer EarningsBiggst CashGPI Ranking
Joe Cada333$10,779,041$8,546,435849th
Alex Lynskey140$1,769,666$426,663525th
Artem Metalidi250$2,131,437$350,806567th
John Cynn160$944,786$650,0003,926th
Antoine Labat20$194,789$52,84213,662nd
Aram Zobian100$110,444$47,0001,946th
Michael Dyer20$95,020$65,905179,657th
Tony Miles50$54,333$18,00016,766th
Nicolas Manion10$16,739$9,85032,585th

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