There were those who doubted that 2009 WSOP Main Event champ Joe Cada was a serious player. When the Michigan native won the Main Event, becoming the youngest Main Event Champion in history, he had some memorable suckouts on his road to victory. Fans wrote him off as a one-hit wonder and suggested he was lucky. When discussions came up about which Main Event champ was the most skilled, his name wasn't often in the conversation.
Today, Cada silenced his critics though by winning his second gold bracelet. Since Carlos Mortensen won the Main Event in 2001, then followed it up with a second bracelet in 2003, no subsequent Main Event winner has been able to return to the winner's circle. Cada has been closer than most may realize, final tabling three events. Last year, he finished fourth in two events. The year prior, he came up just short of the victory, losing to Carter Phillips heads-up in a $1,500 No Limit Hold'em event. Tonight though, there was no close call.
Cada managed to finish things out and couldn't have picked a more impressive stage to return to the winner's circle. Cada bested one of the most stacked final tables of the year in the $10,000 Six-Handed No Limit Hold'em to pick up the bracelet and a $670,041 payday. For Cada, there couldn't have been a better place to prove his critics wrong.
"This is definitely up in the top three [events I wanted to win]. The heads-up $10K, the Six-Handed $10K, and the $25K...I think those are the three next best events [after the Main Event]," Cada said shortly after play concluded.
Even though it was a marquee event to win a bracelet, Cada says the win, while incredible, isn't about validating himself as a poker player. "It's funny when people talk about that, because a lot of people that talk about that aren't really experienced in tournaments. There's a lot of variance, there's so many players in these tournaments. It's tough to win. It's tough to go deep and make the final table. You need a lot of things to go right, no matter how well you play," he explained. "I don't really let that stuff affect me, I just try to focus on playing every decision how I think is correct."
When asked if proving the doubters wrong made the win any sweeter, Cada remained focused on the most important thing--the bracelet.
"The victory is sweet regardless. Just winning a bracelet in general is amazing. To win two is a great feeling."
To win the second bracelet, Cada needed to defeat a formidable heads-up opponent who also has some Main Event final table experience, 2012 November Niner and bracelet winner Jeremy Ausmus. It was actually Ausmus who began heads-up play with a slight chip advantage, but a massive coin flip that went Cada's way gave him an overwhelming chip lead and, eventually, the victory. The win adds $670,041 to Cada's WSOP earnings, which are now just about $50,000 shy of $10 million.
Cada was quick to joke about his good fortune at the final table. "I don't think [winning] validates me. It makes people think I run a little better now," he said with a chuckle.
It's been five years since Cada last stood in the spotlight. In that time, he has certainly grown up, but tonight, flashes of a young 21-year-old who was a little camera shy came through again when asked about how he wants to be remembered in the poker world and what his legacy might be. When asked what things have changed between bracelets, Cada said it did help him grow as a person.
"[Winning the Main Event] made me open up a little more to people and cameras because I'm in the spotlight a little more, and I guess it helped me in that way."
Yes, the man they used to call "The Kid" has certainly grown up, but no matter how many bracelets he wins, he is still going to be the same mild-mannered pro from Michigan with a true love for the game.
"I'm, not a big attention guy. I'm getting better at it...I just play what I like, poker."
Like his Main Event final table, Cada at one point was the low man in the chip counts and had to rally to keep is bracelet hopes alive. However, that was the case for most of the players at this final table, as the swingy nature of six-max saw just about everyone take a turn at the top and the bottom of the chip counts.
Cada entered heads-up play with Ausmus with a slight chip disadvantage, but managed to score some key double ups to prevail and win the bracelet. He is now the ninth repeat bracelet winner of the summer, locking up his victory less than 15 minutes after Brett Shaffer picked up his second bracelet win in the $1,500 No Limit Hold'em event on the secondary stage.
This final table was one of the most-stacked of the summer with a combined six bracelets, three Main Event final table appearances, a WSOP Player of the Year title, and tens of millions of earnings. Only Dario Sammartino (6th) and Max Silver (3rd) didn't have bracelets. For Silver, it was his third career WSOP final table appearance, while Sammartino was making his first WSOP final table appearance.
This prestigious tournament drew 264 players, generating a substantial prize pool of $2,481,600. The top 30 finishers each earned at least $17,793. Almost all the players who cashed were notable names like bracelet winner Larry Wright (28th), Matt Waxman (24th) Nick Schulman (20th), Brock Parker (14th), Layne Flack (13th), Scott Clements (11th), and George Danzer (9th).
Even though Danzer missed out on the final table, the recent bracelet winner did ascend to the top of the ranks in this year’s Player of the Year race, marking just the fourth lead change so far. It looked as though Danzer’s reign at the top would be a short one though, as JC Tran could’ve taken the lead from Danzer with a win in his event. While Tran made the final table, he came up short of the win in fourth place.
Here are the final table results for the $10,000 Six-Handed event:
1st: Joe Cada - $670,041
2nd: Jeremy Ausmus - $414,104
3rd: Max Silver - $273,646
4th: JC Tran - $185,971
5th: Erick Lindgren - $129,192
6th: Dario Sammartino - $91,670