When you win the World Series of Poker Main Event, you are immediately slapped with two lofty unspoken expectations. The first is that you will serve as an ambassador for the game, and the second is you'll somehow show the world you're not just a one-hit wonder. With that in mind, how does 2009 WSOP Main Event champ and Team PokerStars Pro Joe Cada stack up?
In regards to the former expectation, Cada accepted his role as poker ambassador with open arms. He immediately took to the media circuit, had an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman and even did an interview with Time Magazine. It was a lot to ask of a 21-years-and-seventh-month old kid from Michigan (then the youngest person to ever win the Main Event), but he embraced it wholeheartedly. By signing on as a member of Team PokerStars Pro, Cada was able to travel the world carrying the torch, and he did a fine job with his one-year ambassadorship.
As far as Cada's critics are concerned, and there have been a few, the issue isn't his success as a poker ambassador, but that off being a poker player. Some argued that Cada's victory was pure luck, and while he was certainly fortunate at the final table, those people seemed to willfully ignore the fact that Cada was a successful online pro long before making the November Nine--he even bought a house with his winnings.
Admittedly, you could see their point. A couple of years ago his only notable cash since his Main Event win was an 11th-place finish at the 2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $25,000 High Roller Event for $51,450.
"Cada is still traveling the circuit and could still prove the naysayers wrong, but the clock is ticking." I wrote in a piece back then.
Since then the clock has done anything but stop, he's had a stirring resurgence. In the past two years, Cada has amassed a substantial $903,099 in winnings ($596,189 in 2012 and $306,910 in 2013). Compare that with the combined $141,373 he won in the two years directly after his win ($51,450 in 2010 and $89,923 in 2011), and it's clear to see Cada is coming into his own as a professional.
Cada's most recent success came on the very stage that made him famous in the first place: the World Series of Poker. After failing to notch a single cash in the year after his win, and just two in 2011 for $33,007, Cada no doubt felt pressured to perform. He stepped up in 2012 by finishing runner-up to Carter Phillips for $412,424 in Event #31 $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em. Cada didn't leave with his second gold bracelet, but he did take home a whole lot of money and a sweet consolation prize: a paradigm shift among his peers, fans and industry insiders that he was no longer a one-hit wonder, he was a legitimate contender.
Fast-forward one year to the 2013 WSOP. Within a week Cada was back at the final table--this time in Event #4 $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em / Six Handed--and once again in pursuit of a bracelet. Cada was denied when he was eliminated in fourth place for $83,558, but this story of revival didn't stop there. Less than two weeks later, Cada would be at his second final table of the summer.
It happened in Event #17 $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em after Cada navigated a field of 2,105. The Michigan native began third in chips and soon made it to four-handed play. It was at that point, on Hand #162 in Level 19 (40,000-80,000, ante 10,000) to be exact, that Cada got unlucky. It happened when Athanasios Polychronopoulos made it 190,000 from under the gun and Cada moved all in for roughly two million. Polychronopoulos called with the A♠J♥ and was dominated by the A♦Q♥ of Cada.
The 8♣2♠7♦ flop brought Cada one step closer to his second bracelet, but then disaster struck as the dealer burned and turned the J♠. Polychronopoulos hit his card and won the hand after 6♣ was run out on the river. Cada, now a matured professional, shook hands with his opponents before leaving with another fourth-place finish, this one good for $161,642 (you can read about that here, too).
"For these tournaments you have to have a combination of both (playing and running well)," Cada said. "I feel like I'm playing well but at the same time you have to run well, so maybe both have brought me here."
The same could be said of Cada's career, which is obviously far from over.
WSOP photos courtesy of PokerPhotoArchive.