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October 30, 2014

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Joe Cada cherishes moment as poker’s youngest world champ

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Justin M. Bowen

Joe Cada, 21, holds up some of his $8.5 million winnings after beating Darvin Moon in the final round of the 2009 World Series of Poker tournament early Tuesday at the Rio.

World Series of Poker

Joe Cada, a 21-year-old poker professional from Michigan, holds bundles of cash after winning $8.5 million in prize money at the World Series of Poker tournament at the Rio Tuesday Nov. 10, 2009. Darvin Moon, a 45-year-old logger from Maryland, came in second. Launch slideshow »

For Joe Cada, this was always about the bracelet.

Becoming the youngest player in the history of the World Series of Poker — Cada just turned 21 this year — to win the Main Event was great. But staging the most remarkable comeback — he had less than 1 percent of the chips with seven players remaining — in Main Event history was a bonus.

Even the $8.5 million prize was nice, but not as important as the bracelet. So when World Series of Poker commissioner Jeffrey Pollack handed the bracelet to Cada after he beat Darvin Moon heads-up in the early morning hours Tuesday at the Rio, he froze in the moment.

“My breath is still kind of out of me,” Cada said. “It hasn’t hit me yet.”

Cada took out Moon at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. Cada put Moon all in with pocket nines pre-flop. Moon quickly made the call with queen, jack of diamonds.

Cada was only a slight favorite headed to the flop.

“I thought he had queens at first when he turned it over,” Cada said. “Then, when I saw it was queen-jack, it was one of those things like 'OK, if I win, I win. If I lose, I lose.'”

Cada didn’t lose. No queens, jacks or diamonds hit the board. After the last card, Cada’s friends swarmed him on the Penn & Teller Theater stage in front of an elite fraternity of professional poker players.

Cada now has a membership in that group.

“I guess it works out how it works out,” Cada said. “It’s a dream come true.”

Cada’s most important hand came before his pocket nines. With Moon holding a large advantage, he announced all in after the turn on a board that read 10 of clubs, five of diamonds, nine of hearts, 10 of diamonds.

After thinking for nearly five minutes, Cada called. Moon only had a seven and an eight and needed a six or jack to make a straight. Cada had a jack and a nine to make a pair of nines. The river was a three to give the pot to Cada.

After the Main Event finished, some were proclaiming it to be one of the best all-in calls in recent memory at the World Series of Poker.

“He’s a great player,” Moon said. “He out-played me two hands. I had the choice to fold. He had the choice to fold. We both called. He won his. I lost mine. That’s the way it goes.”

Cada was non-committal about his plans now that he’s the world champion of poker. Asked what he would buy with his prize money, Cada said he hadn’t thought about it.

When a reporter suggested that last year’s champion and previous youngest player to win the Main Event, Peter Eastgate, bought a flat-screen television, Cada said he didn’t need one of those.

“I’ve got four,” Cada said.

It was an appropriate response from Cada, who is already used to dealing with large sums of money. He turned professional in poker almost immediately out of high school.

He is the first professional to win the Main Event in eight years. But that didn’t matter to Cada, either.

He only wanted the bracelet. Now, he’s got it.

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