Joe Cada WSOP Champ: Not-so-average Joe


01 December 2009

What’s left to say about the 2009 WSOP final table? Ivey failed to pick up the momentum we were all praying for; Akenhead ran kings into aces and broke our hearts; Buchman imploded; Shulman folded himself out of contention; Saout ran out of luck, and Darvin Moon continued on his searing heater, his erratic plays adding a charging rhinoceros of unpredictability to the dynamics of play.

Meanwhile, young Joe Cada careered from one extreme to the other – a crippled shortstack one minute, chipleader the next. The amateur Moon dictated the pace with wild over-bets and minus EV moves that produced a final of crazy all-ins and crunching suckouts. And Joe Cada got lucky when he needed to; but the 21-year-old new world champion from Michigan really can play. Oh, and it turns out he had flu. Folks, meet the new champ…

Hey Joe, what’s up?

Well, I’ve just been doing tons of photo shoots and interviews and stuff.

Is it fun or is it doing your head in yet?

It’s pretty exhausting – and I’m really sick right now, so it’s kinda like bullshit timing. I don’t mind the interviews, it just sucks being sick.

When did you get sick?

Right when I got to heads up, so I was feeling it during heads up, and then when we went for drinks afterwards, I could barely even talk because of my sore throat.

You had a massive cheering section – were they all your homies?

Yeah. It was a bunch of friends and family and friends of family, cousins, aunts, uncles – they all took off time from work and school to come out here. Most of them don’t have any voices left.

So what were you doing before all this craziness happened?

I was going to community college. I’d had a lot of success from poker prior to that, though. I was just taking classes because I wanted to set up a business – so I was doing statistics and business classes, but I was travelling a lot through poker – the Bahamas and Costa Rica and places like that. Studying and poker weren’t really working out – they were interfering with each other, so I decided to put poker aside for a bit.

How long had you been a pro?

I’ve been a pro for three years now, almost four.

And you’re the youngest ever world champion now – that’s going to get you loads of media attention…

Yeah, they’ll call me “the guy who luck-boxed the final table…” (Laughs). But it was cool. It was amazing.

What do you think when you watch the video back now?

I wish they’d shown some hands that actually made me look like a better player (laughs). They didn’t show any of my four-bet bluffs, just the luck-box hands, which kinda sucks, but I got tremendously lucky, so I don’t care.

Do you have any tournaments scheduled now that you have an absurdly large bankroll?

Yeah, I’ll be going to the PCA in the Bahamas, which I played last year and it was awesome. Loved it. I’ll try and hit a lot of the EPT’s as well.

Are you going to play higher stakes now?

I was talking to the guys at High Stakes Poker about being on the show, and I’d like to, but it depends on the line up. I do have game selection, and the line up they showed me – I didn’t fancy it much. It was, like, Patrick Antonius, durrrr, Ivey, Esfandiari – there wasn’t one fish in the game, so I was like… er… maybe not.

Are you planning a splurge?

Well, I think I’ll buy a house in Vegas, just because I’ll be out here for 50 days every summer.

Will you move to Panora Towers like the rest of the poker world?

Yeah – I hear that’s where all the players have apartments. I have a bunch of friends – there’s, like, 12 of us that come out of Michigan for the Series, so we’ll probably find a big castle somewhere for next year. We all met online – we’re big poker buddies.

But I don’t really know what I’m going to do with the money quite yet – I’ll probably invest most of it, whether in poker or elsewhere.

You had a few months to contemplate things before the final table. Were you dreaming of winning it?

I had some moments, but I knew the odds and I knew I wasn’t in great shape, chip-wise, coming into the final table, so I wasn’t under any illusions. But when you’re that close to the WSOP title, of course you dream about it.

Did it play out like you envisaged?

No. I envisaged chipping up nicely throughout the final table, as opposed to bluffing off most of my stack right away and then just bad-beating the crap out of people. (Laughs) But I’ll take it…

How did you prepare?

I just played a lot of poker. I didn’t change my lifestyle at all. I watched the footage, obviously, but I also knew that a lot of players’ games would change going into the final table. But it was a long final, so I had a lot of time to adjust to how other people were playing.

Were you intimated by Ivey at all?

No, you just have to treat him like another player and watch how he’s playing. You can’t be afraid of him because then you won’t be playing good poker against him.

Had you played against him before?

Yes, I played against him in a tournament where I made the money, and I played against him online once, which I shouldn’t have done – but Guy Laliberte was on the table, so I decided to take a shot.

How was the early part of the Series for you?

Great. I played a lot of cash games and did really well. I made $70k playing 10-20.

Is there any part of your game that you think needs work?

Bankroll management, game selection – sometimes I’ll get bored waiting for a good game so I’ll jump in with anyone.

What did you make of Darvin Moon’s game?

Well, he upped his game for the final table. I think he used his “lucky” image a lot – to try to represent monsters all the time and make us think, “He getting all these crazy hands again”. But my goal for playing heads up against him was to play almost all my hands in position. Normally I’d mix up my hand-ranges really wild and three-bet a lot of hands, but he’s not the kind of guy you want to be three-betting out of position because he’ll just flat you a lot. I wanted to play small pots with him. The hands I did flat out of position were, like, J-Q’s and K-10’s and stuff like that. He was running over me for the most part, playing big pots, and it was really hard to gain any ground. He played well.

Did the first hand derail you a bit?

Yeah, totally. Like I said, I’m one of those guys who don’t like playing hands out of position, but with nines, facing a limp, I’m obviously raising. He just flatted with queens, which was a surprise. Then the flop came K-5-2, which is a pretty dry board, and I know he doesn’t like to fold his hands much and that he also likes to slow-play a lot, so I figured, “Why would he raise so much if he has a king?” So I just flatted and, if the turn was bad, I was ready to release. But the turn came an ace, which really changed the board, because now, if he has a king why is he betting the ace, and if he had an ace, why didn’t he raise pre-flop? So because the board changed, it started to look like a bluff, especially because he only bet 10M into a 28M pot. But I guess he was value-betting his queens!

I was surprised at some of the hands they didn’t show on TV, though. They didn’t show the hand where I open raised, he three-bet and I four-bet shoved with 3-3, and he folded pocket fours. I was hoping that would make the cut. I mean, he had a chance to win it right there.

Did it screw you up having 1,200 people screaming every time you did anything?

It helped when I was down. It helped me to focus and the guys on the rail were just reminding me to think logically and not to make any mistakes. But when you start playing you just get in the zone. The other people fade out. I thought I’d feel more nervous, but it’s funny how comfortable you fell when you actually just start playing.

So it was fun?

Yeah. It was. It really was fun…