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Joseph Cada Wins 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event

Darvin Moon Rides Big Stack and Lots of Luck to Second-Place Finish

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Jan 01, 2010


WSOP 2009 Final Table
At the World Series of Poker main event, anyone can enter and anyone can win. That’s the motto Harrah’s plugged for four months as the “November Nine” awaited final-table action.

Harrah’s couldn’t have been more correct. The nine remaining players represented the full spectrum of ability, from a first-time player to the best in the world.

In 2009, that “anyone” turned out to be 21-year-old online professional Joseph Cada, from Shelby Township, Michigan. Cada rode relentless aggression and some fortunate cards all the way to the title, the bracelet, and a hefty $8,546,435 payout. In addition, he became the youngest main-event winner in poker history, eclipsing the record set by Peter Eastgate in 2008.

Cada topped a field of 6,494, and prevailed at one of the most exciting final tables of all time.

The November Nine
With the elimination of Jordan Smith in 10th place, the 2009 November Nine was set. The poker world was thrilled to have a well-rounded group of players, and some of the biggest story lines imaginable.
Begs Buchman Saout Shulman
Card Player COO Jeff Shulman had made it, and was the only member of the final table to have been there before.

Joining him was perhaps the greatest player on the planet, Phil Ivey. Despite his seventh-place chip position, Ivey was considered by many to be the favorite, and various oddsmakers and sportsbooks confirmed it in the days leading up to the final table by cutting his odds to 7-2.

There was Darvin Moon, the everyman; Steven Begleiter, the former Bear Stearns executive; and Kevin Schaffel, the family man. There were two young guns in New York’s Eric Buchman and Michigan’s Joseph Cada. And Europe had players to watch, as France’s Antoine Saout and the UK’s James Akenhead limped onto poker’s biggest stage as the two shortest stacks.

Here’s a look at the chip counts:
Seat 1 Darvin Moon 58,930,000
Seat 2 James Akenhead 6,800,000
Seat 3 Phil Ivey 9,765,000
Seat 4 Kevin Schaffel 12,390,000
Seat 5 Steven Begleiter 29,885,000
Seat 6 Eric Buchman 34,800,000
Seat 7 Joseph Cada 13,215,000
Seat 8 Antoine Saout 9,500,000
Seat 9 Jeff Shulman 19,580,000

The Final Table
The atmosphere inside the Penn and Teller Theater was chaotic, to say the least. Each player had his own faction of supporters, and each group spent hours trying to out-cheer each other. Cada’s followers were clad in yellow, and shouted “Joey” at the top of their lungs. Begleiter’s fans chanted “Begs, Begs, Begs” every time he so much as took down the blinds. And Moon’s crew even went so far as to yell “Timber” as he scooped each pot.

Everyone was expecting early fireworks due to the three short stacks at the table, but play was cautious and methodical to start, and it took more than four hours before the first player hit the rail.

Despite an exciting double-up with K-Q against Buchman’s A-K, Akenhead lost it all back when his pocket kings ran into Schaffel’s pocket aces. Sitting with a crippled stack, Akenhead pushed with pocket treys, only to run into Schaffel’s pocket nines. His ninth-place finish was worth $1,263,602.
Moon Akenhead Ivey Schaffel
Akenhead was composed as he exited the Rio, telling the media, “It’s obviously very disappointing [to be eliminated first], but what are you going to do?”

Schaffel’s aces had been kind to him, but then quickly turned on him. When his pocket aces found action against Buchman’s pocket kings, the board brought both remaining kings, giving Buchman quads to eliminate Schaffel in eighth place, which was good for $1,300,228.

The next few hours saw plenty of action but no eliminations, as Cada saw his stack get crippled. He made a questionable call with A-J against Shulman’s A-K, and was down to his last 2 million in chips. The young pro battled back, however, and quickly found himself out of the danger zone.

When asked if he thought he could come back after losing most of his stack to Shulman, Cada replied, “The truth? No; I mean, not really. But you’ve just got to play your stack accordingly.”

Meanwhile, Moon went from chip leader to middle of the pack, thanks to some questionable plays that possibly could be explained during the televised ESPN broadcast.

In 2008, it took just 169 hands to determine the final two players. By the 169th hand at this final table, there were still seven competitors going strong.

A two-hour dinner break came and went before the madness resumed. On one of the first hands back, Ivey got the rest of his stack in with A-K, and found a willing caller in Moon, who was holding A-Q. Ivey has had a bad history against A-Q at other final tables, and it would be no different this time, as well, as the board brought Moon a queen. Ivey picked up $1,404,002 for his seventh-place finish, and the stunned theater audience struggled to recover.

The deflated crowd stirred back to life to watch Moon once again come from behind against sixth-place finisher Begleiter, who opened for a small raise, and Moon inexplicably set him all in with A-Q. Begleiter called with pocket queens and appeared likely to double up, but an electrifying ace on the river ended his night. He banked $1,587,133 for his efforts.

Despite the brutal fashion in which he was eliminated, Begleiter was strangely tolerant of the end result. “It just wasn’t meant to be,” he stated. “But that’s the game. Plenty of guys get rivered. In a way, going out like that is actually easier than making a horrendous play.”

Shulman had held steady for quite a while at his original starting stack when he found himself in good shape to take out Cada. Instead, Cada’s pocket treys cracked Shulman’s pocket jacks to take the wind out of his sails. Shulman never rebounded from the loss, and was eliminated an hour later in a race situation. He picked up $1,953,395 for his run, more than 13 times what he earned for his seventh-place finish in 2000.

Shulman was trying to make poker history by following in his father’s footsteps from just one month earlier, when Barry Shulman took down the WSOP Europe main event. When asked if he was disappointed that he came up short, Shulman looked at his nearly $2 million payout and stated, “How could you not be pleased with it?”

The final four players spent the next two hours jockeying for position before the biggest pot of the final table up to that point went down. Saout and Buchman got into a raising war, and Saout’s A-K held up against Buchman’s A-Q to give Saout a huge chip lead and cripple Buchman. About 20 minutes later, Buchman finally succumbed to Moon, and pocketed $2,502,787 for fourth place.

Buchman reflected on that fateful decision in a later press conference, explaining, “Four-handed, I don’t know if there was anything I could do about that. I thought it was the right hand to push, and … it didn’t work out.”

On the short stack, Cada was caught making a move at the wrong time with pocket deuces, as he ran into Saout’s pocket queens. But Cada was blessed at this final table, and his contingent exploded when the flop brought a deuce. His set held up, and Saout was left short. About an hour later, Saout’s pocket eights were taken out by Cada’s A-K when a king came on the river to end the Frenchman’s tournament in third place. He took home $3,479,485.

The remaining two players bagged and tagged their chips, eager to sleep and prepare for the conclusion two nights later. Here’s a look at their stacks going in:

Joseph Cada — 135,950,000
Darvin Moon — 58,850,000

Moon and Cada
Heads Up
Those with the notion that poker is purely a game of skill must have re-evaluated their stance on the matter after viewing the journeys of Cada and Moon to the final heads-up match. Neither could deny his good fortune; in fact, Cada went one step further before attempting to become the youngest main-event champion in history.

“I got really lucky today. I’m very fortunate,” said Cada. “Anyone who hears me ever complain about poker [bad beats] should just knock me out. I give you the permission.”

While Cada had shown that he could turn small pairs into winners, Moon was a different story. Clearly outmatched by his opponents, the logger from Maryland saw his A-Q come from behind twice to get to the final two.

“What can I say?” asked Moon. “I got lucky. I’m not too mad about the plays I made. It was unfortunate what happened to the other guys, but good for me, I guess.”

After 17 hours and 50 minutes, Moon had survived long enough to make it, having a chip stack almost identical to that with which he started the day. Cada, on the other hand, had ridden his luck to accumulate a massive stack, and he now held a 2.3-1 chip lead. At less than half of Moon’s age, it was Cada who was the grizzled veteran of the game, and Cada who was heavily favored heading to the final showdown.

Moon drew first blood in a huge pot right out of the gate. He limped in from the button, and Cada raised to 3.5 million from the big blind. Moon didn’t hesitate to call. The flop came KSpade Suit 3Spade Suit 2Diamond Suit, and Cada continued with a bet of 3.5 million. Moon raised to 10 million, and after some thought, Cada called.

The turn was the ADiamond Suit, and Moon made the same bet of 10 million. Cada called, and the river paired the board with the KClub Suit. Both players checked, and Moon’s pocket queens topped Cada’s pocket nines.
Joseph Cada
All of a sudden, Cada’s lead didn’t appear to be so insurmountable for the logger from Maryland. With the gap closed, Moon took the lead just 15 minutes later when he floated the youngster and made top pair on the turn.

After picking off a river bluff by Moon, Cada was back in the driver’s seat, but Moon adapted and began to make big bets, including a series of all-in moves to freeze the young gun out. Pretty soon, they were dead even in chips with about 97 million apiece.

They remained virtually even at a break, but the rejuvenated Moon quickly took the upper hand by winning two hefty pots, which put him in the lead, 122 million to 73 million.

The damage just kept coming from Moon, who seemed to figure out the puzzle that was Cada. Cada raised to 3 million from the button, and Moon called. The flop came AClub Suit 5Diamond Suit 3Heart Suit, and Moon led out for 5 million.

Cada paused, and then raised to 13 million. Darvin wasted no time in cutting out a stack of 5 million, then 10 million. But he drew gasps from the crowd as he continued to cut out more and more chips, eventually settling on a raise to 30 million. Cada immediately folded, and the pro-Moon crowd went berserk.

Now with a 3-1 chip lead, Moon slipped up. Cada raised to 3 million from the button, and Moon called. The flop came 10Club Suit 9Heart Suit 5Diamond Suit, and both players checked.

The turn was the 10Diamond Suit, and Moon checked once again. Cada bet 3 million, and Moon announced that he was going all in. Cada took some time before making the call for his last 50 million or so with the JHeart Suit 9Diamond Suit.

Moon showed the 8Spade Suit 7Spade Suit for the open-end straight draw, but missed when the river came in the form of the 3Heart Suit. Now, Cada was back on top with 108 million to Moon’s 87 million.

That hand left Moon shaken and perhaps a bit too eager to double up or go home. Just a few hands later, Cada raised to 3 million from the button, and Moon reraised to 8 million. Cada moved all in, and Moon instantly called for his last 67 million with the QDiamond Suit JDiamond Suit!

Cada showed the 9Diamond Suit 9Club Suit, and they were off to the races. The flop came down 8Club Suit 7Spade Suit 2Club Suit, and Cada’s camp went wild.

Cada stood away from the table, burying his face in Cliff Josephy’s chest, unable to watch. The turn was the KHeart Suit, making both sides of the theater flinch. With just six outs to save him from elimination, Moon watched as the 7Club Suit hit the river, and a deafening roar filled the theater.

With a safe river card firmly on the felt, Joseph Cada leaped into the air in celebration, but quickly separated himself from his throng of supporters to shake Darvin Moon’s hand.

The crowd continued to chant “Joey! Joey! Joey!” as Jeffrey Pollack introduced the new, youngest main-event champion in poker history to the crowd.

Cada took the mic and shook off a tear or two before thanking his legion of friends, family, and fans in the audience. With that, he hoisted the bracelet over his head, much to the delight of everyone in the theater.

Moon exited the Penn and Teller Theater with $5,182,601, but Cada took home the lion’s share, $8,546,435. Spade Suit