Well, aside from the $1,000,000 One for One Drop event, the 2018 World Series of Poker is in the books. Overall, the organizers have to be very pleased with how this event turned out, seeing record numbers once again, and the Main Event creeping ever closer to being larger than the booming days of online poker in the U.S.
This year there were lots of great stories from the felt, and when Phil Hellmuth won his 15th gold bracelet in the $5,000 Turbo No Limit Hold’em event, the only story left was the final table of the Main Event. Most notably, the final table included one Joe Cada, who won the most prestigious tournament all the way back in 2009 as a 21-year-old.
While all eyes were on Cada and his chance to repeat, it wasn’t meant to be. After nursing a short stack all the way down to 5 players, he finally chose to make his move with pocket tens, only to find himself on the short end of a race against the Ace-King of Tony Miles. Cada, walked away with $2.1 million for his 5th place finish, missing out on a chance to join Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, Stu Unger and Johnny Chan in poker immortality as winners of multiple Main Event tournaments. However, the fact that Cada final-tabled two Main Events which had over 6,000 entrants is arguably as legendary as walking away with the bracelets. These are grueling events that last days, as opposed to the early days where barely 3 figures of players entered the Main Event.
Cada, who aside from a beard looks just as fresh-faced as he did when he won the Main Event 9 years ago, could have easily walked away from the Rio, flown back to his home state of Michigan, and returned to grinding cash games online as he had been doing for years. Cada isn’t a mainstay of the poker circuit these days, preferring instead to stick closer to home. The World Series will always be near, and dear to him, and many will remember his win fondly not only for what he accomplished but that he was also backed into that main event by online poker legend Cliff “JohnnyBax” Josephy, who himself finished 3rd at the Main event in 2016.
What happened next, however, is a real testament to what the organizers decided to do with the tournament schedule in 2018. Rather than having the tournament’s top with the Main Event, the WSOP added 13 bracelet events after the start of the tournament, hoping to take advantage of the thousands of players that would bust in the main. What they may not have thought would happen is that someone who agonizingly came so close to winning the Main Event would immediately jump into one of the final events. Well, this is exactly what Cada decided to do. Feeling good about the way he played in the Main and during the entire WSOP (one bracelet already and another final table to his credit before the Main Event), Cada left the lights and cameras of the Final Table and jumped in the $1,500 Closer No Limit Hold’em Event which featured a Million Dollar Guarantee.
The event wouldn’t need the guarantee as a whopping 3,120 entrants plunked down the cash to try to take one last shot at WSOP 2018 glory. Cada was one of those entrants, claiming that the only reason he played was that he liked the faster structure that would allow him to play and still make his original travel home on the 17th of July. What even he likely didn’t realize was that he would make his way through the event all the way to the top, claiming his 2nd bracelet of 2018 and 4th overall. Oh…and the over $615k for first prize is nothing to slouch at either!
Cada’s legend is clearly growing, and this led to many questions about his poker future. When asked if he was going to head over to the WSOP Europe in an attempt to finish as the player of the year, Cada seemed to hesitate about the idea. Shaun Deeb is already so far ahead of the pack for those honors that
it is unlikely Cada will make the trip over. After all, he has loads of small online cash games to crush!
It certainly appears that Cada will continue along the same career path that he chose after winning the 2009 Main Event. The tournament scene in poker is grueling and can be costly, so holding onto the majority of his winnings has to be on his mind. For now, here is what we know: Joe Cada is not eligible to be entered into the Poker Hall of Fame for ten more years, but he has already accomplished enough in the first 9 years of being able to play legally in a U.S. poker room to more than deserve the honor.
Watching Cada’s run at the 2018 World Series of Poker is a great way to finish up the event and gives us even more reasons to be excited about for the 2019 version.