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Catching up with Joe Cada19 November 2009
One year ago this week, Joe Cada celebrated his 21st birthday. He went out to a local bar in his hometown of Shelby Township, Mich. to savor his first legal cocktail with a group of friends and it was a satisfying feeling for Cada, but not for the reasons you may think.
"I was excited to be 21, but not because I could go to a bar," Cada told Casino City. "I was more excited because I was finally old enough to play in the World Series of Poker."
On Wednesday, Cada was celebrating his 22nd birthday in a manner in which he could have never imagined -- as the newly crowned WSOP Main Event champion. Cada blew out the candles on his cake in between an appearance on CNN's American Morning and about a half dozen other radio interviews. The day before he sat on David Letterman's couch and was a guest at the New York Rangers hockey game.
In fact, since becoming the youngest player to win the most prestigious tournament in poker, Cada, who earned $8.5 million for winning the Main Event, has appeared on FOX, CNBC, the CBS Early Show, Bloomberg, WPIX-TV and virtually every Detroit radio and TV talk show that exists.
On Wednesday night he was driving from New York City to Bristol, Conn. with his agent Dan Frank. The pair was on its way to the ESPN studios where Cada was scheduled to appear on the network's plethora of shows on Thursday when I reached them Wednesday night.
Riding shotgun in Frank's car as they made their way north on I-95 in Connecticut, Cada took a few moments to speak with Casino City via cell phone about what his first nine days as the reigning Main Event champ have been like.
Here's how the conversation went:
Casino City: Hi Joe. Congrats on the win and happy birthday. Have you had a chance to celebrate today?
Joe Cada: : No, not really. After going on CNN this morning, I think I've done about eight other interviews, so it's been a pretty busy day. But I'm not complaining. It's been a lot of fun. We've got ESPN [on Thursday] and then I'm flying to Michigan and we're going to the Michigan-Ohio State football game, which will be a blast. So, I'm busy, but I'm having fun.
CC: Have you had a chance to get back home to Detroit since you won the Main Event?
JC: Yeah, I went back last week for a few days and it was great to be home. I obviously didn't get much rest during the final table so I tried to catch up on some sleep, but it hasn't been easy. I'm still kind of on a big high right now and I'm still getting a lot of calls from people congratulating me.
CC: What's it like being a celebrity? Have you been getting noticed when you go out in public?
JC: Yeah, it's been kind of weird. I've signed a lot of autographs, which is always strange. But everyone has been real nice and they've had great things to say. It's been fun.
CC: You just turned 22 years old. Are you prepared to be a celebrity? Do you worry about having your every move scrutinized?
JC: No, I'm not too worried about it. I'm pretty laid back. I like to have fun, but I'm smart about it and I'm going to be even more smarter about it now. (Laughs). It just comes with the territory and I have no choice but to get used to it.
CC: A lot of people are already saying that you will be a great "ambassador for poker." Do you feel any pressure to carry that kind of title on your shoulders?
JC: No, not really. Actually, I consider it an honor. I love poker. I always have. And any chance I have to help promote it or advance the game, I'm happy to do. You know doing all these interviews is good for poker, but it's also good for me. I'm going to benefit from it personally as well, so I'm just trying to embrace it and have fun with it.
CC: One thing your friends told me when I interviewed a couple of them out in Vegas at the Main Event was that the best thing about you is that the money hasn't changed you. Even with all of your success you're still the same kid they grew up with. That was before you won the $8.5 million. Any chance that you'll become a changed man now?
JC: (Laughs). No, I'm not. And that's real important to me. Money will never change me and it shouldn't change people. It gives me more freedom and opportunities, but it's not going to change me as a person. I have a lot of close friends. They've been my friends when I've lost and they've been my friends when I won. That won't change now. My friends and family are important to me.
CC: Have you had a chance to play any poker since the Main Event ended?
JC: I have not played one hand of live poker. But I did go through my regular routine on Sunday. I usually have a bunch of friends over and we watch football and play online in all of the big tournaments. I didn't play as late as I usually do, but I was online well after midnight. I had a break even day.
CC: Do expect to still grind out a lot of tournaments online now that you've won the Main Event and have millions of dollars in the bank?
JC: Yeah, that's what I do. Winning the Main Event gives me a lot of flexibility, and maybe I won't play in as many cash games. But I think I'll still try to play tournaments, especially the bigger ones.
CC: What about live poker? Have you made commitments to any big tournaments?
JC: Yeah, I'm definitely going to be at PCA Bahamas (PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, Jan. 4-14, 2010). That's for sure. And I'm gonna play in the Five Diamond Poker Classic at the Bellagio. I'm sure there will be others that I'll play in, but those are the two I know I'll be at for sure.
CC: What's it going to be like playing in a live tournament now that you're the Main Event champ and have a bulls-eye on your back?
JC: Good question. I don't know because I haven't done it yet. I'm sure it will be a little different and I'm sure there will be guys who will try to take me down just to say they did. But that's OK. I'm not worried too much about it.
CC: Let's talk briefly about the Main Event final table, specifically the heads-up match. You had much more heads-up experience than Darvin Moon and you had a big chip lead, yet for a while there it looked like Darvin had you on the ropes and was going to win it. What was your strategy going in?
JC: I wanted to play small ball. I was only planning on playing pots where I was in position, but Darvin really surprised me. He was real aggressive and he put me in some real tough spots. He was much better at heads up than he let on. I tried to play small ball, but when you have a guy being as aggressive as Darvin was and playing big ball, there isn't much you can do.
CC: Darvin was quite a character. You guys seemed to really get along and respect each other. Have you had a chance to talk to Darvin since the heads-up match ended?
JC: Yes, as a matter of fact I have. (Laughs). After it was all over, I was leaving the Rio with a bunch of my friends and we were heading out to party. We saw Darvin sitting at blackjack table so we went over to say hello. One of my friends invited him to come back to the Palazzo to hang out. He ended up coming to my suite and staying and partying with us for a while. (Laughs). It was a blast. He's a great guy. He's a lot of fun to be around. We all got a kick out of him.
CC: Last question. When do you think you'll be back into a regular routine?
JC: I don't know. I've got ESPN on [Thursday] then I'm heading to the Michigan game and then I'll probably be in Michigan for a few days and I guess that's when I'll try to get back to a normal life, for me anyway. But that may not be possible. Like I said, I'm still kind of in disbelief over this whole thing. Nothing really feels normal right now, but I'm sure I'll adjust as time goes along.
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