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WSOP notebook: Cada's father knew his son was special

10 November 2009

By Gary Trask

LAS VEGAS – Jerry Cada has always been good with math. It's the main reason he worked as an engineer for the last 25-plus years and it's also something he thinks he was able to pass onto Joe, the youngest of his four children.

"I can remember Joe being as young as 5 or 6 years old and I could already tell he was great with numbers," the elder Cada told Casino City on Monday afternoon. "As he got older, I'd always be quizzing him with different math problems. We'd be in the car and I'd yell a question back to him and he'd always have the right answer.

"I was happy to see him pick up the math gene, because everyone needs to know math at some point of his life," he continued. "I always knew he'd use it to be successful. But I have to admit, I would have never guessed it would have had to do with all of this."


Joe Cada's father Jerry is proud of him for much more than just his win at the WSOP Main Event. (photo by IMPDI for the 2009 WSOP)

The "all of this" Cada was referring to was the World Series of Poker Main Event, where his son became the youngest player to win the tournament in its illustrious 40-year history. Cada, a 21-year-old native of Michigan, made a miracle run through the final table to get to the heads-up portion and held nearly a 2-to-1 advantage in chips over Darvin Moon heading into Monday night. He briefly coughed up the lead, but once again managed to come back and finally take out Moon and win the coveted bracelet and $8.5 million prize.

Cada got his start in poker online and dropped out of college almost two years ago to turn to poker full-time. Since that time he has now won over $10 million.

But despite his son's success on the felt, Jerry is more proud of the way his son has handled himself over the years.

"Money hasn't changed him; he's still the great kid that he's always been and that makes me more proud than you can imagine," Jerry said.

But, of course, the money has been nice for the Cada family. Jerry was just laid off in July from his job as an engineer at Johnson Controls Inc. in Michigan and his son's success has helped ease some of his worries.

"I haven't asked him for help, but I know he'll be there for me if I ever need to," Jerry said. "My wife and I are divorced, but Joe has never failed either one of us. Ever. He's a great kid and a great son."

It wasn't too long ago that people would give Jerry a strange look when he told them what his son did for a living – but not anymore.

"Yeah, people used to always assume that he was some sort of degenerate gambler because he played poker for a living," Jerry said. "But I think that kind of talk is over with now. Joe's worked hard and become a great success. I think everyone who has ever known him is really proud of him right now.

"I think he'll be great for poker; he'll be a great representative for the game. He's young, he's a charasmatic kid and he cares about the game a lot. He's worked hard to get where he is. He'll be a great champion."

Cada backer made the right call
It was last April that Cliff "JohnnyBax" Josephy received an e-mail from a guy whose poker opinion he respects quite a bit. His name is Tony Gargano and he had a tip on a kid from Michigan who had made quite an impression on him. The name was Joe Cada, one that Josephy was marginally familiar with from playing online.

"Tony told me in the e-mail that I simply had to meet with this kid and see it for myself," said Josephy, who is considered one of the all-time great online players and has a long history of backing players in tournaments. "When Joe came out for the World Series back in June, we went out to dinner and talked poker for a few hours. I was blown away by how much this kid knew. I could tell right away that Tony was right. This kid was the real deal."

Cada and Josephy ended up ironing out a deal. Cada wasn't playing well at the time and had dropped a huge chunk of his bankroll. He was looking for someone to back him in his first WSOP and after their dinner, Josephy was more than happy to make the investment. Josephy and his partner Eric Haber bought Cada into about 15 events with the agreement that they would claim 50 percent of his winnings.

Cada cashed in two events before the Main Event, meaning the Josephy was about even. That is until Cada went out and won the Main Event and the $8.5 million first-place prize.

"I'm so happy right now for Joe," Josephy said as he stood on the main stage at the Penn & Teller Theater, moments after Cada prevailed. "He's a great player, but I've also learned he's a great person. He's a real even-headed kid for being so rich at 21 years old. He's not the type that's going to go out and blow this money. He's going to be around for a long, long time."

Josephy and Gargano can also take some credit for helping Cada stage his incredible comeback on Saturday night. Cada entered the dinner break that night as the second-shortest stack with about 10 million chips. He spent the break huddling with Josephy and Gargano at the Bellagio talking strategy and then came back to made it all the way to the top of the leader board and into Monday night's heads-up match.


According to his wife, Darvin Moon will spend some of his winnings on helping out his newphew's Little League with its facilities and equipment. (photo by photo by Vin Narayanan/Casino City)

Little League will benefit from Moon's success
When Moon was asked at a Monday afternoon press conference what he would do with the money after the tournament was over, he responded by simply stating he would "put it in the bank." But when Casino City spoke with Moon's wife, Karen, she said that one thing her husband does plan to splurge on is some new equipment and maybe even some help building a field for the Little League his 12-year-old nephew Josh plays in back in Oakland, MD.

"Darvin's always been a big supporter of youth sports so this is something I know he really wants to do," Karen said of her husband, who has rented buses for his nephew's team, coached the last two summers and taken them to a Pittsburgh Pirates game. "He played in the same league when he was a kid so he remembers what it was like."

The soft-spoken Karen said the Main Event experience has been "incredible" for her and her husband, but she stopped short of calling it "life changing" even though her husband was guaranteed to bring home at least $5 million when all was said and done Monday night.

"The money is great, but it won't change Darvin or the way we live," said Karen, who attended Southern High School in Oakland with Darvin. The two have been married for 15 years. "That's what's great about Darvin. Not even millions of dollars could change him."

Checks and Raises
It was a nice touch by the WSOP to introduce to the crowd the other members of the November Nine before play began. They were all introduced to the crowd and the ones who were present had a seat in the front row, but only Steve Begleiter, Eric Buchman and Kevin Schaffel were present…Bobby Rodriguez of Atlantic City was the first fan to get in line for general admission seating on Monday for the heads up. He got there at 3 p.m., some six hours before the doors opened. At 8:30 p.m. the line of fans waiting to get in stretched down the Rio hallway for about 200 yards and was three people deep...Rocker Vince Neil of Motley Crew fame did the "Shuffle Up and Deal" honors and was ushered onto the stage by a pair of Las Vegas Showgirls…A fan was spotted in the crowd during play Monday night with a laptop computer on his lap, multi-tabling four games on Full Tilt as he kept a casual eye on the proceedings.. I shared an elevator ride with Moon this morning at around 11:30 a.m. When I told him I'd see him at the press conference that was scheduled for 1 p.m., he told me he knew nothing about it...Moon spent a portion of Sunday night playing the casino table game "Texas Hold'em" for $10 a hand at the Rio.

Faces in the crowd on Monday night included Greg Raymer, Phil Hellmuth, Barry Greenstein, Annette Obrestad, Dennis Phillips, Antonio Estafardi, '08 November Niner Ylon Schwartz and Tom McEvoy. There were even more members of poker's elite in the house Saturday night, including Raymer, Greenstein, Hellmuth, Phillips, Schwartz, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Gordon, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, T.J. Cloutier, Peter Eastgate, Dan Harrington, Jennifer Harman, Howard Lederer, Doyle Brunson, Layne Flack, Mike "The Mouth" Matusow, Hoyt Corkins, Joe Seebok, Jack Binion, Dewey Tomko, Erick Lindgren.

An invitation-only "Watching Party" will be held at the ESPN Sports Zone at the New York-New York Hotel Casino in Las Vegas on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. local time. Last year, the party was held at the Lucky Strike Lanes at the Rio and was an interesting event with the entire ESPN crew there to watch their finished piece of work for the first time. The two finalists – Peter Eastgate and Ivan Demidov – were also in attendance last year, as were most of the other November Niners. Casino City will be at this year's party and we will file a full report….Matusow posted on Twitter just before the heads-up action began on Monday night that Cada and Moon are "a new low for poker as a skilled game" so he was going to stay home instead of coming to the Rio. That a boy, Mikey. Stay classy.

Gary Trask
Gary is an expert on all things gambling. The Boston native has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years, including a few at Casino City and was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's Media Committee.

No Limit Hold'em tournaments are a favorite of Gary's, but he also enjoys a night of dealer's choice with a variety of games like Seven-Card No Peek, Guts or Five-Card Draw with a qualifier. In addition to playing cards, another of Gary's interests is golf, a game that allows his two favorite hobbies to collide quite naturally.

Gary Trask Websites:!/casinocityGT