Usually I take care of the PokerWorks.com “Where Are They Now” series, but after realizing the answer to that question was a simple “Celebrating winning 8.5 million dollars!” I thought it might be appropriate to talk about Joe Cada in another way. How will Cada accept the role of being the face of poker over the next year as it gets ready to face some potentially tough times, particularly in the United States?
Joe Cada outlasted Darvin Moon in a back and forth battle to become the 2009 World Series of Poker Champion. Cada became the youngest person in history to win the Main Event, beating Peter Eastgate’s record from just last year. Cada’s win earned him $8,500,000 and the admiration of poker players everywhere. Cada had already signed a one year $1,000,000 sponsorship deal with PokerStars, and it’s this writer’s best guess he’ll earn much more, perhaps never using his own money for a buy-in for years to come.
Cada was a relatively unknown player, but compared to his heads-up opponent, Darvin Moon, he was seemingly a lock to win. Cada was somewhat known online for his positive results in heads-up cash games. Moon, on the other hand, had played heads-up exactly one time, and that was at his local Elks Lodge in his hometown of Oakland, Maryland. Despite this overwhelming experience factor, Moon was in the game all the way, making great reads, including the final hand when he lost, calling an all in with Q-J, feeling that Cada had a mid-pair (he had nines), and hoping for a race. Moon liked to play down his poker skill, saying he wasn’t even the best player in Oakland, Maryland, but time after time throughout the tournament he made killer reads, including big lay-downs, and exceptional calls.
Before the heads-up play began, I asked a few people their opinions of who they felt would be a better representative of poker. One conversation with a friend of mine who is a fine writer, but doesn’t play poker, suggested that if “the lumberjack won” he would bring a whole new group of people to the game of poker. He explained that he felt that a Moon victory would leave the feeling that “anybody” can win a million dollars at anytime, and because of his “aww shucks” personality he would appeal to people who might not have normally tried poker. I explained to him that that had already happened in 2003, thanks to Chris Moneymaker. I disagreed that having a guy with a somewhat similar personality to Moon winning the biggest prize in poker just six years later would have nowhere near the same effect. In fact, Cada stated in a recent interview that the reason he and a few of his friends started playing poker was because of the “Moneymaker Effect.” With the exception of the young people being introduced to poker as they become of age, I feel that the majority of people who would potentially play poker, already do. That statement could become a story of its own, but what I feel to be true is that I didn’t think a win by Moon would be the beginning of “Poker Boom 2.”
More importantly, in the light of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, a set of online gambling restrictions and regulations that are due to hit December 1st, I feel it’s important we have a player who has a chance to be an ambassador to the game. Moon continuously showed that he had no interest in being an ambassador. He was content with taking his money, adding a few rooms to his trailer in the woods, and going back to his job cutting lumber. He had already turned down a poker sponsorship deal, stating “I never had no boss and I don’t want to start now.” I’ll admit, I think that’s pretty cool of Moon, but for the sake of poker it’s not the best thing.
With the online regulations looking to hit the United States the hardest, it’s almost fitting that the new World Series of Poker Champion is American born. Regardless of whether the UIGEA does go into full-effect in a few weeks or not, the way certain politicians feel about poker won’t change. In recent years poker has grown as a respectable profession in the eyes of our society as a whole, but unfortunately there are still those with high up positions in this society that feel otherwise. Maybe Cada can help explain to those that look at poker as a scummy game of luck that there is more to it, with him as proof. I’ll admit that winning the WSOP isn’t the same as winning the USA Miss America pageant, where you are expected to do things to better your country, but Cada has a chance to be a great representative of poker when it’s needed most.
As mentioned, very little was known about Cada before he won the bracelet, but over the next few months you will most likely learn everything you wanted to know about him, and then some. What many poker players who have a vested interest in the outcome of the future of online poker and poker in America want to know is if Cada is ready to stand up for poker during at time when we need it most?
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