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Poker News | World Poker News

2009 WSOP Champion Joe Cada Embraces Media Blitz

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For years, the poker community has collectively yearned for a World Series of Poker champion who would be good for poker, whether that be a well-known pro or a newcomer with a likeable personality and desire to be in the spotlight. And 2009 WSOP Main Event winner Joe Cada may just be what the game needed - a skilled professional who caught the eyes of the world by becoming the youngest champion ever to wear the bracelet, and one who has embraced the idea of promoting poker beyond the constraints of the poker media. Cada showed his willingness to wear the “poker ambassador” hat in the days and weeks after his $8.5 million victory.

The publicity and subsequent skyrocketed popularity of poker upon the 2003 victory of Chris Moneymaker had yet to be replicated, though Greg Raymer in 2004 and Joe Hachem in 2005 were also placed in the “good for poker” category. But Jamie Gold’s controversial reign after his 2006 win brought the poker community back to reality, as his first year was rife with lawsuits, public scrutiny, and the inability to hold down a solid sponsorship deal. Jerry Yang’s victory in 2007 was looked upon as a fluke win by an amateur who lucked his way through the field while praying to God for help with the cards, and his reign as champion was a quiet one, with few appearances and no follow-up success. Peter Eastgate presented the poker world with a solid victory, one that brought skill back to the forefront of the game, and though he shunned mainstream media after his win and stayed out of any spotlight for some time, he eventually came to the tables where he showed solid results.

But many in the poker community wanted more in a WSOP champion. They wanted personality brimming with excitement and pride. They sought a player who would already possess the basic poker skills and could take those around the world to tournaments that would relish in his presence. They hoped for a champion who would be willing to take to the mainstream media circuit and discuss his victory in an intelligent way and let the world know that poker, the great game of skill, was everything they’d heard it to be and more.

They may have found that person in Joe Cada.

Late in the night of November 9, 2009, Cada defeated Darvin Moon in a heads-up battle that pitted luck against skill, suburbia versus countryside, young versus old, and recreational player versus experienced. The two players could not have been more different. When Cada won, despite some lucky hands that assisted in that victory, it was clear that his years of online poker play as a professional defeated the luck of a relative newcomer to the industry. But one of the most important signs of what type of champion Cada would be came in the moments just after his victory. Instead of allowing his supporters to envelope him in a massive celebration, he pulled away and walked across the stage to congratulate Moon on a well-played match, even acknowledging this to the audience by raising Moon’s arm in the air. The gesture not only showed stellar sportsmanship but a maturity beyond his 21 years.

Sure, the young pro spent the days following his victory in heavy celebrations with his friends and family, as would be expected. But he also again showed respect for the industry and the game by inviting members of the media to the ESPN viewing party of the WSOP finale in Las Vegas and engaged in all interviews requested. And through it all, he not only proudly wore PokerStars gear to show his allegiance to his sponsor, but he also continued to wear the Poker Players Alliance patch to represent his support of pro-online gaming efforts in the United States.

Cada left Vegas and kept up his availability to the poker media, but it was the announcement soon after that he would appear on the “Late Show With David Letterman” that let the poker community know that he was taking his responsibilities as a poker ambassador seriously. And on the night of November 17, the late-night television viewing world got a glimpse at the game’s newest champion and representative, who kept up with the quick-witted television host in admirable fashion.

The first poker player to appear on Letterman’s show since Annie Duke in 2004, Cada reportedly engaged in a cash game with some of the members of the show’s crew backstage prior to the taping, and he then waited for Penelope Cruz to finish her lengthy stint as the main guest before taking his own seat on Letterman’s stage. After showing off his WSOP gold bracelet at the behest of Letterman, Cada went on to explain, “I started online when I was 18 on PokerStars, and started playing there and slowly moved up through the years.” He went on to say that he lost $100K in a day, in response to a question from Letterman, but he was careful to explain that he had already been paid the million-plus dollars for his seat at the November Nine final table and could play at higher stakes. “It’s not like I’m in over my head,” he said.

Cada explained the World Series of Poker schedule and how exhausting the tournaments can be, and he also dispelled the myth that Letterman invoked about poker being a shady game. He noted that it’s a respectable game that many people play socially. And with regard to the millions in winnings, he told Letterman that he plans to invest a lot of it. The approximately four-minute long segment showed Cada as a man prepared to represent poker on just about any stage.

Prior to the Letterman interview, Cada appeared on a number of news programs, including a CNBC Sports Biz segment with Darren Rovell. “It feels pretty surreal. It’s a dream come true right now,” he said with his post-WSOP flu clear by the sound of his voice. The interviewer noted that Cada has a one-year, $1 million deal with PokerStars and also addressed the idea of backers, which prompted Cada to admit, as he has in other interviewers, that he was backed into the WSOP main event by Eric “Sheets” Haber and Cliff “JohnnyBax” Josephy. Despite his flu, the appearance was another solid one on the post-WSOP resume of the newest champion.

Other appearances and interviews in the weeks following the WSOP victory included CNN, ESPN Sports Center, CBS News, and countless newspapers and media outlets, and he was even mentioned on the November 14th broadcast of Saturday Night Live in the Weekend Update segment.

Speaking of the whirlwind of media attention, Cada told The Hardcore Poker Show on Sirius Radio, “These next two days, I have 30 combined. So that just tells you a little about how many interviews I’ve had to do. And I haven’t had too much time to enjoy [the victory], but it’s alright, you know, it comes with the territory. I can’t complain about winning $8.5 mil… There’s endless opportunities, and I’ve very grateful for that. It’s pretty insane.”

Where will we next see Cada? He has already taped episodes for the next season of High Stakes Poker on GSN, and though he hopes to take some time to relax and unwind during the holidays with family and friends, he fully intends to participate in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January of 2010 and continue on the poker tournament circuit from there.

How Joe Cada represents poker over the coming months and years remains to be seen, but his entrance into the role has shown his willingness to accept the role as poker ambassador with open arms and give back to the game that just gave him $8.5 million and the most highly regarded title in poker - World Series of Poker champion.

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