Poker is a game unlike any other in the world. It has captivated audiences around the world for centuries with its intricacies and strategies. Poker has become globally renowned and has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity due to its strategic aspects, social appeal, and easy accessibility. The immense complexity of the game, along with the unprecedented levels of skill required to master it, provides a challenge that draws players from all around the world. Poker is also prevalent for its variety. There are countless ways to play poker, from the traditional Texas Hold’em to the methodical Omaha to mashups of different poker variants like H.O.R.S.E.. There are also different game types, from cash games with potentially consistent profits to tournaments offering the chance to win million-dollar jackpots. All this variety keeps poker endlessly replayable and ensures that everyone has a chance to find the perfect way to play.

Poker’s varied strategic depth and fascinating history make it a favorite among competitive gamers. This beloved game provides endless possibilities with a range of betting styles and tactics; it is no surprise that poker has produced some incredible players who have written their legendary stories. Through numerous tournaments and championships in casinos, the best poker players have proven themselves to stand out among the rest; their names are forever etched into the game’s history. Today, we will focus on one of these legends: Joe “The Kid” Cada.

Poker Player Overview

Joe Cada is an American professional poker player best known for winning the 2009 World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event. Winning the main event of the most prestigious tournament in poker is already a considerable achievement, but Cada also holds the record for being the youngest ever to win the WSOP main event. Phil Hellmuth held this record for 19 years when he won the 1989 WSOP Main Event. Peter Eastgate broke the record by winning the 2008 main event at 22. The following year, Cada won the 2009 main event at just 21, making him the youngest to win the main event; a record that still stands today. His agent even dubbed him “The Kid,” a title he shares with the great Stu Ungar. Before winning the WSOP, he was also an avid online poker player, with over $500,000 in online tournament winnings. Just weeks before the 2009 WSOP, he was invited to be a member of Team PokerStars, signing the $1 million contract before his final table victory. Beyond his poker career, Cada is also an avid proponent of online gambling legislation. In an interview with Time magazine, he stated, “I support the right to play poker online. Poker isn’t gambling. It’s a hobby, an activity, a game. It’s not about luck—it’s about logic, decision-making, math. We all should be able to play poker on the Web if we want to, and I believe that making it illegal strips us of our rights. This is an important issue, and hopefully we’ll see it resolved soon.”

Early Life

Like many other poker players, Cada was introduced to poker and gambling at a very young age. Born in Shelby Charter Township, Michigan, on November 18, 1987, he is from a family of card enthusiasts, with his mother being a blackjack dealer at Detroit’s Motor City Casino. Despite his family’s background, his parents did not approve of his career choice. Still, Cada did not let that stop him. He began playing online poker at 16, and by 19, he would travel across the US-Canada border frequently to circumvent the US live poker age restrictions. With his winnings from both live and online, he was able to travel to tournaments in areas like the Bahamas and Costa Rica. 

2009 WSOP 

With his experience from live and online games, Cada traveled to Vegas for his first WSOP at age 21. He cashed twice during the festival before the start of the main event, finishing 64th in the $1,500 NLH event for $6,681 and 17th in the $1,500 NLH event for $21,533. During the time leading up to the Main Event, Joe was playing as many as 2000 hands online daily. Unfortunately, right before the Main Event, he experienced a massive downswing causing him to seek financial aid. He found the money he needed from Cliff Josephy and Eric Haber, who agreed to stake Cada for half of his winnings – Josephy and Haber gave Cada the buy-in on the promise that he would give them half of anything he won.
Joe entered the main event on Day 1C and finished the day as the overall tournament chip leader. When he made it to the final table, he was fifth in chips. The battle at the final table was grueling, being populated with professional players and one of the all-time GOATs, Phil Ivey. When it was all done, Joe Cada outlasted the best of them and won the Main Event, earning $8,546,435.

Poker Career

In 2012, Cada placed second in the WSOP $1,500 No Limit Hold’em (NLH) event, winning $412,424. The following year, he finished fourth twice in two different WSOP tournaments, earning over $240,000. He won his second WSOP bracelet in 2014 from the $10,000 6-Max NLH Championship, beating other formidable players like Erick Lindgren, Martin Jacobson, and J.C. Tran. Then, in 2018, Cada won two more bracelets, one from the $3,000 NLH Shootout event and the $1,500 NLH $1M guarantee The Closer, bringing his bracelet total to four. That year, he again made it to the Main Event’s final table but finished fifth earning $2,150,000. The WSOP Player of the Year award recognized Cada’s tremendous success, putting him third behind Shaun Deeb and Ben Yu.