Watch Joe Cada's main event journey every Tuesday night at 9:00 and 10:00 ET
Joe Cada and I share a couple things in common: We both spent some time at Casino Windsor when we were under 21, we're both Michigan Wolverines fans and we both like poker. However, there's just a slight difference between Cada and me when it comes to that last part
Most 21-year-olds are more worried about the simpler things in life like college, getting a job, hanging out with friends or which bar to go to, but since he was 18 years old, Cada has been the one to take major steps forward in his first "career." He bought his house at age 19 -- in cash -- often gives money to his parents ("They supported me growing up," he says), takes his friends out to dinner and could purchase just about anything you could want. He is a millionaire at 21, plays high stakes online and is someone whom all of his friends look up to. On top of that, he's down-to-earth and just wants to play some cards.
Cada has been playing professionally online since he was 18. He quit a job to play poker full-time and needed the support of his parents to do so. "My parents were kind of skeptical at first until they saw my success," he said.
He primarily played cash games online and mixed in the occasional live game at Casino Windsor (now Caesars) in Canada and the major tournaments in the Bahamas or Aruba where players could play under 21. Besides the online cash games, Cada doesn't like to miss the "Sunday Majors" at many of the online poker sites. Just wanting to be a great poker player wasn't enough for Cada, who turned to the advice of other, proven players.
"The way I always got better is that I went to better players who had good results and results speak for themselves," Cada said. "I went to the online training sites and they have a lot of great players in them and hearing their thoughts about certain hands and analysis on hands and watching those hands helps tremendously. Using their advice and going through certain situations helped a lot and helped to improve my game."
The Breakdown: Joe Cada
With a chance to make history by becoming the youngest player ever to win the WSOP main event, Joe Cada will use all of his online experience to take his fifth-place starting chip stack and build it up.
Current position: Fifth
Chip count: $13.2 million
Tournament winnings: $1,291,816
WSOP final tables: 1
WSOP cashes: 3
These days Cada seems more like the coach than the student. Every Sunday a group of friends comes over to his house and all of them sit around and play the majors. They ask each other questions, talk through situations and learn together to improve their games.
"On Sunday you see one person walk through the door after another," he said. "We usually have 10 people at the house, everyone with their laptops. It's usually funny when a girlfriend or a girl walks in and expects to see you, but instead they see 10 kids on laptops. It's also hard to sit in front of a computer screen for 15 hours by yourself, so it's good to have others to talk to."
"A lot of people go to me and Tony [Gargano, known online as DrunkPPPlayer] for questions about some situations," Cada said, being modest about his poker expertise. "Most of my friends that have been playing poker are good players too. They do it for a living too and they know what they're doing. The only time they go for advice is really about tough spots."
It wasn't always good times, and a tough downswing before the 2009 World Series of Poker led Cada to a search for backing. Cliff "JohnnyBax" Josephy and Eric "Sheets" Haber solved that issue and now, with half of Cada's winnings heading their way, they are excited about the situation. While Bax and Sheets may have hit the jackpot this year, it's actually a repeat performance: The backing duo had a piece of Ylon Schwartz last year. Cada estimated that the two had fewer than 100 horses (players who are put into events) and as Josephy told Cada, he'd always like a seat at the final table in November.
"They're pretty happy since I'm at the final table," Cada said of his backers.
Obviously, this was not Cada's best decision given the results, but he's remedied the issue by stopping backing after the main event. Since that time, Cada took down a World Championship of Online Poker Second Chance tournament for $120,000 and as he said, "It's all mine."
When the final table rolls around on Nov. 7, Cada will find himself sitting behind a fifth-place stack and a chance to make history. Being only 21, he can become the youngest WSOP champion ever, besting the record that Peter Eastgate set last year. His agent dubbed him "The Kid," with apologizes to "Kid Poker" Daniel Negreanu. In most situations, youth would go hand in hand with experience, but given that Cada has played over a million hands in the past few years, he'll just do what he does best. While other November Niners have opted to hire coaches in preparation, Cada has stuck true to his word and is on his own.
"Taking other people's coaching right now for me would actually be worse off, I feel," said Cada. "I'm pretty confident in my game right now."
Going through the four-month delay has been an experience in itself for Cada. He has been the main story on the front page of Michigan's newspapers, appeared on the big screen at a Pistons game and had a segment on Fox, but that's been the only major changes he's dealt with.
"[The situation] hits me through different stages," he said. "I haven't spent the money or changed anything yet. I'll wait to see how the final table goes before I let it hit me. Right now, it's a lot easier to play because nothing can affect me. I can't say I run bad no matter what happens. I can lose 20 all-ins in a row, but I ran good in the main event."
Maybe the toughest part of Cada's life is something very typical for a 21-year old: a girlfriend's parents. However, as expected from Cada, it's for a different reason.
"When you meet a girl's parents for the first time they often don't know what to think of it when you say you gamble for a living," Cada said. "That's not a great conversation starter. Not many people got it then, but now it's easier to talk to parents now that I'm at the final table."
If Cada is able to take down the main event title, he hopes it can not only bring a little positive energy back to Michigan, but open some more doors in the poker world.
"If I win I'll play in more tournaments and more cash games," Cada said. "Live games are always fun because cash is in front of you and cash is pretty sweet. High Stakes Poker definitely if I win. I would represent the poker community the best that I can. Poker is my life and I'll make it my life. If I win I'll do the best job to help poker grow and I want to see it grow because it's my favorite thing to do."
There's one thing for sure, though. If Cada does win, the 21-year-old is going to throw two big parties: one in Vegas, the other in Michigan.
"I have no idea where the party in Vegas is going to be, but everyone is invited," Cada said. "It's going to be huge if I win the main event."
As for Michigan, he had another small idea: "Party at the Big House."