After a rollercoaster final table and a nerve-wracking heads-up battle wherein Joe Cada lost a big chip lead and then had to sweat out a massive coin-flip for the title, the young pro was awarded the World Series of Poker main-event bracelet in the early hours of Tuesday morning. WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack congratulated Cada and handed him the microphone to address the crowd inside the Rio’s Penn and Teller Theater.The 21-year-old Michigan native, known as “Joey” or “The Kid” by his throngs of Midwestern-accented supporters, did not throw his arms into the air to celebrate his accomplishment. He didn’t give a fist-pump or do anything that would accentuate his own remarkable feat.Instead, he congratulated and commended runner-up Darvin Moon and acknowledged the great play of the other competitors at the 2009 final table. Then he thanked his supporters for coming out to Las Vegas and cheering him on, saying simply but caringly, “It really means a lot to me.”It was a notable show of maturity for the now youngest-ever World Series of Poker main-event champion. In his first moment in the spotlight, he saluted his peers and thanked his friends and family.The term “ambassador” has been thrown around quite a bit in the poker community. For a game that has grown so much in the past decade, players have felt like the game needed leaders to represent them admirably to the general public.Mike Sexton, World Poker Tour announcer and the newest inductee into the Poker Hall of Fame, has famously held such a role in the community. Card Player crowned him “Poker’s Best Ambassador” in 2006 for all of the work he has done to promote the game, and several WSOP champions have joined him in that kind of a role — specifically the ’03-’05 WSOP champions, Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer, and Joe Hachem.But the most recent WSOP champions have been a little more reserved in their public appearances. Although 2006 champ Jamie Gold has now raised a considerable amount of money for various charities, he took a backseat in the year immediately following his win to spend time with his ailing father. And the 2007 and 2008 champs, Jerry Yang and Peter Eastgate, never had a flashy personality to really sell themselves or the game to the public.But Cada seems ready to take on such a role.“Whatever they want me to do, I’m there to do it,” said Cada, who was one of four players to sport a Poker Players Alliance patch at the final table. “I hope to help poker grow and represent it well…I welcome being pushed in the poker spotlight.”Although he’s just 21, he has been playing the game since his teens. While a kid who dropped out of college to pursue a career of card-playing may not seem like an ideal spokesperson for a game that struggles with critics who cry out about the potential negative effects poker brings to the country’s youth, Cada brings a unique voice to the conversation. And while he did run remarkably well at the final table, it’s hard to argue that the young pro doesn’t have some abilities.In what turned out to be the pivotal hand of heads-up play, Cada made a tough call for all of his chips holding J 9 on a 10 9 5 10 board after Moon made a huge check-raise to put him all in on the turn. When asked by an incredulous reporter about his call, Cada downplayed it, saying, “Once you break down the hand and think about it, it’s not that tough of a call.”Sure enough, Cada’s read was right. Moon was just on a straight draw and a blank river sent him a monstrous, game-changing pot.While Cada is humble about his own abilities and fully admits that he got lucky at the final table numerous times, he says that it is undeniable that poker is a game of skill and it is clear that he will do whatever it takes to help the industry fight back against the UIGEA , the 2006 law that severely hampered online poker sites.“The Poker Players Alliance is something I really believe in,” Cada remarked. “Poker is not gambling. There is decision-making, there’s logic, there’s math, and I think that taking away online poker takes away peoples’ rights.”While Moon and others said they would go into the shadows after the WSOP even if they won, Cada says he’ll be out in the public eye, playing tournaments and going on any interviews that media outlets want.“I’m very excited to take on this role,” said Cada.
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