A 21-year-old Michigan poker professional who chose cards over college won the World Series of Poker main event in Las Vegas early today, winning $8.55 million and becoming the youngest player to win the tournament in its 40-year history.
Joe Cada of Shelby Township, Mich., turned over a pair of nines early after 46-year old Darvin Moon called his all-in wager with a suited queen-jack, setting up an about-even race for most of the chips on the table.
But a board of two sevens, a king, an eight and a deuce didn’t connect with either player’s cards and gave Cada the win.
“I ran really well and I never really thought this was possible,” Cada said. “It was one of those dreams and I’m thankful it came true.”
The hand abruptly ended a final table that saw Moon, a logger from western Maryland, bounce back to a dominant chip lead after being down 2-1 in chips to start the night.
“I knew if I could catch, I got him,” Moon said of the final hand. “I just took a shot.”
Cada broke a record for the tournament’s youngest winner set last year by Peter Eastgate of Denmark. Cada is 340 days younger than Eastgate.
The record was previously held for two decades by 11-time gold bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, who posed for pictures with Cada after the win.
When asked what’s next for him after reaching the pinnacle for poker so early in his career, Cada said: “To win it back-to-back.”
Moon and Cada traded the lead several times in 88 hands spanning nearly three hours of play, with one 20-minute break.
Moon won $5.18 million for second place.
“I only play good when my back’s against the wall,” said Cada, who was nearly ousted from the tournament on Saturday when he held about 1 percent of the chips in play after 123 hands.
The players traded chips atop a table with a stack of cash and a gold bracelet on its felt, and in front of nearly 1,500 screaming fans in a capacity crowd at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Their tug-of-war ended an epic tournament that began with 6,494 players in July.
Unlike Cada, who said he regularly plays about a dozen tournaments at a time online or three at a time in heads-up cash games, Moon hasn’t played a single hand of online poker. He doesn’t even own a computer or have an e-mail address.