Joe Cada's first two World Series of Poker bracelets went to his parents, Anne and Jerry. After all, they were his biggest supporters, emotionally and financially, since the start of his poker career, even if they weren't at first overly enamored with his career choice.
On Saturday night in Las Vegas, Cada finally won a bracelet for himself.
Cada beat out a field of 363 competitors in the three-day, $3,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em Shootout tournament, the third event on the spring/summer World Series of Poker schedule for 2018.
Cada, 30, of Shelby Township, took home $226,218 and became the 90th member of the three-WSOP-bracelet club, after winning the 2009 Main Event and a $10,000 buy-in tournament in 2014. His career earnings in WSOP events now are more than $10 million.
"I'm gonna go get some rest," Cada said, laughing, during a conversation with The News late Saturday night (early Sunday morning Eastern time), when asked how he was planning to celebrate.
Cada, a big University of Michigan fan, beat Sam Phillips in heads-up play — and Phillips, it should be noted, is from Columbus, Ohio.
On the 195th hand of the final table, Phillips shoved with his ace-four, and Cada called with pocket sixes. The board, or five community cards, ran out no improvement for either play. That left Cada with almost all the chips. On the very next hand, Cada finished things off, turning his pre-flop jack-three into a full house for the championship.
Earlier, in three-handed action, Cada eliminated a fellow member of the Main Event champion club, Joe McKeehan, to take a huge chip lead into headsup action with Phillips.
It was a glorious end to a long and often-frustrating day for Cada, who said he wasn't getting good cards early. But eventually, fortunes shifted his way — including a rivered straight that earned him a critical double-up at the final table.
"I didn't really get many hands early, so I used my image on a few hands; I three-bet some marginal hands, like 9-8 suited," Cada said. "At the beginning, I was pretty card-deaf for a while."
In a unique twist, to start the 10-player final table, the players all were relatively even on chips, because of the shootout format. Players advanced through the tournament by eliminating all the players at their table.
For Cada, this was his second final table in just two events played in the 2018 WSOP schedule, which is surprising when you consider Cada actually has been drastically cutting back on his poker lately. He cited burnout, but also has been tending to his father, who recently suffered a stroke. Cada also has made time, recently, for vacations, like a recent trip to Hawaii with his girlfriend. Traveling and indulging has never really been his style, since he started playing online poker at 14.
Yet, interestingly, Cada told friends before the start of WSOP play last week that he was feeling really good about his game, despite the lack of action.
He placed ninth in the second event on the schedule, a $10,000 buy-in tournament, for a $27,582 payday.
"I have played, since I was 14 or 15, religiously, and I got to a point where I really burned down. It was hard to open a computer and grind online. It seemed so insignificant. I just wanted a break," said Cada, who used to average 90 hours a week playing cards, mostly online. "I've been doing really well the last few years, it's not like I needed to play.
"In fact, the last time I played a poker tournament (before this week), besides charity events, was last year's WSOP.
"It's not like I was ever planning on quitting for good," added Cada, who wore a gray-and-navy blue Detroit Tigers cap at Saturday night's final table at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino. "I just wanted a break, and luckily poker is one of those things where you can take a break. It's not like a sport where you get out of shape or lose your touch."
In other WSOP action Saturday, Michigan's other recent Main Event champion, Clarkston's Ryan Riess, made a strong run in the $100,000 buy-in high-roller tournament, but finished just outside the cash cut. Riess, the 2013 Main Event champion, was eliminated in 18th place; the top 16 got paid.