Congratulations Joe Cada – 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event winner

So, after a marathon final table, the World Series of Poker 2009 has come to a close.

Congratulations to Joe Cada, who – at 21 – has become the youngest player to claim the world title.

But it was not easy for Cada to break Peter Eastgate’s record. He had to survive 17-and-a-half hours of play just to reach the final two.

And, despite holding a dominant lead over Darvin Moon after eliminating Antoine Saout in 3rd, the pendulum swung back and forth over the 86 hands of heads-up play before Joe’s pocket nines held against Darvin’s queen-jack of diamonds.

World champion Joe Cada is mobbed by his team of supporters

It marked the end of a remarkable comeback for Cada, who was down to under 2.3 million in chips at one stage during the final table.

But the 21-year-old managed to fight back with a lot of nerve and a bit of luck to take the crown.

A long and winding road

In the lead-up to the final table, all the talk was of Phil Ivey, and whether he could reaffirm his tag as the best player in the world by taking the title.

It was not to be, however, as Moon got lucky when his ace-queen outdrew Ivey’s ace-king to send the Vegas pro packing in seventh place.

Phil Ivey hoped to be celebrating an eighth WSOP bracelet, but at 32 his chance will surely come again

Before Ivey’s exit, two other players had hit the rail after two very different aces-vs-kings encounters.

First out was James Akenhead. After having his chip-stack decimated when his kings ran into Kevin Schaffel’s aces, Cada finished him off to send the Londoner home $1.2million richer.

The next to follow was Schaffel himself. He looked to have put himself back in contention to win the event when he moved all-in with aces again and got a call from Eric Buchman’s kings.

But if the king on the flop wasn’t demoralising enough, Buchman made four of a kind on the turn to end the 52-year-old Floridian’s dream of Main Event success.

And then there were six

Following Ivey out of the door was Steve Begleiter. The former Bear Stearns exec was few people’s favourite to win after making some questionable plays en route to the November Nine, but he seemed to have improved his game after receiving coaching from multiple WPT champion Jonathan Little.

And ‘Begs’ was hugely unlucky in a hand against Saout, where he made a wonderful call on the flop with second pair against the Frenchman’s flush draw only for Saout to leave the New Yorker drawing dead after a third heart hit the turn.

To compound his ill-fortune, he got the last of his chips in with pocket queens against Moon’s ace-queen, but gt outdrawn once again.

Jeff Shulman was unable to emulate his father Barry's success, but he should be pleased with his performance

Next out the door was Jeff Shulman. The 34-year-old pro, who had finished 7th in 2000, didn’t really put a foot wrong throughout the final table. He played a patient game, no doubt influenced by the coaching of former world champion Phil Hellmuth, but it was not his day.

Shulman still managed to get his chips in with the best of it when his pocket sevens led against Saout’s ace-9, but a 9 on the flop ended his main event agonisingly short of the $8.5million first prize.

Crunch time

Eric Buchman must have thought the bracelet was his to lose after his elimination of Schaffel early on, and the New Yorker continued to bide his time and stay out of trouble throughout the early proceedings.

But he opened up his game when the tournament got four-handed, and lost a monster pot with ace-queen against Saout’s ace-king and exited soon after.

Yet again it was a questionable call from Moon which ended a player’s tournament, after the logger’s king-jack outdrew Buchman’s ace-five to send the 30-year-old back to New York with over $2.5million.

With three players left, Saout was most onlookers’ favourite to claim the crown, but two pivotal hands sent the chip-leader crashing out in third place. Who knows what would have happened if the Frenchman’s pocket queens had held against Cada’s pocket twos, or if his eights had held against Cada’s ace-king?

Antoine Saout probably deserved better than third place for his play

The final countdown

But in the end that coinflip ended Saout’s main event. He had turned an original stake of $50 into $3.5million, but still had cause to feel disappointed.

And his exit left Moon and Cada to fight it out for the bracelet. At the start of heads-up play Moon’s stack had barely deviated from the $58.93million with which he started the final table, while the chips of the other eight players had somehow all found their way to Cada.

Despite being less than half the age of his opponent, Cada’s greater experience of heads-up play (as well as his chip advantage) made him a strong favourite to defeat Moon, but it was far from easy.

The chip-lead swung back and forth over nearly three hours of play between the two rivals, but in the end Cada edged across the finish line and stepped into poker history.


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Hi I’m Tom. I’m a freelance journalist, and I recently completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism at Cardiff University. In my spare time I like to play, watch and talk about poker. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

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