In front of a crowd of thousands who filled the Las Vegas night with chants of his name, 21-year-old Joe Cada won the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event title Monday.
Defeating 46-year-old Maryland logger Darvin Moon to become the youngest Main Event winner in history appeared to be an overwhelming moment for Cada, as tears filled his eyes when the final river card fell.
"I don't know; it still hasn't hit me," Cada said moments after the win. "I don't know what to think."
"I put a lot of time into poker. Poker has been my life for some time now. Doing this the first year out (at the WSOP) is unbelievable. I got really lucky, I ran well and I am very fortunate."
Cada Over Moon for 2009 World Championship
Cada started the heads-up match late Monday night with a better than 2:1 chip lead after a more-than-14-hour first day at the final table on Saturday.
But beating Moon was no easy task for the college student turned online poker pro from Shelby Township, Michigan.
In fact, Moon started to climb back into the match in the very first hand heads-up, dragging a 45 million chip pot with queens over nines.
Over the next hour Moon would win most of the largest pots the two played to draw even and eventually take over, building up an almost 3:1 chip lead without showing down a hand as his many supporters in the crowd grew increasingly vocal.
"I knew Darvin wanted to play some bigger pots and I wanted them smaller," Cada said. "He applied a lot of pressure and did a great job. He put me in some tough spots. He's definitely a hard player to get a read or a line on. He did a great job."
Cada finally took a stand when Moon three-bet him pre-flop and he four-bet shoved for 50 million, forcing a fold to gain back some ground.
Then he doubled through Moon to take the lead back, making a massive call with second pair on the turn and two tens on the board after Moon pushed all in.
Moon had an open-ended straight draw that failed to get there and Cada was suddenly in control again.
"By me checking the flop it's obvious I don't have top pair, so he knows that," Cada said. "I kind of bet smallish, like three million, to entice a raise and there was a lot of draws out there, jack-queens, seven-eight, clubs, and I don't think he's going to ship a ten, not the way he's been playing. He doesn't just ship a big hand like that.
"In the end I thought it was the right call and I had to make it."
Joey! Joey! Joey!
A few hands later, the two got into a pre-flop raising war that saw Cada push in with nines and Moon make the call for his tournament life with Q♦ J♦.
The flop came 8♣ 7♠ 2♣ as chants of "Joey" filled the Rio's Penn & Teller Theater.
The turn brought the K♥ and after the river came the 7♣, the 2009 WSOP Main Event title and $8.5 million first-place prize was Cada's.
Cada's supporters, the loudest group in the room right from the outset of the final nine, roared in approval as he had become the 2009 Main Event champion and Moon was forced to settle for the $5.1 million reserved for second.
"They meant everything to me," Cada said of the crowd of friends and family there to cheer him on.
"They cheered me on when I had no chips. I had two million and they were standing out of their chairs. I got down to 40 million here and I heard them go crazy and that helped me get back in this.
"Momentum is a big thing in poker."
Cada, who said he was put in the tournament by famed online backers Cliff Josephy and Eric Haber in a fifty-fifty deal, said he has no remorse about having to share his winnings.
"I have no regrets," he said. "I knew what I could win when I came in to the tournament and I am very happy they put me in it."
Now comes a year under poker's brightest spotlight.
But the mature-beyond-his-years Cada appears more than prepared for it.
"I definitely plan on playing all the big tournaments, travelling and playing cash games on the side," he said. "I'll definitely embrace it. I want to see poker grow."