Shelby Township: Michigan resident is all in; World Series of Poker champ enjoys a winning lifestyle

By Tim Twentyman

The Detroit News

Shelby Township (AP) -- It's been almost two years since nine days of high stakes poker in Las Vegas changed Joe Cada's life.

Cada, at 21, became the youngest winner in the 40-year history of the World Series of Poker main event.

The victory was worth $8,546,453 -- half of which went to two gamblers who sponsored him -- and millions more in sponsorships.

Now, at 23, the Utica High graduate admits to living the easy life.

"I travel a little more than I used to," he said from the couch of his new home in Shelby Township with his golden retriever Bosco at his side. "It's a lot less stressful now. Besides that, not too much has changed besides moving into this house.

"My lifestyle is still pretty similar to my last one. Just more travel and interviews and getting recognized is a little different."

Cada bought the home in an upscale Shelby Township subdivision in January. The home features two full bars, a wine cellar, a full basketball court, a home gym and three separate kitchen areas. Cada has plans to install a movie theater in one of his spare living areas and a golf simulation room in the basement.

He also upgraded his ride to a Cadillac Escalade.

"My Jeep Commander was a lease," he said with a smile. "I thought I'd upgrade a little bit."

When Cada's not trotting the globe playing in glitzy tournaments, his days consist of sleeping in, playing a little online poker -- if he feels like it -- and hanging out with friends.

More free time has allowed him to pick up Jujitsu, too.

The one-year endorsement contract he signed with following the main event title in 2009 was recently extended through 2011. Cada couldn't disclose the amount of the new endorsement deal because of a confidentiality agreement with the company, but his first contract was worth $1 million.

Over the past year and a half, has paid for Cada to travel and play in tournaments in London, Spain, Monaco, the Bahamas, Costa Rica and Brazil. Not to mention his travels across the U.S. for appearances at the North American Poker Tour and other tournaments.

"I don't think you're ever really ready for a life-changing moment like that," Cada said of his sudden fame. "It's hard to prepare for it. It's different. I mean you go from just sitting in your house every day playing poker and the next thing you know, everyone knows who you are and all you did was win a poker tournament. It just happened to be the big one."

Cada said his newfound millions have taken a lot of stress out of his life, but it's also had an adverse affect on his poker.

"I don't play nearly as much as I used to," he said. "It used to be 60 to 70 hours a week (online), sometimes. Now, I just play when it's convenient and when there's nothing to do. I've been picking it up more and more, trying to get back into it, though. I always play on Sundays, unless I'm on vacation or something.

"I find myself being a little more lackadaisical and almost taking advantage of it a little bit. Poker-wise, it's hurt a little bit. But I can't really complain at the same time."

Since his main event win, Cada has cashed in just one live tournament. He finished 11th at the Poker Stars Caribbean Adventure last year and won $51,450.

"Online, I've been doing decent and I've been making big runs. One tournament, recently, I think I won $40,000 or something. I've been doing all right online."

Cada participated in 10 events at last year's World Series, including the defense of his main event title, but failed to cash in any tournament.

"I've always said that my biggest accomplishment in poker was not winning the main event, you can easily get lucky and win the main event," he said. "My biggest accomplishment was being successful at the higher-stakes games when I was younger. Playing some of the better online players and continuing to make money, rather than winning one big tournament."

Cada made a name for himself before the 2009 World Series by winning more than $500,000 as an online player.

"The way that I won the final table (in 2009), I get scrutinized a lot because I sucked out a lot," Cada said.

Cada "sucked out," or beat the odds to win a hand after all his chips were at stake, more than one time at the final table. His win has been characterized as "lucky" by some in the poker community and it's something Cada admits has followed him around since the win.

"That's the game," he said. "You can't always know every single time when you're ahead or behind. You just have to do what's right considering the math and logic. The same plays I sucked out on are the same plays I make every day online.

"It's hard for viewers or non-poker people to understand. It sucks that every time someone looks at you they judge you on the TV coverage of one hour of the final table. My goal is to make the main event final table again and win another big tournament to prove myself again, in a way."

But those who know Cada best don't consider his main event lucky.

"Joe's one of the best players I know," professional poker player and Lansing native Dean Hamrick told ESPN at last year's main event. "I think he got a bad rap because of the way he won the tournament (in 2009). People don't know he was never all-in before that final table. He played phenomenally. He played well for eight days and then got lucky when the cameras were watching. He gets a bum rap."

But poker isn't the only thing occupying Cada's time these days.

He spends much of his free time with his girlfriend of almost two years, Trisha Ann Stephens of Macomb Township. He also is working on a business venture.

"Right now, I just joined up with a financial group and I'm thinking about starting up a bar," he said. "Now, I've settled down and I'm looking at ways I can increase my money. I really didn't go out and spend it. It took me a year or so to find a house.

"My dad and I were looking at locations for the bar last week. I actually have time to do it right now. Before, I was always gone and it's tough to start a business when you're always gone. We are definitely trying to get a jump on it and hopefully get a lot by the end of this year."

Cada said he hasn't come up with a name for the bar yet, but said it'll be in the Shelby Township area.

Soon, though, poker will be all that's on Cada's mind.

The 2011 World Series of Poker starts in May and Cada is already looking forward to the event. The World Series is 58 tournaments in all variations of poker, with buy-ins ranging from $500 to $50,000 per event at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

"I think most players look forward to the World Series," he said. "It's the next biggest thing."

A good showing would only increase Cada's celebrity status.

"I'm a huge sports fan. Lions and Pistons and all our local teams," Cada said. "I got to be on the sidelines for the Ohio State/Michigan game. I got to go back in the Pistons locker room and meet some of the guys like Rip (Richard Hamilton). It's hard getting used to the fact that those guys know who I am."

Published: Wed, Apr 27, 2011


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