Michigan’s Joseph Cada dropped out of community college after three semesters to make a go at becoming a professional poker player.
Early Tuesday morning at the Rio, the 21-year-old became the game’s biggest name and, in the process, won more than $8.5 million.
Cada defeated Maryland logger Darvin Moon in a nearly three-hour heads-up match to win the World Series of Poker’s $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em world championship.
Cada broke the record set a year ago by Denmark’s Peter Eastgate as the youngest-ever World Series of Poker Main Event Champion. Cada turns 22 on Nov. 18.
Maryland logger Darvin Moon, 46, finished second and took home $5.182 million.
On the night’s 87th hand, Cada called Moon’s all-in raise in what ended up becoming a 150 million pot while holding a pair of nines. Moon, who lost the chip lead a few hands earlier and was trying to mount a comeback, had a queen-jack of diamonds.
The pair of nines on the flop held as Cada buried his head on the shoulder of a friend and couldn’t watch as the turn and river cards were revealed.
After receiving his World Series of Poker champion’s bracelet, Cada thanked Moon and the capacity audience inside the Rio’s Penn & Teller Theater, which included about 150 close friends and family members wearing yellow T-shirts and cheering Cada on loudly throughout the night.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m sure it will soon,” Cada said.
The two began play at 10:36 p.m. Monday with Cada holding an almost 2-to-1 tournament chip advantage over Moon.
However, Cada and Moon changed leads several times as Monday became Tuesday morning.
Moon took a sizeable chunk of Cada’s chips on the first hand of the night. When the first break was taken at 11:56 p.m. and after 52 hands, the players were almost even. Cada had 98.95 million in chips and Moon had 95.85 million.
On the 330th hand Moon took the chip lead, 114.6 million to Cada’s 80.20 million. About 10 minutes later, Moon was up to 145.2 million and Cada had 49.6 million.
“I didn’t get down because I was trailed before,” Cada said.