Monday, May 17, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Joe Cada got lucky.
Spend time in poker rooms around town and you’re bound to hear someone mutter those words more than six months after Cada, a 22-year-old poker professional from Shelby Township, Mich., won the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event.
Although Cada outlasted nearly 6,500 players to win the most coveted bracelet in poker and more than $8.5 million, two of the most memorable hands from ESPN’s broadcast featured him coming from behind.
Cada twice got all of his chips in before the flop with inferior hands — pocket 3s and 2s versus pocket jacks and queens, respectively — at the final table only to spike three-of-a -kind and survive.
Cada has heard the criticism of the plays ever since, but he doesn’t let it bother him and doesn’t care to defend his decisions.
“I really can’t complain at all,” Cada said. “ESPN does a great job putting footage together and I think they show what is best for TV. I really don’t have much to say in that department.”
Cada hopes his play in this summer’s 57-event World Series of Poker, which kicks off Friday, May 28, at the Rio, will speak for him.
Cada said he would be in Las Vegas all summer and estimated he’d play in 25 of the World Series events this summer.
“The biggest concern of mine is just playing my best and being on top of my game and playing when I’m prepared to play,” Cada said. “I need to take the right steps in order. It’s a long series and it gets draining.”
It certainly will be a different experience than last year, when Cada played in 16 tournaments — cashing in three of them — as an unknown youngster.
In 2010, he will be the center of attention every time he enters the Rio. It’s the final step in a yearlong process a player goes through after becoming the face of poker by winning the Main Event.
By all accounts, it’s a role Cada has excelled at.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better ambassador for the game,” said Ty Stewart, World Series of Poker vice president. “From David Letterman to 'CBS This Morning,' (Joe) has done everything we’ve ever asked.”
Although he’s recognized more often and regularly receives media requests, Cada has tried to keep his life the same as before the victory.
He has not moved away from his home in Michigan and still plays poker online almost every day.
“I’ve been playing a little bit more lately,” Cada said. “Lifestyle-wise, it really hasn’t changed too much. I’m grateful for the opportunity I got.”
Like any champion, Cada said he hopes he can defend his title in the Main Event. Of course, it’s not that simple in poker.
With the field consisting of thousands of players nowadays, it’s considered nearly impossible that one person could win in back-to-back years.
A little luck wouldn’t hurt.