Joe Cada Puts Michigan Back In The WSOP Spotlight

Written By Kim Yuhl on July 16, 2018
Joe Cada winner photo

The World Series of Poker Main Event is poker’s biggest stage. It is the one tournament every player aspires to win, and it’s the tournament that hurts the most when a player busts.

Poker players from 100 different countries and all 50 states descended upon the Las Vegas, Nevada desert during the seven-week long 2018 WSOP. Players from Michigan showed up in spades and represented the Wolverine State well.

The penultimate event of the WSOP in the Main Event. Every year, just making the money in this event is a goal for professional and recreational players.

This year, several notable Michigan poker players made the money, including:

  • Jordan Young from Muskegon
  • Nicholas Cushman from Saginaw
  • Adam Lamphere from East Lansing
  • Nikolai Sears from Davisburg
  • Thomas Kubin from St. Louis
  • Brian Hou from Rochester
  • Daniel VanDyke from Canton
  • Patrick Steele from Dexter
  • Dan Wirgau from Bloomfield Hills

And while making the money is an achievement in and of itself, everyone is gunning for the Main Event final table.

With thousands of players from so many different countries, it is quite a remarkable feat to have two players from Michigan taking a seat at the Main Event final table. They battled through 7,874 players for over seven days to earn the right to play for the championship.

Shelby Township‘s Joe Cada and Muskegon’s Nic Manion, along with seven other players took their seats under the lights of ESPN to play for $8.8 million and the coveted WSOP gold bracelet every poker player craves.

Cada might be lucky, but no denying his skill

When Cada won the Main Event in 2009, there was no talk of game theory, high roller tournaments only happened occasionally, and online poker was still a thing in the U.S.

Cada was just 21 years old which also earned him the title of youngest Main Event champion. Unlike, his run 11 years ago, Cada entered this Main Event final table as a seasoned poker professional with the experience and the earned respect from the poker community.

It was the end of Day 7 when the nine remaining players officially became the final table. At the conclusion of play on ESPN, Cada, wearing a Detroit Pistons hat said, “I got pretty lucky to get here. It was a battle.”

Maria Ho, who was in the commentary booth, replied, “I think he’s being modest. This is something really special.” She’s right – it is.

The “I got pretty lucky” line stands out, because in 2009 that is what everyone was saying about his performance – that he lucked his way to the win.

Did he get lucky in some spots? Definitely. All you have to do is look at the run-up to any final table, and you will see players that got lucky. To win a tournament, a poker player needs the skill and luck to come together at just the right time.

Since that win, Cada has won two additional bracelets and $2.5 million more in tournament earnings. Making this year’s final table should put an end to the skill versus luck debate that has followed Cada for awhile.

Joe Cada solidifying his legacy

This tournament seemed like it was a lot more work for Cada then it did in 2009. He played Day 1C, and at one point he was down to 9,000 in chips from the 50,000-chip starting stack. When play ended for the day, he only bagged 16,500, which put him near the bottom of the leaderboard.

It wasn’t until Day 3 that Cada started to find some momentum and began to move his way up the leaderboard. He was still far off the chip lead, however. A few well-timed bluffs and yes, a little luck, and Cada found himself through to Day 8, the start of the final table.

The final table plays out over three days. Play continued until six players were left on Day 8. On Day 9, play continued until three players were left. And on Day 10, a champion is crowned.

Cada made it to the second day of the final table. He never was able to get the momentum he needed to gather some chips so he could be more creative with his play. He was eliminated in fifth place earning $2,150,000 for his efforts.

With his appearance at the 2018 WSOP Main Event final table, Cada accomplished more than just a nice run and hefty paycheck. He took another huge step in solidifying his legacy in the game – and he has plenty of game still left to play.

Manion goes from small-stakes grinder to poker spotlight

Manion entered the Main Event thanks to some friends who offered to freeroll him in a couple $2,175 Main Event satellites.

Manion would have his shot at playing the Main Event, and his friends would earn 50 percent of his action.

Like Cada, Manion’s Main Event run had a dismal start. He ended Day 1C with only 11,500 chips in the bag. He hung around the bottom of the chip stacks for most of the tournament. On Day 5, he ended the day with 1,395,000 which ranked him at 95 out of 109 players.

He started to chip up during the second level of play on Day 6 by winning a few key races and making one huge laydown. Towards the end of the day, Manion let go of pocket kings when he felt his opponent had aces.

Folding kings is a rarity in this game, and doing so may just have saved Manion’s tournament life. Being put to that kind of test with all eyes on you and coming out of it with a healthy chip stack is how someone wins a poker tournament.

Manion gaining experience on poker’s biggest stage

It is all about making the right decisions at the right time. Manion ended Day 6 sitting ninth in chips with 26 players remaining.

Manion continued where he left off on Day 7, gathering chips that kept him near the top of the chip counts. And then came the hand everyone was (and still is) talking about.

In the final hand of Day 7, Manion was dealt aces and had two opponents that were each dealt kings. Manion’s aces held up, and he went to the final table with the chip lead.

Also like Cada, Manion had a hard time getting anything going at the final table. Lack of experience on a big stage probably played a part in the bleeding of chips in the early part of the first day of the final table. Manion finished in fourth place for $2,825,000.

It was Indiana’s John Cynn who had all the chips after the last hand was played out. After narrowly missing the final table in 2016 when he finished in 11th place, it seemed as if it was Cynn’s destiny this year.

A player from Michigan might not have won the Main Event, but Cada and Manion and all the players that made the trek to Nevada represented Michigan well.

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Kim Yuhl

Kim Yuhl is a freelance writer and blogger who writes about poker culture and the online gambling industry. A part-time member of the poker media since 2013, Kim recently sold her marketing business to write full-time while traveling around the world. You can learn more about her work and travels at

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