There is a challenge that weighs on the WSOP's main event champions. After winning the biggest prize in the game, they are often out to prove that their victory wasn't a result of sheer luck. Regardless of their actual ability, public perception of their game is dependent on a few editor-selected hands, and for most players, that doesn't quite provide the representation they would like. The only way to really prove to everyone that their game is top tier is to continue to win, and to make things worse, every player wants to tell a story about busting a world champion. Players who win the main event quickly learn that they need to make some adjustments in their game if they want to continue to thrive.
Carlos Mortensen won the World Series of Poker main event in 2001, and since that time, no player who had won the main event had returned to the winner's circle in Las Vegas. Of course Phil Hellmuth has added a few bracelets since the boom began, but despite many close calls, those who shined in the post-boom spotlight had never achieved that second moment of greatness.
Until Monday, when 2009 WSOP main event champion Joe Cada defeated one of the toughest fields in the Series to win the $10,000 buy-in six-handed no-limit hold 'em bracelet. It was a moment "The Kid" had come close to over the past few years and one he's searched for ever since his incredible November Nine comeback.
"Just winning a bracelet in general is amazing," Cada said to the WSOP after his win, sporting a University of Michigan shirt like he had in 2009. "To win two is a great feeling."
In this six-max event, Cada faced a final table filled with familiar faces even to those who just tune into the game once a year. There were two November Niners in Jeremy Ausmus and JC Tran, Erick Lindgren, 2011 WSOP Europe main event final table member Max Silver and Italian Dario Sammartino, who ranks 51st in the GPI.
By nature, six-handed no-limit hold 'em is an aggressive, swing-filled game, and those who watched the final table stream on WSOP.com witnessed just that. Sammartino and Ausmus began the final table fifth and sixth in chips, respectively, but the two took opposite paths almost immediately. Ausmus doubled up on the 12th hand against Cada then eliminated Sammartino four hands later with Q-Q against J-J. Holding the chip lead, Ausmus, who won his first bracelet in October, seemed comfortable and began to pull away.
Ausmus remained in control despite an untimely double for Tran, who called all-in with Q-7 after Ausmus' small-blind shove with 10-7. Tran flopped trips to double but was still short.
Silver eliminated Lindgren in another small-blind/big-blind confrontation (K-4 > 10-9). This was the fourth consecutive year that Lindgren has made a WSOP final table, and in three out of those four years, his appearance came in a six-handed event.
Tran and Cada were locked up in third and fourth, respectively, before Cada found a good spot against Silver. Tran lost a race to Ausmus (A-Q < J-J) to finish in fourth, and three hands later, Cada finished off Silver with A-8 beating 10-6. Tran, coming off his main event run last year, has two fourth-place finishes at this WSOP in addition to a 38th-place run in the $1,000 Event 21.
Ausmus entered heads-up against Cada with the lead, and the two battled for nearly 30 hands with a simple approach of winning as many small pots as possible. Cada was able to even the stacks, and after all the grinding, one race would essentially determine a winner. Cada held pocket eights; Ausmus held Ad-Jd. Despite a river flush sweat for Ausmus, Cada doubled up and owned the majority of chips in play. Five hands and one double up for Ausmus later, Cada coolered his opponent, winning the tournament with pocket queens besting pocket jacks.
As heartbreaking as it was for Ausmus, who has 27 career WSOP cashes and five top-five finishes, he handled the defeat with class and congratulated Cada.
Couldn't get that gold but picked up a lot of cheese. Congrats to @cada99 on his 2nd bracelet and thanks everyone for the support!!!
- Jeremy Ausmus (@jeremyausmus) June 17, 2014
Since his main event championship, Cada has made four WSOP final tables with a win, a runner-up and two fourth-place finishes. He has $10.2 million in career live tournament earnings. Greg Merson, the 2012 WSOP champion, won this event days before the start of his main event run that year.
"There's a lot of variance. There's so many players in these tournaments. It's tough to win. It's tough to go deep and make the final table. You need a lot of things to go right, no matter how well you play," Cada said to the WSOP. "I don't really let that stuff affect me. I just try to focus on playing every decision how I think is correct."
Below are the complete results of Event 32 at the 2014 World Series of Poker:
Event 32: Six-handed no-limit hold 'em world championship
Prize pool: $2,481,600
Players in the money: 30
1. Joe Cada ($670,041)
2. Jeremy Ausmus ($414,104)
3. Max Silver ($273,646)
4. JC Tran ($185,971)
5. Erick Lindgren ($129,192)
6. Dario Sammartino ($91,670)
7. Martin Jacobson ($66,382)
8. Kyle White ($66,382)
9. George Danzer ($49,061)
10. Hiren Patel ($49,061)
11. Scott Clements ($36,975)
12. Lee Markholt ($36,975)
13. Layne Flack ($28,414)
14. Brock Parker ($28,414)
15. Igor Kurganov ($28,414)
16. Ashton Griffin ($28,414)
17. Leonid Markin ($28,414)
18. Ben Volpe ($28,414)
19. Jared Jaffee ($22,483)
20. Nick Schulman ($22,483)
21. Benjamin Pollak ($22,483)
22. Markus Gonsalves ($22,483)
23. Samuel Greenwood ($22,483)
24. Matt Waxman ($22,483)
25. Wade Townsend ($17,793)
26. Brigette Lau ($17,793)
27. Samay Parikh ($17,793)
28. Larry Wright ($17,793)
29. Jeremy Kottler ($17,793)
30. Wai Kin Yong ($17,793)