HomeNewsMain Event WSOP 2009 – 2015 Champions: Where Are They Now?

Main Event WSOP 2009 – 2015 Champions: Where Are They Now?

In anticipation of the start of the World Series of Poker, we recall the main event WSOP champions and tell the story of how their destinies unfolded.

Read previous part about the main event WSOP 2000-2007 champions here

2009: Joe Cada — the youngest of the WSOP Champions

Main Event WSOP 2009 Champion Joe Cada

Joe Cada made history as the youngest champion of the WSOP Main Event. He won the main poker trophy at the age of 21.

As a teenager, Joe Cada worked as a waiter. At the age of 14 (a year before the “Moneymaker Boom”), he convinced his mother to deposit $50 into his poker room account.

He did not attend discos, never danced a slow dance, and was generally a quiet, shy child. He simply told his mother to consider the $50 as just another trip to the movies or any other $50 expenditure. At first, she didn’t like the idea. Working as a dealer in a casino, she had seen firsthand the problems people faced due to gambling addiction. However, after that, he never asked her to make another deposit.

After high school, Cada enrolled at Macomb Community College but dropped out by the age of 20.

For his WSOP victory, Joe Cada received $8.57M. He attempted to use the money to open a bar-restaurant and set up a charity poker room in Sterling Heights, but both ventures were unsuccessful. Cada also used the prize money to buy a house and a Cadillac Escalade — the biggest purchases of his life.

He is not frugal but simply not materialistic. Joe Cada still wears the same clothes he wore in high school. He doesn’t buy a new car after every win. Spending $100K on a car or something expensive doesn’t bring him joy when his family members continue to live their usual lives. For him, such purchases are a waste of money.

Joe Cada continues to play poker to this day. He has won a total of four WSOP bracelets, and his offline winnings have exceeded $14M.

2010: Jonathan Duhamel — the most unlucky of all WSOP champions

Main Event WSOP 2010 Champion Jonathan Duhamel

Jonathan Duhamel, like Joe Cada, started playing poker in high school. He also enrolled in university but didn’t finish. However, there is one difference: after winning the Main Event, problems began to pile up for him one after another.

In December 2011, Duhamel was robbed, with his Main Event bracelet, Rolex watch, and $150K in cash stolen. The robbers, Anthony Bourque and John Stephen Clark Lemay, along with driver Andres Valderrama, were arrested, and half of the stolen amount was recovered. An accomplice in the crime turned out to be Duhamel’s ex-girlfriend, Bianca Rojas-Latraverse. She was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.

Jonathan Duhamel and Bianca Rojas-Latraverse

The bracelet was found by sheer coincidence in February 2012. Utility workers were cleaning the Ville-Marie River tunnel in Montreal. After draining the cleaning machine, “what was left of the bracelet” was found in the trash. The “bracelet” was returned to its owner, and Duhamel was happy.

Duhamel’s "Bracelet"

In 2018, the Canadian tax agency filed charges against Duhamel for insufficiently paying taxes on his Main Event WSOP winnings. Tax authorities claimed that Duhamel played poker professionally (note: in Canada, there are different taxes on poker for amateurs and professionals), so he owed an additional $1.2M. The process dragged on for 4 years, and ultimately Duhamel emerged victorious.

In 2020, the Twitter account Rightrhyme accused Duhamel of rape, but beyond the allegations and the circulation of this information in poker media, no further action was taken.

Duhamel has amassed over $18M in live tournament winnings. He announced that he was ending his career as a professional player in 2021 and would only play at an amateur level from then on. His last in-the-money finish on HendonMob is dated 2018.

2011: Pius Heinz

Main Event WSOP 2011 Champion Pius Heinz

Pius Heinz’s career is somewhat reminiscent of Peter Eastgate’s.

After winning the Main Event ($8.71M), Heinz also signed with PokerStars. But immediately after the contract ended, he faded into the background.

My life didn’t change much after the WSOP. I was never a keen traveler, so offline poker doesn’t interest me as much as it does other players. I hate Vegas with all my heart. It’s the worst city I’ve ever been to.

I live in Vienna. I can get to the game in 15 minutes from my house.

Poker has become a hobby for me again. I was a professional before winning the Main Event and for another year and a half after. Now I play when I feel like it. It’s perfect for me. I’m happy.

I just don’t like attention. I prefer to hang out with my friends rather than give autographs and pose for journalists. It’s always been strange to me when strangers approach me and start talking as if we’re old friends.

After winning the WSOP, Heinz cashed in 11 small tournaments, the last one being in 2019 at WPTDeepStacks in Rozvadov.

2012: Greg Merson — one of the WSOP champions who hit rock bottom

Main Event WSOP 2012 Champion Greg Merson

Greg Merson made history at the WSOP by simultaneously winning the 2012 Main Event ($8.5M) and the title of “Player of the Year”: in 2012, he won another bracelet in the $10K NLHE 6-max Championship ($1.1M) and made the final table in the $2.5K NLHE 4-max (5th place, $70.2K).

But before finding success, Merson had a difficult journey. He was introduced to poker in high school, where he excelled academically. At the age of 17, he became addicted first to marijuana, then to cocaine. At 20, he entered a rehabilitation center for the first time.

After the events of “Black Friday,” Greg Merson moved from Atlantic City to Toronto, Canada, and again became dependent on substances: Adderall and OxyContin.

At the end of 2011, Greg Merson went to Las Vegas and arranged a detox for himself: he locked himself in a room at the Aria hotel for three days.

I was nauseous and shivering. But since then, I haven’t even drunk beer.

I realized that drugs and poker are incompatible.

It sounds cliché, but poker really saved my life.

Now Greg Merson is happily married and raising two daughters. He continues to play to this day.

2013: Ryan Riess

Main Event WSOP 2013 Champion Ryan Riess

Ryan Riess has been fortunate twice in his career.

The first time was at the WSOP Circuit in Hammond, where he played the $1,675 Main Event despite it being far beyond his bankroll:

$1,675 was my entire bankroll at the time. But I got lucky: I made it to the top 3 and won $270K. It was my first cash in live tournaments ever. That’s where my poker career began.

The second time was at the WSOP in Las Vegas in 2013:

I played the entire series and only cashed a few small events. In the end, the series was breaking even. So I decided to sell shares of my WSOP Main Event to family and friends. With some players, I just exchanged shares. My share was just under 50%, which was pretty good.

At that time, I was still a poker novice. But during the series, I managed to bond with other players. We talked and discussed hands together.

I was very naive but fearless. I didn’t pay attention to other tables and didn’t think about the money at stake.

I think to win something, you first need to believe in your victory and then start working hard. Looking back, I realize I wasn’t the best player in the world and didn’t even rank in the top 1000.

The victory brought Riess $8.3M in prize money. He also cashed for a similar amount in other tournaments after winning the WSOP. Ryan Riess is happily married, raising three daughters, and still actively playing to this day.

2014: Martin Jacobson

Main Event WSOP 2014 Champion: Martin Jacobson

Before getting into poker, Martin Jacobson was studying to become a chef and even worked aboard a ship in the Royal Fleet of Sweden. He started playing poker in high school. After his first trip abroad, he began playing online poker in an internet café.

Martin Jacobson won a seat to the Main Event WSOP in an online satellite and hesitated for a long time whether to go or not. In the end, he asked his mom for advice, and she said, “Go!”

A documentary film has been made about Martin Jacobson’s victory at the WSOP.

His victory at the WSOP brought in $10M. Martin Jacobson continues to play to this day. He is a member of the organization Raising for Effective Giving, whose participants donate at least 2% of their tournament profits and 3% in cash to charity. Jacobson also teaches poker. His course “Prepare Perform” can be purchased for €299.

2015: Joe McKeehen

Main Event WSOP 2015 Champion Joe McKeehen

Joe McKeehen started playing poker at the age of 18, primarily offline. By the time he was 21, he had amassed a bankroll of $185K, all while simultaneously studying mathematics at Arcadia University.

At that time, I had the least desire to work in my field of study. I was too lazy for a real job. Besides, I was already winning six-figure sums. The hourly pay in poker turned out to be much higher than what I would have earned working with numbers.

During spring break in 2013, McKeehen won the $1,675 WSOP Circuit Main Event in Atlantic City. The first prize was $174K plus a ticket to the $10K WSOP Circuit National Championship. However, the tournament coincided with his graduation.

My parents didn’t even argue with me. $10K is a huge amount of money, and sacrificing it for some graduation ceremony wasn’t worth it. What good would come out of that celebration? However, I played terribly in the $10K National Championship. My parents didn’t support my passion for poker, but the main thing is that they gave me the freedom to play.

His victory at the WSOP Main Event brought McKeehen $7.6M in prize money. He immediately distanced himself from the glory of being a winner:

I couldn’t care less about the glory of being the Main Event WSOP winner. It’s ridiculous to think that the winner of the Main Event WSOP should be some kind of poker ambassador. I’m just trying to make money and enjoy the game. And I always tell journalists to go to hell!

In 2016, McKeehen unleashed a tirade against journalists on his Twitter because the WSOP tournaments started at 11 am (supposedly they were to blame for this).

The fact that the media has ANY influence on players and tournament organizers is a stupid joke. Journalists have no idea what tournaments are like, how they are run, but players get a ton of crap because of them. I realized this when I just started playing offline.

However, Daniel Negreanu and Seth Palansky (WSOP press secretary) explained to McKeehen that the media had no influence on this decision. And that in 2015, some tournaments started at 10 am, and no one complained.

After such interactions with the media on Twitter, several fake accounts of “Angry Joe McKeehen” (Angry__Joe and due904) appeared. His official account – dude904 – is private, and only friends can read McKeehen’s Tweets.

Joe McKeehen continues to actively play to this day. In total, he has accumulated over $19.5M in live tournament winnings.