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Chris Moneymaker

By Paul McGuire

Chris Moneymaker might not be the best poker player in the world. He might not have the best statistics. And he might not have the impressive resume that other professional poker players can boast. But without a doubt, Chris Moneymaker is easily one of the most recognizable faces and names in poker. He definitely has the best last name in poker. Yes, “Moneymaker” is really his last name and the best writers in Hollywood could not have come up with a more appropriate story than what happened at the 2003 World Series of Poker.

The twenty-seven year old mild-mannered accountant from Tennessee, who had never played in a live tournament, won an online satellite via Poker Stars and flew out to Las Vegas. He survived the largest field of players (839 at the time) and had to outlast a final table where he was the least experienced player and that featured a former world champion in Dan Harrington. The heads of battle between Moneymaker and Sammy Farha might have been indicative of things to come in the poker world. The unknown internet player took down a slick and well-tested local Las Vegas card shark.

Chris Moneymaker
Chris Moneymaker - Source: Las Vegas & Poker

A lot of poker scholars give Chris Moneymaker credit for being the catalyst for the recent poker boom. If he had not won the 2003 main event at Binion’s and took home the richest first place prize in any poker tournament, perhaps poker might not have taken off so fast. Like everyone else who’s a die-hard poker fan, we all watched the aloof Moneymaker stumble and bluff his way to a WSOP championship. Thus the “Chris Moneymaker effect” took a hold of the poker community.

Although the public became completely enamored with Chris Moneymaker, a lot of pros laughed at his feat and chalked it up to pure luck. But any player who wins a big tournament has to get lucky once in a while. Perhaps the most important hand of the 2003 WSOP involved Moneymaker and Humberto Brenes. Both players were all-in preflop. Money maker had 8-8 to Brenes’ A-A. Moneymaker won the hand when he caught a set to bust Brenes. It’s because of hands like that one that Moneymaker has had a tough time getting respect from the top pros. Even after Dan Harrington got knocked out of the main event final table, he still picked Sammy Farha to win the 2003 WSOP and suggested that Moneymaker was too inexperienced to handle the pressures in the most difficult poker tournament in the world. Moneymaker shrugs off what other people think. He knew that winning the WSOP did not mean he was the best player in the world, but he also knew that he was good enough to quit his job and play poker full time.

Chris Moneymaker could be one of the guys in your home game. He started playing bridge with his grandmother when he was a kid and that’s where he first found a love for card games. He graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in accounting and eventually got a Master’s degree. He had been working as an accountant for a restaurant in Nashville, TN where he barely made $40,000 per year. At the time, he played a lot of poker with his friends in home games and on the internet. He devoted most of his gambling time to sports betting and usually played poker for enjoyment. When the movie “Rounders” came out, Moneymaker and his friends got hooked on Texas Hold’em. He wanted to play in a live casino. The closest one to where he lived was four hours away. It was not convenient for him to play in a live game, so he turned to online poker. In a short time, he turned $39 into $2.5 million after he won a satellite on Poker Stars to win his $10,000 buy-in to the 2003 WSOP.

To date, Chris Moneymaker has over $2.7 million in tournament winnings, and $2.5 million of that happened in the 2003 WSOP. That win has still put him in the Top 40 of all-time money winners. Although a lot of people think his win was a fluke, Moneymaker still managed to miss a final table at the 2004 WSOP by one spot when he finished in 10th place in the $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha event. That was a tough final table that featured Ted Lawson, Freddy Deeb, Daniel Negreanu, and Howard Lederer.

Chris Moneymaker also made a splash on the World Poker Tour. He made a TV table and finished in second place at Bay 101 Shooting Stars. He won $200,000 after he was the runner-up to Phil “Tiltboy” Gordon. He’s proven that he’s not a one-hit wonder.

Chris Moneymaker still lives in Tennessee where he’s the owner of a company called Moneymaker Gaming. He’s also an ambassador of poker for team Poker Stars and he can still be found playing on their site regularly, when he’s not flying all over the world playing in poker tournaments. He also wrote a book called Moneymaker: How an Amateur Poker Player Turned $40 into $2.5 Million at the World Series of Poker.

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