Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker with a full house consisting of three fives and two fours. The 27 year old accountant took home a first prize of $2.5 million dollars in the victory.
Since 2003, it's a good bet that no one has heard the question more than Chris Moneymaker:
"Come on, is that your real name?"
It is a trite, but still reasonable question. After all, Chris, a one-time accountant who pulled down around $40,000 a year, found a way to turn a lifetime of gambling into the biggest contest and payout of his life. Chris managed to make it into the World Series of Poker, scrap through a record field, and rise to the very top for a $2.5 million payday.
What began as a childhood of playing bridge with his grandmother, morphed into a later love of blackjack with his father.
Though gambling coursed through his veins faster than lifeblood, Chris labored through his accounting degree at the University of Tennessee, scored a Masters degree and settled into a perfectly suburban life of numbers crunching and gambling fantasy.
Credit the film “Rounders” with Chris’ internal revolution. Like the movie did for thousands of young wannabe players, it shot Chris and his friends into the world of Texas Hold’em. Soon, knocking around his friends wasn’t enough. He wanted to test his mettle against some unknown chip-slingers. He wanted to find a card room. The sad fact was, however, Chris would’ve had to travel four hours from home to sit down at a legal table.
Sure, Chris dabbled around at other online poker sites, but PokerStars’ muti-table tournament schedule intrigued him. It drew him into countless $20 and $30 events. He started rising through the competition, cashing and even winning some of those huge events. It would seem like a big deal at the time. That is, it would seem like a big deal until Chris found himself entering a $39 satellite tournament.
MUST BE MAGIC
It was a simple $39 satellite with 18 players in it. Chris couldn't bring himself to believe he even had a chance among those few 18 players. He just wanted to have a little fun and educate himself a little better in the ways of tournament poker.
Then, it happened. Chris won it and found himself smack dab in the middle of a satellite to the World Series of Poker.
Now, Chris had more opponents. He had to face down more than 60 other players. What’s more, the potential prize was almost unthinkable. The winner of the big satellite would go to Vegas with a $10,000 buy-in to the World Series of Poker.
As the hours went by, Chris’ stack of chips grew. When it was over Chris stared at the screen and realized he was about to play for the chance to be a world champion.
He’d turned $39 into $10,000.
It wasn’t magic. It was Moneymaker.
IGNORANCE IS BLISS
Chris strolled into Las Vegas’ Binion’s Horseshoe and looked around. Sure, there was one of his personal heroes, Johnny Chan. But for some reason, he didn’t feel nervous. Looking back, he realized that he should’ve been. In that building stood the greatest poker players in the world. The beauty of it was this: because he wasn’t nervous, he wasn’t intimidated.
Still, Chris knew he didn’t have the real world, real casino card room experience. He studied his face, wondering how many tells he would give off when he sat down at the table.
So, he did all he could do. He draped his head in a hat and covered his eyes with sunglasses.
When he started to play, his only goal was to salvage his pride and survive through the first day. He did himself one better. He ended the first day with more than 60,000 in chips. With that day behind him, he decided he now wanted to make it into the money.
His success, though, landed him in an uncomfortable position. On Day 3, he landed on one of ESPN’s televised tables, sitting with well-known professionals like Paul Darden, Howard Lederer and Johnny Chan.
Perhaps it was inevitable, but Chris finally had to face his amateur status. Chan raised the pot and Lederer put in a re-raise. Chris sat back, studying Chan, wondering why the pro was taking so long to make a decision about the re-raise. Then Chan spoke. Not to Lederer. Not to the dealer. Chan was talking to Chris.
"You know it's on you, right?" Chan asked.
Chris looked down and saw his cards sitting in front of him. He’d never folded.
Under a blanket of guffaws and chortles, Chris made up his mind. He’d just looked as foolish as he possibly could. Now it was time to win.
By and by, Chris battled his way to the final table and ultimately to a now historic heads-up match with well-known pro Sammy Farha. Still, he couldn’t conceive of winning the whole thing. That was, he couldn’t conceive of it until his flopped two pair made a full house and crushed Farha’s flopped pair of jacks.
MONEYMAKER: THE PRO
There’s nothing quite like winning the WSOP to turn a player into an overnight pro.
Since that fateful day in 2003, Chris has spent his months adjusting to life as an instant celebrity. He’s been forced to adjust his style of play to thwart the people who believed they’d picked up reads on him from his televised play.
Chris has since proved he is no one-hit wonder. He’s traveled on the tournament circuit, hitting some of the biggest tournaments in the world, including World Poker Finals at Foxwoods, the WPT Invitationals, the PokerStars Caribbean Poker Adventure , the Bay 101 Shooting Stars tournament, and the European Poker Tour Grand Final in Monte Carlo. Click here to review some of Chris’ results.
Chris also recently started his own company, Moneymaker Gaming.
For more on Chris’ life story, be sure to check out his book Moneymaker: How an Amateur Poker Player Turned $40 into $2.5 Million at the World Series of Poker.
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