Although there are more accomplished WSOP champions, there are few who can claim to have done more for the game of poker today than 2003 champion Chris Moneymaker. Moneymaker even has a poker phenomenon named after him. “The Moneymaker” Effect refers to the boom in poker activity directly resulting from ESPNs coverage of Moneymaker’s historic 2003 main event victory.
Chris Moneymaker and the WSOP
Before 2003, Moneymaker was an accountant and a largely unsuccessful sports gambler. He did enjoy playing poker occasionally on PokerStars and regarded it as a harmless, if not particularly profitable, diversion. That all changed the day he sat down to play a $39 step satellite on PokerStars. The prize for the satellite was entry into a larger satellite, for which the top three finishers would get a seat into the World Series of Poker, and the fourth finisher a cash prize. Although Moneymaker did not necessarily expect to win, he took the satellite extremely seriously, and sequestered himself to play.
The Historic WSOP Online Satellite
As he climbed the money ladder, he decided he wanted to play for the thousands of dollars awarded for fourth place. Moneymaker had mounting debts and desperately needed the money. However, a friend convinced him to play poker tournaments for the seat, promising to buy half of it if Moneymaker won. Moneymaker decided to play on, a fateful decision that turned his winnings from a few thousand for some debts to a life changing multi-million dollar payday.
Chris Moneymaker, WSOP Champion
To Moneymaker’s dismay, the friend could not come up with the money, and Moneymaker was stuck. Fortunately, his dad came to the rescue and bought part of the seat. This turned out to be a great investment as Moneymaker tore through the 839 player field to get heads up with Sammy Farha. In a heads up match watched by more poker fans on ESPN than any WSOP broadcast before, Moneymaker outplayed Farha to win the title.
Moneymaker’s win proved that an amateur could be a world poker champion, and thousands flocked to their computers to try to win their own WSOP seats on the Internet, creating the poker boom that we know today.