Fifteen years ago, the poker world was introduced to Chris Moneymaker. The accountant from Tennessee with an unthinkable last name earned his way into the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event via a satellite on PokerStars for a paltry $86. Moneymaker went on to win the event thanks to a storybook run in poker’s greatest tournament and recently was the subject of the acclaimed 30 For 30 Podcasts by ESPN.
“They actually approached me about doing the TV series, 30 for 30, a while back and I thought that sounded really cool,” Moneymaker said of the opportunity with ESPN. “Then I guess they didn’t think I was cool enough for the TV show, or they saw my face and said that I have a face for radio, and they moved it over to the podcast (laughs). A guy came to Memphis, where I live, and spent three days with my wife and I, just hanging out and being part of the family. I did a bunch of interviews and then basically did about a million follow-up questions. It was a cool process. I haven’t heard the podcast yet myself, but I’d be interested to hear what the others [on the podcast] said. I know kind of what I said because I’ve said it a few times, but it’d be interesting to hear what Matt Savage and some of the others guys said.”
Moneymaker’s story is the stuff dreams are made of. Even though his big win was 15 years ago, at times it still appears that the relationship Moneymaker has with poker is still going through the honeymoon period. Make no mistake about it, though, the man once very open about his amateur status in the game now comes with a win-first mentality.
“My goal is that whenever I come into a room, I want to take everybody’s money, but I want them to be really happy when I do,” Moneymaker said.
Since his WSOP Main Event victory, Moneymaker’s been on the ride of a lifetime, and understandably so. Many would argue his win was the win in poker. It catapulted Moneymaker into poker stardom and since then he’s been triumphantly serving as one of the game’s most prominent ambassadors.
“It’s been pretty surreal,” Moneymaker told PocketFives of the last 15 years. “There’s been ups and downs like anything else. Mostly it’s been up, but obviously, there’s downsides of it, too. At the end of the day, poker went through a very hard time around Black Friday, and I think that we’re coming out and we’re recovering. There are other things that are attracting the younger generation’s attention that we’re sort of competing against for the new players coming up, but I think Twitch and what everyone else is doing is helping get us some buzz. We have things like PokerGO putting out great content, too.”
One of Moneymaker’s recent trips took him to Reno, Nevada, for Jason Somerville’s Run It Up Reno VII festival. He brought with him the Moneymaker Tour, his brightest ambassador costume, and fierce-but-fun-loving competitiveness. While there, Moneymaker, alongside PokerStars, helped dish out another Platinum Pass in the stop’s $86 buy-in Moneymaker Tour event, deemed the “Moneymaker Spectacular.” That tournament attracted the largest turnout of Run It Up Reno VII, with 825 entries blasting away in hopes of winning the $30,000 Platinum Pass package. In the end, it was Nathan Manuel achieving a lofty goal he set out to complete months prior.
“First of all, [PokerStars] gave all of the ambassadors one seat to give away and our goal was to send everybody here to Reno and give away that seat,” Moneymaker said. “It morphed into giving away a Platinum Pass away at every single stop [on the Moneymaker Tour], which is just absolutely incredible. It’s huge for me because I give someone else the opportunity that I had 15 years ago to turn $86 into life-changing money. Even for people go down there and don’t make anything, there’s a lot of people who can’t afford to go to the Bahamas so it’s already life changing for them. Then they have the opportunity, if they work hard or they want to get better, that I’m offering resources to help them get better and give them a real shot at making something in this tournament. My hope is that one of the people that won one of my tournaments makes a deep run or wins the [PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship]. Actually, I hope I win it, let’s be real, so they can get second (laughs). Again, to me, it’s about giving someone else the opportunity that I had so many years ago. It’s been really the most enriching experience to go through and play at every one of these stops. We’ve had people come in that have never played poker before or haven’t played poker in 10 years or never been to casinos before.”
While in Reno, Moneymaker cashed in three events for a total of $8,015 and was one player away from taking home a Run It Up Reno trophy when he placed second in the $235 6-Max 8-Game tournament for $5,400. If he’d have won that event, Moneymaker could’ve added the trophy right next to his bevy of PokerStars NJCOOP titles, of which he scored two more earlier in the month of October.
Ever since online poker became legal in New Jersey and PokerStars launched PokerStarsNJ, “Money800” has been a regular fixture in the Garden State’s virtual streets, locking horns with the best the state has to offer and coming out on top. In April 2018, he won two NJCOOP titles and placed second and fourth in two other NJCOOP events during the series. In October, Moneymaker doubled the weight of his NJCOOP bag by adding two more titles in back-to-back days.
“It’s awesome,” Moneymaker said of being able to play regulated online poker in New Jersey. “It’s been, what? Two, three years now? I’ve had really good results in NJCOOP since I moved up there to play, and it’s always good the time the series comes in. There are a couple games I like to focus on. I always focus on the 8-game and a couple of the other variants, and they have all those so I really enjoy playing that series because they have a lot of different variants to play.”
When playing regulated online poker in New Jersey, Moneymaker can often be found on Twitch streaming his grind when he’s there for some action. Back when Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event, and for much of the 15-year period between his win in 2003 and now, online poker streaming wasn’t a thing. Now, it’s everywhere, serving audiences in both entertainment and enhanced instruction.
“Back when I won [the WSOP Main Event], there was Super/System and Mike Caro’s Book of Tells,” Moneymaker said of poker’s new age involving Twitch and streaming. “I think those were the only two books, maybe a few more. There just wasn’t that much poker material out there. No one knew what they were doing, and now, you have all this free access. If you want to learn and get good at poker, you can do it for free, which is through time. All it takes is time, and energy to sit there and ask questions and watch a good streamer play. And there are so many different streamers to choose from. You can find one that fits your style, obviously, there are so many training sites and videos, there’s just so many resources now that poker is just so much more difficult now. The average player is just going to be better. That’s a tough thing for new players getting in the game, as they’re coming into a very knowledgable market that knows what they’re doing and it’s tough to just come in without trying to learn. To just be a recreational player, it’s difficult to sort of break through and be successful. But, the great thing about poker is that there is luck in the game and even people that aren’t as experienced are going to have good runs and maybe win a main event.”
*Photo courtesy of Run It Up.