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Chris Moneymaker: I Still Wanna Win as Bad as Ever
He'll always be known as the man who changed the course of poker history.
But how has the game changed him?
Almost 10 years on from his monumental upset of Sammy Farha in the 2003 WSOP Main Event, Chris Moneymaker is still - surprisingly to some - out on the road grinding for a living.
Some might even say his game is better than it has ever been.
Our colleague at PokerZeit.com, Dirk Oetzmann, caught up with Moneymaker at the recent EPT San Remo and got his reflections on the past, present and future of the most famous name in poker.
PL: Almost 10 years has passed since you won the WSOP title. Looking back, what are your thoughts on this time span?
CM: The years flew by. I wish I had treated the game more seriously earlier, instead of thinking I had it in the bag.
I was complacent with the game for a long time. I could read people pretty well, but my fundamentals were terrible.
PL: You led a “normal” life before poker brought you into this. Does this feel like a normal life now?
CM: Yes. But I’ve always tried to keep my normalcy. I never went too far from reality, stayed a family man and like to stay home.
But, on the other hand, I do enjoy poker. I never play to the point where I get burned out, but I can play pretty much wherever and whenever I want.
PL: A lot of champions who came later are now long gone, but you are still around.
CM: I’m not sure if they are really gone. Greg Raymer, for example, or Joe Hachem, they still play.
The guys who you don’t see anymore are guys like Jamie Gold – who got in a little bit of trouble because he got involved in a couple of high-stakes cash games where maybe he shouldn’t have, or Jerry Yang, who likes his regular job and never wanted to be a guy in the spotlight anyway.
And then you get people like Peter Eastgate, who semi-retire at a very early age but then come back and are now at it again.
PL: You lead a completely different life than the young degen poker nerd, but they seem to burn out a lot quicker. Is your way the better way?
CM: It’s a lot harder. To bring a family life in line with a poker player’s life is very hard.
The monetary standpoint, the travel standpoint. I get out and play poker, and then I get like five hours of sleep on the plane.
Then I arrive home and have to be ready to go with the kids. There is no way around it.
If a young guy burns his bankroll in one night, all he has to care about is himself. If I wanted to go out and play, say, a $50/$100 game, I couldn’t do that because I don’t have the funds for it.
I have four mouths to feed, so I have a different mindset.
If I was on my own, I would probably go and play the highest cash games I could find. Or at least pretty high.
PL: Poker has changed dramatically. How do you keep up with new styles?
CM: Coaching. I have a guy who helps me spot trends and tells me what’s going on, talks about things like what guys 5-bet you but don’t necessarily have aces, but could also do this with Q-5.
My coach is Calvin Anderson. He goes by “cal42688” online, and he’s really good. He’s probably the best I know.
I met him two years ago during the PCA. We were out with some guys on a thing they called “Fish and Chips.” A recreational thing where you played tournaments and went fishing.
So Calvin, his roommate Wade Townsend and some other guys hung out together, and I was really impressed with their game. So I said to Calvin “Look, you’re gonna have to help me out.”
Also, I can’t play online, so I need some other way to keep up with what’s happening.
PL: Would you move to be able to play again?
CM: Actually, I was looking at some places to set up a second home in Toronto.
It’s a really cool city with a lot of poker players. As it turned out, I didn’t do it, because I would have missed most of the WCOOP anyway.
Also, I travel a lot to play all the EPTs, LAPTs, NAPTs, maybe I shouldn’t go to Canada to play online as well.
So, rather than that, I practice live poker more. This is the first season, for example, where I’m playing all the EPT events instead of just two or three.
PL: Are you still as hungry as you were 10 years ago?
CM: I’d lie to you if I said yes. My motivation in 2003 was I was broke and literally hungry.
I was Rocky Balboa on the street. But things have changed, I’m much more comfortable now, but I’m still motivated to play well.
I still wanna win as bad as I ever did. But whoever you are, if you are comfortable, you’ll never be as hungry as you were.
PL: How long do you think you can go on with this?
CM: A long time. Maybe not as long as Doyle Brunson, but pretty long.
Also, I really like to travel around, especially in Europe, where there are so many interesting places I haven’t been to.
But I don’t see myself being 70 years old and trying to find a big cash game. I will leave that to my kids when I’m that old.
PL: You were one of the first members of team PokerStars.
CM: Actually, I was number two. Quiz question: Who was number one.
PL: I have no idea.
CM: Tom McEvoy. He was signed in 2002. Me, Joe and Greg used that as a trick question.
PL: How much “team” is there in Team PokerStars?
CM: Back in the days there was a lot of team. Greg Raymer, Joe Hachem and me would spend tons of time together.
Our families knew each other, we were a real team. We were really close.
Then the company began expanding financially, and it would get to the point where I would see a new team pro and go “who the fuck is that?”
But most of the younger guys know each other. Like Jason Mercier and ElkY, they do a lot of things together. And as Joe and Greg are gone, I don’t hang out that much with the team pros anymore. But a lot of them do.
When I’m finished playing, I just want some quiet and crash. The young guys, on the other hand, they go out and do … they do … who knows what they do.
But I’m too old for that.
PL: What’s going to happen the day Full Tilt goes back online?
CM: it’s going to explode. It’ll be number two behind PokerStars right away.