About Chris Moneymaker
He turned $86 into $2.5 million and a worldwide poker boom. And yes, for the millionth time ... that is his real name.
At this point Chris Moneymaker has most definitely worn out his surname - at least as a starting point for a mainstream media anecdote. But there's still no sign of the poker boom he started (or mostly started) slowing down.
The humble accountant from Tennessee turned poker icon is likely the most influential poker player in the history of, well, the world. And he's still out there grinding, sharing his joy of the game with fans almost two decades later.
The $86 Satellite That Changed the Poker World
He was the kind of little boy who played bridge with grandma. He grew to love playing blackjack with his father, but after seeing the movie Rounders, he was hooked on Texas Hold'em.
Now a legendary WSOP Main Event champion, Chris Moneymaker once led a pretty mundane life. After receiving a master's degree in accounting from the University of Tennessee, he spent most of his waking hours crunching numbers as an accountant and serving part time at a local restaurant.
But he was not meant to live a life of mediocrity in Spring Hill, Tenn. After all, he is born under the sign of Scorpio - these creatures have passions burning under their deceptively controlled manners.
Thus, his journey to the high rollers' table began with the click of a mouse. After beating out eighteen other players in an $86 satellite, Moneymaker found himself with a seat in a qualifier for the largest and most prestigious tournament in the world of poker.
Just one victory later he had won a $10,000 buy-in for the 2003 WSOP Main Event.
Moneymaker Slays Sammy
But his struggles didn't end there. Despite working two jobs, he didn't have the money to fly to or pay for a room in Vegas, so he was forced to sell part of his entry to his father and a friend, aptly named David Gamble.
He promised them each a cut of his winnings, which turned out to be more than either benefactor expected.
After grinding out his amateur status in the opening days of the 2003 Main Event elbow to elbow with the likes of Johnny Chan, Howard Lederer and Paul Darden, Moneymaker fought his way to the final table and made it to heads-up play with seasoned pro Sammy Farha.
Moneymaker admits to having offered Farha an even chop of the combined first and second place prizes. This was a sign of respect to be sure as Chris was enjoying a sizeable chip lead at the time of the proposition.
Perhaps Sammy read it as a sign of weakness; he turned down the deal and opted to play for the whole shebang.
Amateur or not, Moneymaker more than held his own against the veteran. In one of the most pivotal bluffs in Main Event history, Moneymaker moved all-in on the river with nothing but king-high. Already short at the onset of the hand, Farha had a significant portion of his stack invested by fifth street.
Despite holding top pair, Farha released the hand and the rest, as they say, is history.
Overnight, he went from "I work two jobs" to "I'm a high roller" and celebrated victoriously by blowing $25,000 at a strip club. To balance out his karma, he also donated $25,000 to cancer research. Needless to say, Moneymaker was living up to his moniker.
More Than a One-Hit Wonder
Some say Moneymaker's win revolutionized poker. He was the first person to become a world champion by qualifying online, and his triumph marked a resounding realization that is now quite obvious in this new age of online gambling: Anybody can become a professional poker player.
"I was a little underestimated because no one knew who I was," he said, after winning. "If I can win it, anybody can."
This revelation enticed scores of new players to sign up and try to follow in the footsteps of the Tennessee accountant.
Despite his success on the felt since his big win many still regard Chris as a one-hit wonder, a fish who got unbelievably lucky to take down what was, at the time, the biggest tournament in the history of poker.
Instead, however, Moneymaker's game - and personality - have grown in leaps and bounds.
While his total tournament earnings is still under $4m, not much more than his original big score, Moneymaker has made it a point of emphasis to evolve his game both live and online.
He's taken coaching from online pros, battled it out at the highest (and lowest) stakes and still found the time to take photos and shake hands with a ring of fans around his table.
He remains one of the most popular players at any tour stop, and still, to this day, the face of one of the most important poker institutions.
- Chris Moneymaker: "You Either Evolve or You Get Passed By"
- Chris Moneymaker: "I Still Want to Win As Bad as I Ever Did"
A Global icon for PokerStars
Poker sponsorship can be a fleeting thing for poker pros young and old. Not for Chris Moneymaker.
Not only did Moneymaker actually win his entry to the 2003 WSOP Main Event on PokerStars, he became a sponsored pro for the online poker site/global poker conglomerate and never looked back.
Neither has PokerStars. Despite ownership changes, branding shifts and, you know, being indicted and shut down in an entire country, PokerStars' loyalty to Moneymaker has never wavered.
He's still to this day a central figure in their marketing and promotions and has participated in more promotional events, both within the United States and around the globe, than likely any poker player ever.
From sitting and chatting at the play-money games to one of his more recent promotions, the $86 Moneymaker PokerStars Players Championship tour where they gave away $30k packages to play the 2018 $25,000 buy-in PSPC, Moneymaker has never wavered from the position he established all the way back in 2003.
He's just a humble guy who likes to play poker. No more or no less. And it's impossible to underestimate just how far - and for how long - that will resonate in poker communities near and far.
Moneymaker is married and has a daughter, Ashley, who was born just three months before his big WSOP win. As he said shortly after his win, should his poker career continue to be successful he very much wanted to send his daughter to college.
There may still be a year or two to go before they pack up the station wagon and drop her off on campus, but it's pretty safe to say Chris has seen that promise through. Chris and his second wife, Christina Wren, currently live in Nashville, Tennessee.
Moneymaker is again on the 2019 ballot to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.