The Story of Chris Moneymaker, 2003 WSOP Champion

Josh H
by Josh H  |  Owner and Editor-in-Chief
The moment of Chris Moneymaker 2003 WSOP triumph, which changed the poker forever
The moment of Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP triumph, which changed the poker landscape forever.

Chris Moneymaker

Chris Moneymaker is the aptly named (yes, that’s his real name) winner of the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event. He is largely credited with helping to start the online poker and World Series of Poker mania. Moneymaker exemplified the everyday poker-playing dreamer who is long on hopes but short on money and experience.

The fact is that Chris had absolutely no live tournament experience walking into the WSOP and walked out a poker World Champion. The first of the Poker Stars trio of Champs, Moneymaker turned a humble $39 satellite at the online poker site into a $2.5 million win at the Main Event against a then-record 839 players.

If Moneymaker can do it, anyone can

His WSOP win was so monumental because the “sport” had largely been dominated by the pros up until that point. To TV viewers, Chris was an average guy… just like them. By winning the biggest poker tournament in the world, Chris set off a barrage of amateurs who wondered, “If Moneymaker can do it, why can’t I?”

Chris Moneymaker fired the hopes of every average Joe out there. Why couldn't they do it, too?
Chris Moneymaker fired the hopes of every average Joe out there. Why couldn’t they do it, too? (source:

His win was one of the major reasons new poker players flocked to the game (especially online games) and dreamed about poker immortality and huge prizes. We’ve seen online poker grow to enormous status in our society and watched the WSOP turn into an absolute spectacle with massive fields and prize pools.

Chris Moneymaker’s humble background

An accountant by trade who earned about $40,000 per year until the WSOP, Moneymaker has a Masters Degree from the University of Tennessee and he later recalled those days as some of the best in his life on FSN’s Poker Superstars. You can credit his grandmother’s bridge games, his father’s love of blackjack, and the film Rounders with introducing him into the game.

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With a casino cardroom hours away from his home, he turned to PokerStars as a new poker player. The rest is history.

Road to victory at the 2003 WSOP

I give Chris a lot of credit for his accomplishments. He discusses his first World Series of Poker experience as a mixture of excitement and self-consciousness, but not nervousness. After all, this was his first live tournament. He remained collected on the first couple of days of the Big One. Probably starting from Rounders, one of Chris’ poker heroes was Johnny Chan.

By Day 3 of the Main Event, Chris made it to an ESPN-featured table and was mortified when Chan had to remind him that it was his turn in a hand because he was taking too long. Of course, he goes on to win the event capped with a beautiful bluff at the final table against seasoned veteran Sammy Farha.

Sammy Farha, a seasoned pro, fell victim of Moneymaker's big bluff. The rest is history.
Sammy Farha, a seasoned pro, fell victim to Moneymaker’s big bluff in the 2003 WSOP. The rest is history.

Even though everyone viewed him as a lucky amateur, the fact is that he played an excellent week of poker and is a talented player. Since his win, he’s done quite well on the major tournament circuit finishing at the final 2 tables in 3 major events in 2004. In 2011, he finished second in the NBC National Heads Up Championship, losing to Eric Seidel in the final round. His total live earnings as of 2016 stand at $3,600,000.

The fact is that Chris Moneymaker probably would’ve been a successful tournament player in his own right given the opportunity to do so. The 2003 WSOP gave him that opportunity. From interviews and TV coverage, he seems like a soft-spoken everyday guy who’s taking his celebrity status in stride. He is also a member of the Team PokerStars.

Chris Moneymaker and life after the victory

Chirs has been very grateful for the opportunities that his sponsorship deal with PokerStars has created for him. The man who played a no small role in the global poker expansion has had the first row seats for the spectacle, watching the game grow beyond anyone’s imagination.

Since 2003, a lot has changed in poker, and Moneymaker is well aware of the fact. Winning tournaments these days is much harder then it used to be back in early 2000’s. An average player has become much better, and it is getting harder and harder to keep up the pace.

You’re looking at 21-year-old kids who do nothing but study poker, talk poker, and play poker, and that’s all they do 24 hours a day basically. (C. Moneymaker for PokerStars blog)

Staying ahead of the curve requires a lot of time and energy, and it is sometimes difficult to keep learning and getting better with all other everyday obligations.

However, Chris maintains he does the best he can these days to fix his leaks and learn the new things. He may not have all the time in the world to devote to poker alone, but he is certainly not throwing in the towel just yet.

You can follow Chris on Twitter @CMONEYMAKER

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