A Decade After Chris Moneymaker

[LL] “Who’s your favorite World Series of Poker Main Event champion?” Leroy the Lion inquired of Roderick the Rock.

[RR] “Chris Moneymaker. His win inspired me, like a lot of people, to play Texas Hold ‘Em”, Rod replied. “I didn’t know he had won right away, because I was watching the tournament1 on ESPN’s recorded broadcast, but I was rooting hard for him for the last few tables as if I could affect an event that was 2,400 miles away and had already happened.”

[LL] “Truth is stranger than fiction. I’m sure the conspiracy theorists had a field day when a charming but financially struggling Tennesseean with a wife and newborn daughter, got in through a satellite he didn’t want to be in to enter a second satellite he didn’t want to win to earn a buy-in into the Main Event he didn’t want to play. Moneymaker then sold off part of his action to a guy named Gamble, somehow got picked to win it all by a guy named Diamond, and then outlasted 838 opponents through five days of play to win the most coveted bracelet in the poker world.”

[RR] “And the unbelievable name! M-O-N-E-Y-M-A-K-E-R. Unreal. His German ancestors2 may have created silver and gold coins, but Chris popularized a new way of chasing the American dream.”

[LL] “Some people say that the boom was coming no matter what because of the enlightenment of hole cams, the proliferation of shows on TV, and the convenience of Internet poker. But there’s no way that Sammy Farha3, as charismatic as he is, would have had nearly as big an effect.”

[RR] “Yeah, he was already a professional poker player, so the big jump may have had to wait another year, when amateur Greg Raymer won the main event.”

[LL] “Wouldn’t have been the same. Fossilman4 was a *lawyer* ;-). Maybe Jamie Gold if he isn’t too smarmy for people.”

[RR] “But who knows what else would have changed if Moneymaker hadn’t won. Maybe Gold never gets involved in the TV show where he meets Johnny Chan, who then tutors him in Hold ‘Em, and doesn’t enter the 2006 tournament.”

[LL] “Hard to believe Moneymaker’s win was ten years ago. The size of the Main Event field peaked three years later, when Gold won his wheelbarrow of money, but has withstood the shutdown of the major online poker sites in the U.S.”

[RR] “This year there were 6,352 entrants, roughly what it’s been every year since 20075, and I expect it will stay around there until the U.S. government legalizes online gambling again.”

[LL] “States are starting to, so my fingers are crossed that it’ll be in the next few years.”

Footnotes:

  1. The end of the tournament was broadcast on ESPN in prime time two weeks after it happened.
  2. The family’s last name was Nurmacher until they moved to England and translated it to Moneymaker.
  3. Sammy Farha finished in second place after a bathroom discussion failed to complete a deal to split the top two prizes. Moneymaker credits that discussion with giving him a big strategic edge as he figured Farha would want to keep pots smaller because of his perceived skill advantage.
  4. Greg Raymer is a fossil collector and uses one as a card protector.
  5. 6,352 is within a thousand of 2010’s 7,319, the highest total of the last seven events and only six below 2007’s 6,358, the previous low of that period.

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