[LL] “Of course, all of you know Chris Moneymaker’s story”, Leroy the Lion began. “Many players got into poker specifically because of his 2003 WSOP Main Event run.”
[RR] “Indeed, our home tournament started right after it was first aired on ESPN”, Roderick the Rock confirmed.
[LL] “It’s a story almost too good to be true, and it would make a decent movie. But for now, we’ll have to content ourselves with Daniel Paisner’s book, Moneymaker, which came out in 2005.
Moneymaker was a degenerate sports gambler who had amassed $50,000 in debt. He didn’t really have any disposable income. Although he played cards most of life and played some poker, he only learned Texas Hold ‘Em after he had started working full-time and gotten married after college. The guy who taught him, the friend of a cousin of a friend of his, regularly cleaned up at their poker games for a while, but Moneymaker wasn’t discouraged.
His family and friends all played a big part in his story, but Moneymaker made his mark at the card table (both virtual and real), where the most exciting parts take place. More details and some corrections1 have come out since the book, but the gist of the unlikely chain of events remains unchanged:
- His PokerStars account was so low, he had dropped down to playing $0.25 cash games. When he started playing tournaments online, he could only afford $5 buyins.
- The buyin for the first satellite cost most of his bankroll.2
- He didn’t even realize it was a satellite or he wouldn’t have played it.3
- When he won the first satellite, it only got him into a higher-entry satellite.4 The second satellite’s top three prizes were entries into the WSOP Main Event, but Moneymaker coveted the $8,000 fourth prize, which he needed to pay off at least some of his bills.
- When he reached the final table with the chip lead, he was about to intentionally start lose chips to fall in fourth place when his friend Bruce Peery offered to buy 50% of his stake for $5,000 if he won the seat.
- Peery then reneged on his offer, but Moneymaker was bailed out by his father Mike (20%), a friend named David Gamble5 (20%), and two other friends (5% between them).
- On the other hand, Peery’s apology for failing to come up with the cash was a pair of Oakley Straight Jacket sunglasses that he recommended wearing to hide his telltale eyes. Peery also gave Moneymaker invaluable advice to stop looking away when bluffing.
- Moneymaker had never played in a live tournament before he set foot in Las Vegas shortly before the Main Event.
- Moneymaker might not have won the event if Sammy Farha had accepted his pre-heads-up bathroom break offer to split the prizes.6
- Moneymaker got away with the “bluff of the century” against Farha. If Farha had correctly called, he would have had a commanding 7.4 million to 1 million chip lead.
- And of course, along the way, Moneymaker had to survive numerous all-ins and get the right cards at the right time,7 such as the river Ace that knocked out the formidable Phil Ivey on the final table bubble.
Paisner has written fourteen New York Times best-sellers, so, while Moneymaker is not one of them, it is a well-written account of one of the most amazing chapters in poker history that led to a boom that saw the WSOP Main Event jump from 839 to 8,773 players in three years.
|Author||Chris Moneymaker with Daniel Paisner|
|Pros||Very detailed first-person account of Chris Moneymaker’s run to the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event title, including his thoughts during numerous important hands.|
|Cons||More than you ever wanted to know about his sports gambling losses.|
- For starters, the cover of the books says “How an amateur poker player turned $40 into $2.5 million at the World Series of Poker”. Even when the book was published, the correct buyin amount was thought to be $39. Moneymaker himself somehow misremembered though, and PokerStars later discovered and admitted that the buyin was actually $86 in 2014.
- Moneymaker shared this fact in When We Were Kings, posted by Grantland a decade later. Since he thought the buyin was $39, he claimed he had $60 in the account, but the basic idea still holds.
- Also from the Grantland article. Moneymaker claims that the PokerStars user interface wasn’t very clear about the fact.
- The book incorrectly gives the buyin of the second satellite as $600 instead of $650 ($615+$35).
- Key people in the story are named Moneymaker, Gamble, and Goldman (PokerStars marketing guy Dan Goldman). It would be corny if it were fiction.
- Also from the Grantland article. Farha countered that they should play winner-take-all, and no deal was struck.
- On page 154, Moneymaker admits that he got lucky but insists the way ESPN edited the footage made him look luckier than he was.