It was his unprecedented victory in the 2003 WSOP
Main Event that set off a chain of events that created what’s known today as
the “poker boom.”
The legendary win over Sam Farha in the final heads up skirmish of the Main Event created the famous “Moneymaker effect”, giving hope to millions of people worldwide that they, too, could replicate his success.
And, to make it all even better, Moneymaker
didn’t pay $10,000 for the privilege.
He won his seat in the Main Event via an $86
It was Norman Chad, the legendary poker
commentator, who perhaps best described it after the final hand was over and
Farha was eliminated:
“This is beyond fairy tale. It’s inconceivable!”
And, for the time, it truly was.
Chris Moneymaker knew that his life would
change at that point, but he probably had no idea how much.
He probably couldn’t have imagined he’d become
an icon of sorts, the man that many would look up to in the years to come,
looking to replicate his success.
So, what ever happened to Chris Moneymaker?
What has he been up to after playing his role in helping pull poker out of
obscurity and turning it into a global phenomenon?
Was It Destiny?
Before moving on to what happened after, it’s
interesting to look at before and a story about Moneymaker’s success that not
many poker fans know.
The future Main Event winner indeed won his
seat through an $86 satellite on PokerStars.
However, what’s not widely known is that Chris
didn’t actually want to win the seat.
He talks about this in his book that describes
his journey to victory. Namely, after going through the $86 event, he found
himself in a $650 tournament awarding seats to the Main Event.
When the event got four-handed, there were
three $10,000 tickets up for grabs while fourth-place finisher would take home
$8,000 in cash.
Moneymaker needed money (no pun intended), and he
planned to simply give his chips away and bust out, locking up the cash.
It was only because of his friend who talked
him out of it and promised to give him $5,000 for half of the action in the
tournament that Chris had changed his mind.
Considering how impactful Moneymaker’s victory
was and how big of a role it played for the expansion of poker, it’s hard to
escape the feeling that destiny had somehow been involved.
Had Moneymaker thrown away his stack, he wouldn’t have been there for the 2003 Main Event. There would’ve been no epic heads up battle against Sam Farha, and the term “Moneymaker effect” (and all that it entails) would have never been born.
The friend never delivered on his promise, but
it was too late for Moneymaker to change his mind. He’d already secured his
seat in the Main Event, and there was no turning back.
Poker Success And Personal Struggles
For Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 win was huge.
It wasn’t just the money he won in the
tournament but a host of other opportunities that suddenly started to open up.
He was soon signed by PokerStars and became one of the room’s main ambassadors.
His lifestyle had pretty much turned
He traveled the world and played in poker
tournaments, with his buy-in and travel expenses often covered by PokerStars.
Chris enjoyed it very much – not just the
playing part but also everything that came with it: traveling, partying, and
enjoying life to the fullest.
His wife at the time wasn’t nearly as happy,
For her, the sudden lifestyle change was simply
too much. She couldn’t keep up with all of it, and, eventually, the two decided
to go their separate ways.
Moneymaker admits that he was perhaps enjoying
the lifestyle a little too much – but who could blame him? It was a dream come
true that no one could have prepared him for.
Although the divorce cost him quite a bit, it
wasn’t too hard for Moneymaker to get back on his feet.
With his PokerStars sponsorship and all sorts
of endorsement deals coming his way, he managed to rebuild his finances and
never had to stop playing poker.
Turning A New Page
A couple of years after his epic victory,
Moneymaker met his new wife, Christina Wren.
Christina knew what she was signing up for marrying a high-profile professional poker player, so their relationship was set on different foundations.
Still, Chris struggled to find a good balance
between his professional and private life, and the new marriage wasn’t without
However, after a few years of this lifestyle,
Moneymaker was ready to turn a new page. He wasn’t going to stop playing poker,
of course, but he decided that the life of partying and going out almost every
night was simply too much.
In a 2018 interview with ESPN, Moneymaker
explained that his priorities had been much different for nearly a decade.
After busting out of a tournament or wrapping up play for the night, he prefers
to go to his room to watch Netflix, study some poker, or play video games with
In the same interview, he shared that the
hardest part of being a professional player and a family man was coming back
home after weeks, only to let your spouse know you’d lost thousands of dollars.
It’s very hard for most people to wrap their heads around this notion, and without being a player themselves, they simply can’t understand how brutal variance can be, especially in tournaments.
Luckily, Moneymaker has managed to work it all
out. Today, he lives in Tennessee with his wife Christina and their three
Moneymaker’s Results After 2003
Although Chris Moneymaker’s impact on poker is
undeniable, his actual skills as a player have often been questioned.
For many, he was the one-hit-wonder, a
“luckbox” that managed to find his way to the prestigious title somehow.
His official results don’t say too much to
counter this hypothesis, as the $2,500,000 win remains by far his biggest score
Throughout his entire career, Moneymaker has
accumulated $3.9 million in live tournament cashes, so $1.4 million over the
His second-largest score was $300,000 for the runner-up finish in the NBC National Heads-Up Championship.
When he qualified for the Main Event, Chris
wasn’t a professional player.
He was a full-time, stay-at-home accountant
with a passion for the game. There is no doubt that his run in the Main Event
was very lucky, but that can be said for every Main Event winner.
You’re not going to win in a huge tournament
unless your luck is in.
Some of those who know Moneymaker, including
the fellow-player and the Main Event champion Joe Hachem, maintains that people
tend to underestimate how good Chris really is at poker.
As for the man himself, he doesn’t seem to care
too much either way. Moneymaker is well aware of his reputation, and he knows
that for some, he’ll always just be a “luckbox.”
That doesn’t change the role he played in the
poker expansion, and he believes it often helps him at the tables.
He is still a member of the PokerStars Team
Pro. The room’s roster has experienced quite a few changes in recent years,
including parting ways with Daniel Negreanu, their biggest and best-known
ambassador. However, Chris Moneymaker is still onboard.
The Man Of The People
Chris may have struggled with his new position
during the first few years, but he never let the poker fame go to his head.
Although he got to spend time with some of the
best players and has certainly learned a lot about poker over the years, his
attitude towards the game has never changed.
During the World Series, he’s often found in
smaller daily events. While many players, especially Main Event winners, would
see this as something below their status, Chris seems to enjoy it a lot.
Although buy-ins are much smaller than those
for bracelet events, he says the overall atmosphere is much more relaxed, and
people who come to play seem to enjoy the game much more.
Plus, with the lower level of competition, he recognizes there is still a lot of money to be made in these tournaments.
For many players playing in these tournaments,
it must be a great pleasure to sit next to such a famous pro.
Of course, big prizes attract players, but
finding a good balance between the money you can win and the actual enjoyment
you can get from playing is just as important for those who make poker their
The Hall of Fame “Controversy”
You’d think that the man who played such an
important role in poker’s growth would be a member of the Poker Hall of Fame,
but you’d be wrong. Moneymaker is still waiting his turn, and, as the rules
stand right now, he might never get there.
He was nominated in 2016, but his nomination
didn’t get enough support. Instead, Todd Brunson and Carlos Mortensen were
inducted that year.
The problem with Moneymaker’s induction is that
he’s different from all other players. Looking at his results, they’re quite
So, many other names seem more deserving in the
players’ category – players who have been around for much longer and have had
much better results.
At the same time, he’s never been a
“contributor” as such. His contributions came as a byproduct of his play. So,
he doesn’t quite fit in that category, either.
Moneymaker himself doesn’t have a strong
opinion on the topic either way.
Of course, he’d be happy to receive such an
honor, but he’s aware that he’ll forever be a part of poker history no matter
what. His legacy is simply too big and significant.
Considering all this, perhaps the nomination
committee should come up with the exception of some sort to officially make
Moneymaker’s name a part of that history.
I don’t think too many people would mind it as
a one-off, and I believe it could only be good for poker.
Where Is Chris Moneymaker Now?
Moneymaker hasn’t been particularly active on
the felt in recent months. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise since almost
all PokerStars live events were canceled in 2020.
The only recorded result on Hendon Mob comes
from a small event back in March last year, in which Chris managed to seize the
first place for $9,000 and change.
Moneymaker didn’t take part in any of the
online WSOP events.
This may be partly because he doesn’t agree
with the whole concept and because the series was largely powered by GGPoker,
which is currently the biggest competitor to PokerStars.
While his presence on the felt was lacking, Moneymaker didn’t go into hiding. You can still keep up with his plans and whereabouts on his official Twitter @CMONEYMAKER.
He seems to be very active on there and engages
in discussions with his followers all the time.
So, if you have some question you’ve been burning to ask him, give it a try. If it’s interesting enough, he’ll more than likely respond to it.
Check out more guides in this series:
Lead image: YouTube