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It’s been 20 years since Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP

When Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker in 2003, his story sparked a new era of poker. As the first person to win the Main Event after winning an online qualifier, Moneymaker became a standard bearer for the everyman poker player. 



He wasn’t a pro or even a Vegas grinder. He was a normal dude, an accountant at a restaurant chain, who also just so happened to be named Moneymaker. When he won, he inspired a new generation of poker players who dreamt of becoming millionaires overnight like he did.


If he could do it, then anyone could. This became known as the “Moneymaker effect,” and a lot of people joined the game because of it.


Now let’s take a closer look at the man behind the myth.


Early years


Chris Moneymaker grew up playing outside with his friends and in a pretty normal family. He was introduced to gambling from a young age—his friends would roll dice in the basement and gamble on them. “I won 80 dollars and thought it was one of the greatest things ever,” he recounted in an interview.


 He was a good student, especially in math and science. That is, at least until he went to college and discovered beer. His grades went downhill, and his prospects weren’t good. But, through the gift of gab, he was able to talk his way into an internship at a prestigious company after studying accounting.


In the early 2000s, back when online poker was just getting started, Moneymaker started playing online to help support his family. At that time he was working as a controller at a restaurant group, and he would have his spreadsheets on one monitor and his online poker table on the other.


The big win


When he won an online WSOP qualifier, he headed off to Vegas, where he met world-class players like Phil Hellmuth and Doyle Brunson. “I was literally one of the youngest people in the field,” he said.


Another young upstart, Phil Ivey, played at Moneymaker’s table, and he wasn’t intimidated at all. Since Ivy was the same age as Moneymaker, “he didn’t scare me one bit.” he said. “Ignore is bliss.”


After his big win at the WSOP, it actually took six months for people to realize what had happened. It’s kind of shocking considering now we keep up-to-date with what’s going on as it's happening, but it was a different world back then.


Sure, he had the money, but the publicity hadn’t begun yet. He went back to his day job and thought, “Ok cool, I won a tournament, but it’s no big deal.”


Then the sponsorship deals started pouring in. Since then, Moneymaker has been a full-time advocate for the game, always trying to promote poker and foster a sense of community.


“I’ve been around the game for 20 years and always done right by everyone,” he concluded. “If you need something, I’m going to do my best to help you.”



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