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Poker Stories: The Moneymaker Effect

Chris Moneymaker’s big win at the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP) was the defining moment that brought poker into the mainstream. He was just a normal dude, an accountant from Tennessee, who won an online satellite for $60, went to take a shot in Vegas, and ended up $2.5 million dollars richer. And yes—Moneymaker is his real name!

The power of Moneymaker’s story was that anyone can win big at poker and suddenly find themselves waking up as a millionaire. To win the WSOP, he had to battle through poker legends like Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, and Phil Ivey. Moneymaker became a celebrity; he went on to be the first poker player to go on a talk show since Amarillo Slim appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show after his big win in 1972.

In the years after Moneymaker’s victory, attendance at the WSOP skyrocketed from 839 contestants into 2003 to 2576 in ‘04 to 8773 in ‘05. Poker had made it big. Or, as Phil Hellmuth put it, “The 2003 championship was great for our game.”

(Photo Credit: The Independent)

The 2003 World Series of Poker

To claim the title and the bracelet, Moneymaker had to beat some seriously tough competition. On his second day of play, he found himself at the camera table with Johnny Chan. When he busted the legend with an ace high flush, he thought to himself, “Well, I guess these players aren’t as good as I thought.” He knew he had a chance.

One of the most nail-biting moments was at the final table with Phil Ivey. The two players got it all in on the turn, Phil Ivey with a full house and Moneymaker with two pair. When the river brought Moneymaker the miracle full house on the river, his bigger boat beat Ivey’s smaller one. All that was left was to take down the entire tournament.

“This is beyond fairy tale!” exclaimed ESPN's Norman Chad when Moneymaker won it all. “It’s inconceivable!” Not only would Moneymaker’s life never be the same, but he would go on to change poker forever.

The Moneymaker Effect Takes Hold

At its heart, the Moneymaker effect is all about a relatable character who takes down the establishment. He’s David squaring off against Goliath. Fans at home who tuned in and saw Moneymaker beat the likes of Chan and Ivey thought to themselves, “If Moneymaker can do it, then I can do it too,” and the rest is history.

More people began playing the game, both online and in person. They were all chasing after that American dream, the belief that if you work hard enough and get a little lucky, then no matter who you are or where you come from, you can make it big.

Anyone can be a money maker.


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