2007 World Series: ESPN Feature Table with Chris Moneymaker

by Craig Cunningham

You know when you're playing at the ESPN Feature Table when you go to your assigned table seat only to find a new table number hanging over the table. PokerStars qualifier Dane Steven Cass walked from one end of the Amazon Room to the ESPN set and found Chris Moneymaker three seats to his right.

If Matt Damon and the movie "Rounders" were the tinder, then Chris's victory in 2003 was the spark that launched the poker explosion. Chris sat in a t-shirt and shorts, sunglasses atop his PokerStars cap. He now resembles the athlete of his youth, down from the oversized Chris who won the Main Event. "I remember the first time I saw my win," he said. "I turned to a friend of mine and said, 'Do I really look that big?' He said, 'Uh, yeah.'"

Chris has a bet with his father-in-law that he can get down to 175. He knows about making weight as a wrestler in Tennessee. "I wrestled at 119 pounds as a freshman in high school," he said. "I was 0-23. It was pretty humiliating." By the time hew was a junior, Chris was 19-5. "One time I couldn't make weight, and my coach told me I had to. I swallowed tobacco to get sick to get there."

If wrestling was an acquired taste, soccer was his passion. Chris played on a travel squad throughout his junior years. "We played in Europe and throughout the South. My father coached me and traveled to all my games." A midfielder throughout his time in soccer, a knee injury in college ended his soccer exploits.

Chris and Dane got involved in a pot. Dane limped in early position, and Chris called from the small blind along with two other players. He pulled his sunglasses on. The flop came 3s-5c-3d, and Chris bet 300. Two players called, including Dane. 7s came on the turn, and Chris bet 1,000. Dane called as the big blind folded. 4h came on the turn, Chris checked, and Dane bet 1,500. Chris called, and Dane pulled in the pot with pocket sixes.

Chris sat, mucked his cards, and said, "Good hand." He folded his button then got up to talk to his father. After a brief talk, he headed back to his seat. He took a sip from his Mountain Dew and tightened his grip on the 16.5k in front of him. Chris Moneymaker sparked the poker explosion because he was the everyman, one of us who gave us hope that we could do the same if we could figure out poker. He's easily recognizable and signs autographs continuously outside of the Amazon Room, but it's easy to see that he's really still one of us. He's just a son confiding to his father, their bond as strong now as when Chris played youth soccer twenty years ago.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in