WSOP 2014: Magic Moneymaker
It's nearly six hours into Day 1 of the World Series of Poker Main Event, and the man who famously won it all in 2003 is feeling generous.
"You want to try the glasses on?" he asks an opponent. "They're magic."
Chris Moneymaker, the man who helped kick off the biggest poker boom in history, reaches down to the sunglasses around his neck and hands them across the table.
"Now, I'm going to give you a piece of advice," he says. "They only work if you actually play a hand. You want to play the lottery, but you don't buy a ticket, and then you complain the glasses don't work!"
He's needling a conservative opponent, but it's all in good fun. The entire table laughs. It's like a redefinition of the so-called Moneymaker Effect. Eleven years ago, his underdog win ushered in thousands of new players to the game. Now, he's entertaining everybody again. It doesn't matter that there's not a camera nearby. The Moneymaker Show is on.
For longtime Moneymaker watchers, it's clear he's come a long way since winning the Main Event so many years ago. In the past couple of years, he's seemed to be a changed man. It's nothing that's easy to pinpoint. It's a sort of new energy he carries with him everywhere. It's almost as if it really is magic.
"It looks like we're going to be breaking soon," he announces. "You don't have long to use the glasses' power."
Magic or not, Moneymaker is doing a good job selling the specs. He's one of several celebrity endorsers for Blue Shark Optics, and--if the performance this afternoon is any indication--he might be their best.
To wit: the guy now wearing the shades isn't the first person at the table to benefit from the Moneymaker magic. There is an older man two to the former champ's left, and I'll be damned if he's not wearing the exact same glasses. Apparently he tried out Moneymaker's and then liked them so much, he literally ran out into the hallway to the Blue Shark kiosk and bought the exact same pair.
"I told the guy to try my glasses, he goes and buys them, and now he's beating me out of every pot!" Moneymaker says.
Moneymaker is stewing, but it's an act. When he stands up to stretch, he says he actually feels fantastic. He should. He has more than 46,000 in chips after starting with 30,000. Nevertheless, he attempts some vocal self-analysis for those listening.
"When I had the glasses around my neck, I was doing great. Now..." he says.
The kid wearing Moneymaker's magic glasses quickly reaches for them.
"Do you want them back?" he asks.
Moneymaker eyes the kid for a second, and then says, "Nah. That's alright. You need a little more chips."
Again, everyone--even the kid--laughs hard. It's a gratifying sound.
In an era when many have criticized poker pros for making the game uncomfortable for recreational players, a world champion is doing the exactly opposite. He's going out of his way to make sure everyone--including himself--is having fun.
Eventually, Moneymaker will get his glasses back, but no matter what he says, most people watching will have a creeping suspicion: the thing that gives Moneymaker's sunglasses their magic is Moneymaker himself.
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging