Day 2 at the World Series of Poker Main Event started with an administrative oversight. On the printed list of “Notable Players” handed to the media, there was nobody by the name of Chris Moneymaker.
Former champions Greg Raymer, Greg Merson, Joe Hachem, Qui Nguyen, Chris Ferguson and Tom McEvoy were duly included, in bold type no less, yet the man sitting on Table 442, Seat 2 was clearly not notable enough. This is despite the fact that Chris Moneymaker is probably the most influential poker player of the past two decades, and despite the fact that he definitely was here in person. He was un-bagging a stack of around 100,000 chips and looking for another deep run in the event he won to great fanfare in 2003.
Moneymaker chuckled when told the news, and allowed an expletive to slip from his lips in feigned outrage. But the laissez faire attitude to something so trivial as a player list is true to form for someone who has never been all that concerned with the trappings of poker fame. In fact, even as spirited campaigns gather momentum hoping to enshrine Moneymaker’s name on the most prestigious list of all notable players — namely, the Official Poker Hall of Fame — the 43-year-old from Tennessee said of the potential honour: “I don’t care. Truly. I don’t think it gets me anything.”
It must have been some kind of cruel punishment then that they moved Moneymaker to the ESPN feature table only a matter of minutes later, where he’ll headline the Saturday afternoon billing on the biggest sports channel in the world. That’s the kind of appeal Moneymaker actually still does have, and which earned him three awards earlier this week. His 2003 success was voted “Most Impressive WSOP Main Event Win”; his bluff against Sammy Farha was named “Most Memorable TV Hand”; and he was nominated as one of the “Four Most Important Players in WSOP History”. That, Moneymaker said, did mean something.
“It was voted on by the fans, so that makes it cool,” he said. “The fact that 16 years later and I’m still remembered as one of the pioneers of the game I guess. I had zero idea I was going to get it.”
It didn’t take long to get Moneymaker speaking with true enthusiasm about his annual trip to Las Vegas. “It’s not like any other event,” he said of the WSOP. “It gives you a super buzz, and you want to play as best you can and make as deep a run as you can, and hang on for as long as you can. We’re on Day 2 right now and obviously it’s all about survival. But it’s been a fun buzz. As long as you’re in it’s fun, but when you bust the main, obviously things go downhill.”
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Moneymaker has come pretty close already this summer to adding another notable success to his resume. He was third in chips heading to the final table of a $10,000 buy-in event at the Aria last week, with $1 million on the line for the winner. But Moneymaker ran into the aces of the short-stacked Sergio Aido, and then lost with pocket kings to Tom Marchese’s pocket eights after Marchese, the eventual champion, turned a set. Moneymaker went out in ninth for $40,000, and said it hurt.
“I wanted to do better,” Moneymaker said today. “I’m a little bit upset with myself, coming in third in chips and busting in ninth. But it happens. Unfortunate couple of hands, getting that deep against that field, I’m very proud of that. That was a brutal field.”
He added: “I felt like I played really, really well for three or four days and obviously in poker in comes down to one hand that can change everything. The whole tournament was tough. There wasn’t an easy spot on my tables pretty much at all.”
Whatever happens during the rest of the WSOP, Moneymaker will soon hit the road again to continue his relentless promotion of the game that changed his life. He’s combining a family vacation to Australia with a small tour of card rooms Down Under, then coming back to do the same through the south of the United States, before going to Barcelona for the EPT in August.
He’s continuing to add new strings to his bow as well, including entering the streaming game. During the Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) in May, some loyal fans got to see Moneymaker, playing from Chile, mixing it on PokerStars. “It’s fun interacting with the fans,” he said. “It’s fun doing that. They had a couple of good clips of me taking some beats, so that’s always fun. A nice reminder of your unfortunate happenings.”
As PokerStars continues to encourage its ambassadors to embrace the new technologies, Moneymaker said he’ll probably look to do more in the world of Virtual Reality than streaming, but will still likely give some of the better known Twitchers a run for their money.
“I don’t want to be Spraggy, Arlie and those guys,” he said. “I don’t want to lower myself to that standard. I’ve got to differentiate myself from them, but I will do some streaming. Someone’s got to keep it fresh and new on there.”
Moneymaker the streamer
No one at the WSOP is asking Moneymaker to do anything fresh and new. That’s maybe why he likes it so much. They may not think he’s a notable player anymore, but he’s still leading the broadcast at time of writing. And long may it continue.
Incidentally, it’s not just the WSOP organisers who are a little muddled about Moneymaker at the moment. Even Wikipedia seems more enamoured by someone called Chris “Moneymaker” Morgan. Your guess is as good as mine.
WSOP photography by PokerPhotoArchive