In 2003, an amateur poker player named Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, surprising the poker community and capturing the world’s attention. The Tennessee accountant’s story of qualifying for the tournament through a $86 online satellite tournament generated unprecedented interest in poker and catapulted him to celebrity status. In this profile piece, we look closely at Moneymaker’s life and career before and after his WSOP victory.
Life Before Poker
Christopher Bryan Moneymaker was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 21, 1975. He graduated from Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, and later earned a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Tennessee. After receiving his master’s degree, he worked as a comptroller. He also worked part-time at a local restaurant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. They said that Moneymaker’s ancestors made silver and gold coins and chose the name “Moneymaker” to modify their German last name: “Nurmacher.”
Moneymaker worked as an accountant when he won a seat in the Main Event of the 2003 World Series of Poker through an $86 satellite tournament at an online poker card room. Although largely unknown before the game, his skills caught the attention of professional sports handicapper Lou Diamond, who called Moneymaker his “dark horse to win the whole tournament.” Moneymaker went on to win the first prize of $2.5 million, instantly taking a poker superstar status.
The 2003 WSOP Main Event was Moneymaker’s first live poker tournament. One of his most memorable hands was a heads-up against Sam Farha when he bluffed “all in” with King high on the river. Farha folded a pair of nines, quickly changing the match’s momentum. Moneymaker eventually won the tournament when his 5,4 cards beat Farha’s J,10 on a board of J,5,4,8,5, giving Moneymaker a full house (5,5,5,4,4)) to Farha’s two pairs (J,J, 5, 5, 10). After winning the Main Event, he quit his job as an accountant to serve as a celebrity spokesman. He also started his own company, Moneymaker Gaming, and traveled to play in more numerous and larger buy-in tournaments.
As of 2022, Moneymaker’s total live tournament winnings exceed $3,950,000, over $2,550,000 of which has come from the World Series of Poker (WSOP). In 2019, he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
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WSOP Online paved the way for The Moneymaker Effect
The term Moneymaker Effect was coined after Moneymaker’s impressive win in the 2003 WSOP Main Event, where he outlasted 838 other players to win the tournament eventually. He started his way to the WSOP by winning in a WSOP online qualifier with a buy-in of a mere $89. His eventual Main Event win is credited with helping to popularize poker worldwide and starting the “poker craze.” This phenomenon inspired many amateur players because Moneymaker proved that an unknown amateur player could beat the professionals, which began a new era for poker. His victory proved that anyone could win poker’s biggest event, regardless of experience or skill level. As a result, poker saw a massive influx of new players, many of whom were drawn in by the dream of following in Moneymaker’s footsteps. Today, hundreds of amateur players try their luck in the WSOP to replicate the story of an amateur beating some of the best poker players in the world and winning millions of dollars. While the Moneymaker Effect has largely died down in recent years, it remains an integral part of poker history.
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Moneymaker is married to Christina Wren and has three children together. He also has an older child, Ashley, with his first wife, who was born three months before he won the WSOP Main Event.
In 2005, he wrote a children’s book, “Bet Big to Win Big,” about math and some kid-friendly lessons. However, the National Council on Problem Gambling slammed the book as promoting reckless behavior, gambling, and addiction.
He donates to the Humane Society, which works hard to provide services for animals in need, and Autism Speaks, which is close to his heart because one of his daughters is on the Autism spectrum.
Moneymaker still appears on the live poker tournament circuit, as he has managed at least one cash every year since winning the 2003 World Series of Poker main event. His biggest cash since winning the WSOP Main Event was a second-place finish in the 2011 NBC National Heads-Up Championship for $300,000.
As of this year, Chris Moneymaker’s net worth is reported to be about $3,000,000, most of which came from his WSOP winnings.
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