Chris Moneymaker’s WSOP triumph sparked a poker boom in 2003

Amateur Moneymaker in heads-up against professional player Farha. PICTURED: AP NY


There is no more fitting name – Chris Moneymaker triggers a poker boom

May 24, 2003: The big hour of poker amateurs Chris Moneymaker strikes in Las Vegas. With his triumph at the Main Event of the World Series of Poker (WSOP), the World Cup of Poker, the 27-year-old American triggered a boom – the Moneymaker effect.

Jonas Schneeberger / Keystone-SDA

Chris Moneymaker, the accountant from Tennessee, did not shy away in May 2003 – from nothing and nobody. 837 of the 838 opponents were eliminated on this fifth day of the tournament of the biggest main event so far, one was left, and with Sam Farha that was one of the well-known and renowned of the somewhat manageable scene at the time. No less than $ 2.5 million was at stake in the unequal duel between the inexperienced 27-year-old amateur and the 43-year-old professional in addition to the official title as world champion, more than ever in the 33-year history of the main event .

The heads-up, the duel one on one, was about millions, and one could have expected that the routine of the professional would finally pay off, who brought only half of the game chips from Moneymaker to the final, but a massive one Plus experience. But the Nobody, who played a live tournament for the first time, was not impressed by the unusual atmosphere and the mountain of dollar bills lying on the table. Chris Moneymaker won and wrote the Cinderella story that changed his life overnight and took the popularity of poker to a new level.

“The Story of Chris Moneymaker” (English, 22 min.).

In the very first final hand, Moneymaker stripped off a large number of chips from his opponent with a memorable bluff. With a bare king as the highest card, he forced the farha, who hesitated for minutes, to laydown, discarding his cards. This would have won the passage with his pair of nine and thus taken the lead. Instead, the professional was behind with 1.8 to 6.6 million chips, which turned out to be decisive. This is also why ESPN commentator Norman Chad spoke of the “bluff of the century”.

As an online qualifier from the bottom of the throne

The news of the triumph of the inconspicuous amateur with the sounding name went around the world, especially since it contained another unusual story. Moneymaker, the well-fed accountant with a baseball cap, sunglasses and three-day beard in the Henriquatre cut, who is actually called that, was not just an amateur like many others who tried. He was even an online qualifier – someone who did not buy the participation in the main event for the usual $ 10,000, but earned it on the PC for a fraction of the amount via qualification tournaments, so-called satellites. In his case, the starting capital was $ 39. The probability of making it to the most important live tournament is negligible.

The effect that Moneymaker had with its success in the wake of the emerging online game and the hole card cameras mounted on the live gaming tables for TV viewers could subsequently be seen in the increasing number of participants and prize money. While the number of players at the main event had grown steadily since the beginning of 1970 from 6 to a good 800 in 2003, it then tripled within twelve months. By 2006 the prize money for the winner had risen to $ 12 million, since then it has hovered around the 10 million mark.

Moneymaker just before he got the $ 2.5 million in prize money. PICTURED: AP NY

Boom flattened in Switzerland – also because of the laws

For his part, Chris Moneymaker did not return to his old job as a poker world champion. He signed up as an advertising medium for various companies, published an autobiography and has competed in major tournaments ever since. So far, he has collected around four million dollars in prize money, but was only able to begin with his greatest success.

Moneymaker gave up his job as an accountant. Image: AP

Access to online poker is restricted in Switzerland. As a result of an amendment to the Gambling Act and new regulations on network closures implemented in early 2019, online gaming can only be carried out with a permit and from providers based in Switzerland. International portals such as Pokerstars, Full Tilt or 888 Poker are therefore blocked. There have also been massive restrictions in the USA since 2006, and operators have not been allowed to offer online cash games since 2011.


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