20 Years Ago Chris Moneymaker Won The WSOP Main Event And Started The Poker Boom
20 years ago. My goodness. Do you remember where you were 20 years ago? For some of you, you weren't born yet. For others, you might be too young to really remember. But for people my age (34 turning 35 in October) you remember exactly where you were when you fist saw poker, and Chris Moneymaker, on ESPN. You remember being drawn in by being able to see everyone's cards. You remember how they would show the wacky poker characters, the legends like Sammy Farha and TJ Cloutier, and the up and coming kid in the Houston Rockets jersey, some guy named Phil Ivey.
And then, there was Chris Moneymaker. A name so profound…and absurd for a poker player you would laugh if some Hollywood writer used it in a script. But there he was, the accountant from Tennessee, the every day Joe, battling with the best players in the world for poker supremacy. And thanks to this bluff….
And that was on May 23rd, 2003.
ESPN probably had no idea what was about to happen when episodes of the WSOP started airing that Summer. It was the perfect storm- a boring Summer, a level of poker production that nobody had ever seen before, and Chris Moneymaker. Everyone started playing home games with their friends and family. Poker blew up online when people found out you could play for real money on the world wide web. And the game exploded, which is now known as the "Moneymaker Effect".
Everyone wanted to be the next Chris Moneymaker. Be a poker player, win big, quit your job. Many people succeeded and got rich thanks to Moneymaker. Others like me fell in love with the game and haven't stopped playing since, even if it's not always successfully.
Poker is having a bit of a resurgence right now, and it's awesome. The WSOP is expecting their biggest Main Event turn out of ALL TIME, which is nuts considering you can't even qualify for it online outside of NV, NJ, and PA. But that's what the Moneymaker Effect has done- all of us who grew up watching him, and many who stopped playing the game after online was banned in 2011, now have extra income. COVID got people interested in playing again, it's big on Twitch and YouTube, and live fields across the country are at all time highs.
I was planning on living out my life-long dream and playing a full WSOP schedule this Summer. I had 17 events on my schedule, have been working on my game a lot, and was poised for a very cool, and potentially profitable, life experience. And then in case you didn't hear, I shattered my foot into a million pieces on Friday, causing me to not be able to travel, or to sit at a table for 13 hours a day. There's some sick irony in breaking a foot and one of the rules is you can't sit for too long (it has to remain elevated blah blah blah). It's super devastating and I'm very bummed about it. Have an Air BNB booked and everything. It sucks, can't even pretend it doesn't.
But we beat on, boats against the current, because what else can you really do? Just gotta rehab this stupid fucking foot, keep studying and working on poker, and try again next year. There's also still a chance I can play the Main this year, just will depend on recovery and all of that. Trying to remain optimistic about it.
But to conclude, thank you Mr. Moneymaker for running that bluff and kicking off the poker boom and making me fall in love with cards. WSOP 2024, I'll see you there.