Poker has become somewhat of an online phenomenon since the creation of digital casinos, and the number of punters playing the classic brick-and-mortar game is rising year-after-year. It’s believed that more than 60 million people in the United States alone play Poker, whilst over 100 million are reported to play it worldwide – that’s more than the amount of people that play many sports, such as tennis and golf!
However, the rise in popularity of Poker online is often linked to one amateur player’s amazing success story. In 2003, American Chris Moneymaker won a satellite game of Poker on ever-popular site PokerStars, with a buy-in of $86. The victory meant that Moneymaker won himself a place on the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event, and he was soon en route to Las Vegas to take a seat in his first live tournament.
In a shock turn of events, the Atlanta-based accountant made it to the final table of the tournament – which had 839 entrants – at the prestigious Binion’s Gambling Hall on Vegas’ famous Freemont Street. Not only did Moneymaker defy the odds by making it to the last few punters, but he went on to win the tournament – scooping the gold bracelet and a whopping $2.5m in the process.
The amateur beat veteran Vegas professional Sam Farha heads-up in a thrilling finale to the tournament, including an amazing bluff which saw Moneymaker scoop a pot of 800,000, even though Farha had the best hand. It was called “the bluff of the century” by ESPN commentator Norman Chad.
Moneymaker also took out season-professional Phil Ivey in a rather dramatic fashion, to reach the final table. The latter held pocket nines, and with a nine revealed on the turn – giving Ivey a full house – he went all-in. Moneymaker called, and, against all odds, caught an ace on the river – giving him a higher-value full house, and knocking out one of the Main Event’s best players.
Moneymaker’s WSOP Main Event victory lead to the ‘Poker Boom’ – also known as the ‘Moneymaker Effect.’ The former account took the United States by storm – stealing the headlines and making appearances on US primetime chat shows – becoming the headlining Poker player in the process.
Millions of punters around the globe saw what the Moneymaker achieved and wanted to follow in his footsteps. The amount of people signing up and depositing on online Poker sites surged, with people believing that “staying at home in front of a computer screen could be more profitable than going to work.”
Not only did the amateur’s victory effect the online world of Poker, but the land-based game saw a massive rise in popularity as well. Just one year after the Moneymaker’s shock win, the entrants in the 2004 Main Event more than tripled to 2576 players. By 2006, 8773 punters entered the WSOP top billing – 14 times as many as had entered the tournament a year before the then 27 year old’s victory.
Speaking about his victory 17 years ago, Moneymaker said: “Overall, I think many people will always relate to me and they will think of me as a luck box that won the WSOP main event.
“They feel that if I can do it, they can do it. Even to this day, people still perceive me in that way. To be honest, it is not a bad thing because people don’t think I’m that good and think I bluff all the time. Overall, it definitely helps me when I play.”