Chris Moneymaker: WSOP Gold Bracelet Winner
His name says it all, as Chris Moneymaker is now a multi-millionaire as a result of his success within the poker industry. He's an inspiration for amateur poker players who dream of making it big in Las Vegas. Moneymaker was a twenty-seven year old accountant who decided to risk everything and head to Las Vegas for his first World Series of Poker tournament.
Moneymaker is said to have revolutionized poker, as he was the first player to ever qualify for the WSOP through winning a series of online poker tournaments at PokerStars.net. In 2003, he miraculously won the WSOP main event, having never before set foot in a casino prior to that tournament.
Christopher Bryan Moneymaker was born in Atlanta, Georgia in November of 1975 to his parents, Barbara and Bernie Moneymaker. Their last name derives from their ancestors who came over to America from Germany. When they had to change their last name of Nurmacher to something easier to pronounce, they chose Moneymaker, because they used to make coins as their profession back home.
As a child, Chris would play bridge with his grandma and blackjack with his father, giving him an interest in card games at a very early age. His family moved to Tennessee where he attended Farragut High school in Knoxville and later enrolled at the University of Tennessee where he earned both a Bachelor's Degree and a Master's Degree in Accounting.
Chris then started working full time as an accountant, eventually getting married, moving to the suburbs, and living a very average life. It was around this time that he developed an interest in poker and started meeting weekly with a group of his friends to play a round of Texas Hold'em, rotating among each of their houses every week.
2003 World Series of Poker
As his love of poker grew, he started an account on PokerStars, where he usually had about two hundred dollars in his account at all times, but this particular time he only had $60 to work with because he had to cash out the rest to pay off some bills.
The satellites and the cash tournaments were all grouped together on the site, so Moneymaker never realized he was entering a satellite. He just saw a $39 sit-and-go with 17 of 18 seats filled, and clicked on it to see if he could take the last seat.
Much to Moneymaker's surprise, this satellite tournament would get him one step closer to winning the World Series of Poker. He won that tournament and qualified for another tournament where the top three players would land a seat at the WSOP plus receive $1000 in spending money, however, the fourth place winner would win $8,000. Moneymaker was desperate for cash, so he focused on landing a fourth place finish, even if that meant purposely playing badly in certain situations.
His friend Bruce who was there to support Moneymaker as he played through the tournament managed to convince him to work towards placing in the top three, promising him $5,000 cash up front in exchange for half of his tournament winnings.
Even though he was hesitant about playing against some of the best players in the world, Moneymaker took up his friend's offer and won the seat for the WSOP. He called his dad to tell him the good news, and even though his dad had never heard of the World Series of Poker before, he had a strong feeling that his son was going to win. He went with his son to Las Vegas, to give him moral support throughout the entire competition.
Day one of the tournament was nerve-wrecking for Moneymaker, having never played poker at a casino before. He was simply there for the experience and he never expected anything to come of it, but day one proved to be successful as he landed several in the money finishes and advanced onto day two.
Moneymaker overslept on day two of the competition, and he thought for sure that he was going to be disqualified from the tournament for not showing up, but they simply blinded off his chips until he arrived later that morning. Luckily, Moneymaker didn't lose too many chips; he needed as many as he could get as he was going against poker legends, Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey that day.
Despite the heavy competition, he was able to remain the chip leader for the majority of the day, advancing on to the third day of the competition. This is where he really started to catch the attention of the media and was interviewed by several different networks, as everyone was curious as to how this no name online player was advancing so far into the tournament.
Moneymaker made it all the way to the final table of the main event of the WSOP. While matched face to face with Sammy Farha, an accomplished poker player in his own right, Moneymaker turned the game around through a well-orchestrated bluff. Norman Chad, an ESPN commentator, called Moneymaker's all-in move "the bluff of the century."
His skills caught the attention of many, as this twenty seven year player who had no prior tournament experience was able to use clever, aggressive strategies to win first place in the main event against the world's best players, earning him a cash prize of nearly $2.5 million.
In an interview with Grantland Magazine months after the tournament, Moneymaker said this as he reflected back to his glorious win, "All I remember saying to my dad is "I did it." There was so much emotion, and so much going on, from the time I won until the time I got home, I don't really remember a lot. I forgot I did an interview. I think I was so high on adrenaline. It was surreal." Soon after his victory at the WSOP, Poker Stars offered him a sponsorship and he has been a part of their team ever since.
A New Career in Poker
Moneymaker quickly left his job as an accountant so that he could invest more time into his new professional poker career. "The Moneymaker Effect," as his fans like to call it, refers to the period following his 2003 main event victory. His win showed people that an average player could not only compete with the world's best players, but he could also beat them without having a huge bankroll.
Less than a year later Chris finished 2nd at the World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Stars tournament, which earned him a prize of $200,000. He also came close to winning his second WSOP gold bracelet that year too when he finished 10th in the $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha event.
Moneymaker travels to play in as many poker tournaments as he can, regularly attending PokerStar's European Tour. He also became the celebrity spokesperson for Harrah's entertainment, which keeps him travelling all over the world too.
To date, Chris has earned over $3.5 million dollars over the course of his career so far, making him number two in Tennessee's All Time Money List. His most recent accomplishments include taking first in both the 2013 European Poker Tour's Grand Final and the 2014 Hollywood Open No Limit Hold'em main event for a combined total of over $50,000.
Many critics believe that Moneymaker is the most overrated player of all-time and that his victory at the 2003 WSOP came down to pure luck, but his latter success proves otherwise. Below is a table of Chris Moneymaker's most significant wins.
|2003 WSOP* $10,000 Main Event||May 2003||1st||$2,500,000|
|WPT Bay 101 Shooting Stars $5,500 Main Event||March 2004||2nd||$200,000|
|2004 WSOP* $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha||May 2004||10th||$21,000|
|EPT London £5,200 No Limit Hold’em||September 2007||17th||$24,480|
|PokerStars WCOOP $10,300 No Limit Hold’em||September 2008||6th||$139,635|
|PCA Main Event||January 2011||11th||$130,000|
|National Heads-Up Poker Championship||March 2011||2nd||$300,000|
Moneymaker has been married twice, with his first wife divorcing him in 2004, because she couldn't handle his new lifestyle as a professional poker player. He had one daughter through his first wife named Ashley, who he sadly doesn't see anymore.
Just one year after the divorce, Moneymaker got remarried to his current wife, Christina Wren, in a hotel in Las Vegas. The couple has three children together and they currently reside in Nashville, Tennessee.
In addition to playing poker, Moneymaker started his own company, Moneymaker Gaming LLC, which manufactures poker sets, licensed high-quality poker chips, and other poker accessories. They are based out of Santa Monica, California.
Moneymaker published his autobiography, Moneymaker: How an Amateur Poker Player Turned $40 into $2.5 Million at the World Series of Poker, in March of 2005. Over 40,000 copies of his book have been sold, and it's a top read among the poker community. Along with writing, Moneymaker enjoys playing golf and basketball in his free time.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: May 2015