Playing a $86 PokerStars online satellite for the WSOP in 2003, Chris Moneymaker went on to win the Main Event for $2,500,000. This brought considerable media attention to the online poker industry and raised its profile in towards the mass market. Chris Moneymaker is today accepted as the figurehead for having kick-started the online poker industry as we know it today.
Born in 1975 in Atlanta, Georgia, Chris grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee. Describing his childhood as safe, fun and from a close-knit family, he had two siblings – a brother and sister. Encouraged to work for pocket-money from age 12, Chris mowed neighbours lawns and later flipped burgers. However, as a sports fanatic, Chris spent the lion’s share of his free time involved in some way in sports. Chris played soccer competitively from the age of 4, a highlight of which was travelling with his team to play the Holland Cup aged 15. His second major sport in high school was wrestling and was a 4 year varsity starter on the team. It didn’t stop there though – he also played recreational football and basketball throughout high school and in college took up golf (playing almost every day) and boxing. These all fed his need to compete, and win.
This drive to ‘win’ didn’t spread to Chris Moneymaker’ grades though. He cruised through High School as a B grade student without much effort or interest, then attended the University of Tennessee studying Accounting, as he had an obvious talent for Maths. However, not everything went to plan as Chris discovered alcohol, college parties and golf/ boxing to be much more entertaining and his grades dropped to D- or F. Though Chris’ WSOP win is commonly considered Chris’ biggest achievement, he believes pulling out of the college party lifestyle, refocusing on his studies and making it into the Masters program at UT Knoxville was a far bigger accomplishment!
During college, Chris enjoyed successful internships at Arthur Andersen and KPMG before securing an Information Systems travelling auditor role, at Deloitte & Touche after grad school. However, as an indirect result issues arising from the Sept 11,2001 terrorist attacks, Chris was made unemployed. When the job hunt was stale, he entertained himself with his new pastime: poker. He played live in Tunica 20-40 limit and online on Pokerstars. Recalling his first major win (at the time) of $7k in Tunica, he believed he was rich, contemplated ditching the job search and becoming a full time professional poker player! However, this idea apparently disappeared the next day.
Chris soon found work as financial controller at a restaurant group in Nashville, and continued playing poker for entertainment. After about a year in his new job, Chris entered into a $39 satellite for a second satellite offering a package for the WSOP 2003. He won both tournaments and was soon packing his bags for Vegas. There, Chris outlasted a field of 839 players containing the best players in the world to become World Champion at the World Series of Poker 2003.
“After my win in 2003 I went back to work Monday morning and remained working there until Feb 2004 – about 9 months” says Chris. It was only when he came 2nd at the WPT Shooting Star that he realized he could “do this poker thing full time”! Since Feb 2004 he has been a professional poker player travelling all around the globe, playing in different poker tournaments and making appearances at casinos and corporate events.
Chris Moneymaker says the reason behind his success is “My last name!! I am partially kidding, and think it has to do with the fact that I am determined when I apply myself.” He sees the 2 periods in his life where he got ‘complacent or lazy’; once in college and the other in the years following his WSOP win, meant he took the game for granted and thought he had everything about the game figured out. “It took me a while to realize the game had passed me by and I refocused myself on improving my game.” For Chris proper bankroll management is the most important skill any poker player could have. Without that, it doesn’t matter how good a player you are, you will always be broke.
Chris enjoys all poker games now (although his original win at the WSOP was No Limit Hold’em) and sees the opportunity to improve on each one. However, he still sees NLHM as his strongest variant, but personally enjoys playing PLO the most.
Much of Chris Moneymakers’ time now, when not at the poker tables is spent with his family in Collierville, Tennessee. He is married with 3 children and spends much of his time running errands for the kids, going jogging or studying poker in the evenings.