Moneymaker! Everyone knows Chris Moneymaker. Pre-boom, post-boom, boom-boom. Moneymaker is the man at the center of the hurricane after he faded a field of 839 player to win the 2003 WSOP Main Event. ESPN recently posted the latest episode of their 30 for 30 podcast, which focuses on important stories in the sports world that don't quite make the cut for its award-winning documentary film series. Chris Moneymaker should get his own 30 for 30 someday, but for now the suits at ESPN decided to greenlight a podcast episode about how Chris Moneymaker altered poker's landscape... for eternity.
All In: Sparking the Online Poker Boom is the title of the latest episode of the 30 for 30 podcast. Several key figures were interviewed in the telling of this historical story including pros and TV producers alike. Among the interview subjects were our protagonist Chris Moneymaker, WSOP media head Nolan Dalla, TV producer Matt Maranz, commentator Norman Chad, and pros Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, and Doyle Brunson.
The episode kicks off with Matt Maranz, executive producer at 441 Production, explaining how decided to pitch ESPN a TV show about the World Series of Poker.
The suits knew they needed content in the summer months and were seeking cheap content, so they ordered seven episodes from Maranz. Now it was up for him to put a crew together and shoot the 2003 WSOP Main Event. Maranz admitted he knew little about poker until he showed up in Vegas and took a look at Binion's Horseshoe for the first time.
Luckily, a 27-year old accountant named Chris Moneymaker, helped 441 tell the story of the 2003 WSOP... it was the beginning of the internet poker revolution with Chris Moneymaker leading the way.
"In 2003, there were so many bad players. Internet players were super easy to read. Which was lovely," said Phil Hellmuth.
"Yum. Yum!" added Johnny Chan. "Three and half million in dead money. Where else you gonna find that money dead money in the pool? The World Series of Poker!"
"Moneymaker is the accessory or prop that Chan is supposed to knock out of the tournament," said Maranz.
Moneymaker Makes History
Moneymaker and Chan jousted in a hand. It was something right out of Rounders with an amateur taking on Johnny Fucking Chan. On the last hand before a break, Moneymaker knocked out Chan, who got it all in with a draw against Moneymaker's flush. Moneymaker's hand held up and Chan hit the rail.
"This is like Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson," added Norman Chad.
"I got to live the Rounders dream," said Moneymaker.
"I felt like someone died in my family," Chan said about his elimination.
Maranz and his crew scrambled to figure out who to cover. Luckily Phil Ivey was still left in the tournament. And Ivey had a mountain of chips and looked like he was on an easy path to the final table.
It was 4am at Binions Horseshoe with ten to go on the final table bubble. Then it happened. Pocket nines versus pocket queens. Moneymaker and Phil Ivey were involved in a hand... the hand heard around the world. Moneymaker knocked out Ivey after Ivey turned a boat and Moneymaker rivered a bigger boat when an Ace spiked on the river.
"No Phil Ivey at the final table? We're screwed!" said Norman Chad.
Maranz had hundreds of hours to sort through. He wondered, "How are we going to tell seven one-hour stories? We were approaching this like a drama."
On July 8, 2003, the initial episode was broadcast on ESPN and the rating were "great" according to Maranz.
You know the rest of the story. Moneymaker outlasted a pro-heavy final table that included former champ Dan Harrington. Moneymaker got heads-up for the bracelet and beat Sammy Farha.
Moneymaker bought in to a WSOP Main Event sat on PokerStars for only $86. With 10K three seats in play, Moneymaker playing for fourth place because he wanted the cash, approximately $8,600, to pay off bills. Alas, Moneymaker won the seat and sold off some of his action. He went to Vegas, played the Main Event, and made history.
I wouldn't be writing this without Chris Moneymaker. Thanks, Money
Listen to the Moneymaker episode of 30 for 30 here.