Thursday, May 23, 2013

Moneymaker

Today’s a special anniversary in the poker world, one that many have been noting had been coming for the last couple of weeks. I’m referring, of course, to it being the 10th anniversary of Chris Moneymaker’s stunning victory in the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event, an event which many point to as a catalyst of sorts for the subsequent poker “boom” thanks to the way it brought together numerous influential factors -- online poker, newly-revamped televised poker (with hole cards), and the underdog story of an amateur being the pros that further inspired so many to get involved in the game thereafter.

I’ve written many times about Moneymaker and his win here before, including writing posts marking this very date and its significance, and so am not too interested in scribbling yet another, similar one today. Am also kind of running low on mental fuel, to be honest, thanks to having sat up the entire night following and reporting on an online tournament -- one in which Moneymaker himself actually made a fairly deep run, finishing ahead of about 1,500 other players or almost twice as many as he bested in the 2003 ME.

I’ve enjoyed reading some of the other pieces that have been posted this week regarding Moneymaker’s win, most particularly that cool, lengthy oral history of the 2003 WSOP Main Event compiled by Eric Raskin for Grantland, titled “When We Held Kings.”

Nolan Dalla has also been writing a series of entertaining posts over the last several days sharing his memories of that Main Event. As I talked about once with Dalla in an interview for Betfair Poker, it wasn’t that long before Moneymaker’s win that he’d become the WSOP’s Media Director, and he worked for Binion’s then, too, which necessarily put him right in the middle of things when lightning struck 10 years ago today. Check his blog for the series, to which he’s still adding.

Finally, I very much liked Brad Willis’s piece on the PokerStars blog today in which he shares a more personal account of how Moneymaker’s victory affected him both personally and professionally. In “Ten years later: How Chris Moneymaker changed my life,” Brad tells a story that is familiar to a lot of us, and in fact when I look at his next-to-last paragraph, I could almost quote it verbatim as representative of what also happened me (changing out only the original career):

“Ten years ago today, I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life working in local TV news. It wouldn't have been a bad career, and I think I could’ve done it with pride. But because of that day in 2003, I’ve seen a big part of the world, been able to report some amazing stories, and met friends I will cherish forever. And, for what it’s worth, I’ve been able to hang out with a poker hero named Moneymaker from time to time.”

All of those statements apply to me, too. Even the bit about getting to know the champ a little, as I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Moneymaker on several occasions, including about what happened on May 23, 2003. Such a friendly guy and truly a remarkable ambassador for the game -- and, if you think about it, a person who has helped define what we mean by that idea of being an “ambassador” for poker.

Of course, when I think back to 2003 I don’t remember anything at all about what happened on this date as far as poker was concerned. Like many, many others, it wasn’t until ESPN began showing its coverage of the Main Event in late August -- and I got hooked like everyone else on the weekly one-hour segments -- that I ever paid any attention to Moneymaker and his story.

If I’m adding up the dates correctly, it would have been Tuesday, October 7, 2003 when the seventh and final installment of ESPN’s coverage was shown for the first time. That was the night it all went “boom,” I’d say, and everyone finally found out about Moneymaker and the WSOP and online poker and everything else.

Still today’s a day worth noting, and enjoying the memories being shared by others regarding a life-changing event for one 27-year-old accountant and for countless others, too.

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