The Moneymaker Effect and How It Changed Poker

Posted by Ellis Shuman, July 15, 2014

Moneymaker EffectThe term Poker Boom can be defined as the period between 2003 and 2006 when Texas Hold'em and other forms of poker, as well as online play, became extremely popular all over the world. Although the game's popularity began to rise with the release of the film "Rounders" in 1998, the boom itself was triggered in 2003 by one specific player winning one specific tournament.

The Moneymaker Effect by Eric Raskin (Huntington Press, May 2014), tells "the insider story of the tournament that forever changed poker" with a focus on the player who was in the right place at the right time to make it all happen. Chris Moneymaker was a 27-year-old amateur poker player who worked as a financial controller at a restaurant group in Nashville, Tennessee. Moneymaker played and won a $39 online poker satellite, and made his way from there to the biggest poker tournament anywhere, the World Series of Poker.

"It turned out it was a satellite where the winner earned entry into another satellite where the top three finishers would get a seat in the World Series of Poker Main Event. To be honest, I didn’t know it was a satellite. If I knew, I never would have played it," Moneymaker says, as quoted in this book.

Little did Moneymaker know, nor did the rest of the world expect, that he would battle his way to the WSOP Main Event's final table, knocking down one poker professional after another. In heads-up play he faced the much more experienced (at least in cash games and Omaha Poker) Sam Farha.

One of the most memorable hands of their heads-up play was when Moneymaker moved all-in with king high, forcing Farha out of the pot with a pair of nines. This hand was called by many the "Bluff of the Century" and paved the way for Moneymaker's subsequently taking the title. He won $2,500,000 in prize money and the coveted WSOP bracelet.


Moneymaker's startling win, his status as an amateur player, and his unusual but very appropriate name, made for a story that ran wild with the media. "I got asked at least five or six times by WSOP people or ESPN people to show proof of who I was. They didn’t believe that was my last name," Moneymaker says.

Moneymaker set an example of what a novice poker player could achieve; he was followed by many who attempted to repeat his success. As poker player Daniel Negreanu put it, Moneymaker's win was the "perfect story for the everyman."

Online poker skyrocketed as a result, because poker was "just a mouse click away for anyone who wanted to pull up a chair, and the game was never the same again."

Chris Moneymaker wins the WSOP Main EVent


Introduction of the Hole Card Camera

While giving credit to this amazing story, the author correctly wonders, "Just how much did Chris Moneymaker change poker?"

There were other factors involved, as noted in the book. Although highlights of poker tournaments had appeared on television screens for many years, a new invention introduced at the same 2003 World Series of Poker was a leading factor in the growing interest in the game of poker.

The use of hole card cameras "was more important than anything else in taking poker to the next level. Once people were able to see the hole cards, it was like having inside information - seeing who's bluffing, who’s not."


play like Chris Moneymaker

As a result of Moneymaker's win and the insights into poker players' minds offered by these special cameras, "No-limit Hold'em became a television staple, a pop-culture phenomenon, and a hard way to make an easy living for a generation of brilliant young minds around the globe."

Each chapter of Raskin's entertaining book is a series of interviews with poker players and poker industry insiders, making for an easy read that feels like you're witnessing a conversation among those in the know.

Included are not only Moneymaker and Farha, but also poker players Negreanu, Barry Greenstein, Erik Seidel, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Dutch Boyd, and Greg Raymer, as well as Henry Orenstein, inventor of the hole-card camera, WSOP media director Nolan Dalla, and a whole range of ESPN producers and poker media professionals.

No Limit Hold'em became a television staple

The Main Event of the World Series of Poker is currently being staged in Las Vegas, and the game remains highly popular, even after the excitement of the poker boom has calmed down a bit. There is no doubt the continued interest in the game traces back, as Raskin notes, to "the late spring and summer of 2003, when television, the Internet, and a 27-year-old amateur poker player named Chris Moneymaker all sat down at a table and destiny dealt the cards."

Author Eric Raskin is the Editor-in-Chief of ALL IN magazine as well as a boxing writer. The Moneymaker Effect is his first book.

Previous poker book reviews in this series include Poker Tilt; Fading Hearts on the River; How to Be a Poker Player; and Alligator Blood.





Further Reading:  

Titan Poker Benefits
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Poker and the Bible

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Texas Hold'em Poker Guide

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Why Poker Is Better than Sex


Previous articles by Ellis Shuman:

Dutch Boyd Goes on Poker Tilt with His New Book

Poker Success of the Poet's Son

Poker and Philosophy: Thinking Your Way to Better Poker

The Wolf of Online Processing

The Greatest Poker Songs of All Time

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