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11/07/2005 No.10
he Guardian Poker Column
Sean Ingle in Las Vegas writes for the Guardian News Group
Monday July 11, 2005
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Moneymaker goes bust

Day Five

Sometimes dreams can come true. Just ask Chris Moneymaker. Back in 2003, Moneymaker was an accountant whose goatee beard and love of poker were rare acts of rebellion against a lifetime of figures and drudgery. Then he won a seat in the World Series of Poker at a $39 internet tournament and a brand new life.

Having never played in a real casino before - indeed, he'd never played the game until he watched the movie Rounders - no one gave him a prayer against 839 others in the main event. But a week later, Moneymaker, who stuck on a cheap hat and mirrored sunglasses to avoid giving away his ticks and tells, walked away with the first prize of $2.5m and into the world of overnight celebrity.

Two years on, thousands more dreamers and schemers are in Las Vegas, hoping to get lucky. Hoping to do a Moneymaker.

The numbers really are staggering. This year, a record 5,619 players are in town, competing for a prize pot of $52m. First prize is a cool $7.5m, while second gets you $4.25m. Meanwhile a finish in the top 10 will make you an instant millionaire, while come in the top 100 and you'll earn at least $77,000

The pros are out in force, of course, but so are actors like Tobey Maguire and sport stars like Rocco Mediate and Stephen Hendry. But mostly the entry to what is hyped as the most lucrative tournament in sports (and for once the Yanks aren't overselling it) is made up of 100s of amateurs who have sneaked in via the internet or are chancing their savings on the turn of a card.

Chris MoneymakerThis year, however, it won't be Moneymaker walking away with the big one. During the last two years, he has become a poker pin-up to New Jersey housewives and Nebraskan truck drivers - if he can win the world series, they figure, then why not them? - but yesterday it didn't stop him crashing out in the second round

Not that Moneymaker will be visiting the poor house anytime soon. He's now a successful pro with his own website (, book 'Moneymaker: How an Amateur Poker Player Turned $40 into $2.5m at the World Series of Poker', and a movie about his success being talked about. Oh, and he still plays on the internet.

Meanwhile, such is poker's spiralling growth that a World Series of Poker video game will soon be coming to a PlayStation2, Xbox or PC near you.

"The World Series of Poker is the world's premier poker event, drawing thousands of entrants and millions of viewers worldwide," explained Activision's David Oxford. "The game will deliver to consumers the same excitement and authenticity of pulling up a chair at the WSOP table and competing against players of this year's WSOP Tournament."

Activision are promising the game will feature the likenesses of poker professionals participating in the tournament. Unfortunately there's no word, as of yet, about the $52m prize fund.

The Editor's WSOP Reports

The Editor's WSOP Reports