In 2003, Chris Moneymaker stunned the poker world by winning the World Series of Poker as an amateur who had been playing poker for only three years. In fact, the World Series was the first tournament he ever played in an actual casino.
At the time he entered the World Series, Moneymaker was a 27-year-old accountant living in Tennessee and working two jobs to make ends meet. His daughter was born just three months before his now world-famous victory.
With the advent of Internet poker in the early 2000s and its subsequent rise in popularity, it became possible for players – including amateurs – to win their way into the World Series through online satellite tournaments. Moneymaker qualified by winning a $40 buy-in event.
After five days of gruelling poker, the field for the World Series was narrowed to include just Chris Moneymaker and Sammy Farha of Houston, Texas. Moneymaker finally triumphed with a full house (three fives and two fours), against Farha’s jack and a 10.
About the final tournament, Moneymaker said "I got lucky along the way. I bluffed a lot during the tournament, but somehow I got away with it."
He also said "I was a little underestimated because no one knew who I was. If I can win it, anybody can."
Moneymaker’s win and associated media coverage of the event had a huge impact on the poker industry, massively boosting poker revenues both online and off. His victory seemed to prove that anybody at all can ultimately become a poker pro. Such was the extent of Moneymaker’s influence that the resulting surge in the popularity of poker is sometimes referred to as the "Moneymaker effect."
With his World Series win, Chris Moneymaker secured the first prize of $2.5 million. By coincidence – or fate if you will – records show that his last name is his birth name, and not a pseudonym!