This week, Chris Moneymaker was featured on ESPN's 30 for 30 podcast, mainly discussing about his epic 2003 WSOP Main Event win. The audio documentary-series also revealed what went on at the sports network's production at that time, which was the first time ever TV viewers got to watch a WSOP tournament from beginning until the end.
In the podcast, listeners will hear statements from Phil Hellmuth, Norman Chad, Johnny Chan, Chris Moneymaker, and the producer of the 2003 WSOP Main Event Matt Maranz.
Poker Knowledge Nil
Due to the fact that poker wasn't really a widespread game in 2003, nobody ever expected to get remarkable TV ratings that year. Also, nobody thought there's going to be a massive poker boom months after that. Even that time's WSOP media director Nolan Dalla was very much surprised.
He said he had no idea that the game of poker from that moment on (after Moneymaker won) would later transition from the back rooms to the front lines. Maranz also had no idea what to expect and besides, he knew nothing, not even basic comprehension about poker whatsoever. However, he was asked to film the event at Binion's in downtown Las Vegas from beginning until the end, and he would do just that.
Maranz said in the podcast, "You have to understand I knew nothing about poker. We were an outfit that did not deserve to be producing the World Series of Poker. I mean we were idiots."
The 2003 WSOP $10,000 buy-in Main Event attracted 839 participants, a record breaker at that time by more than 200 entries.
Dalla thought at first that Chris' last name was just an alias. He was only an amateur that year who won an $86 satellite from a new online poker site named PokerStars (the site launched in 2001), thus qualifying him into the tournament. We all know that players who get in through satellite qualifiers usually are just there to boost up the numbers, bust early and nothing more, and so nobody ever expected the possibility of an online newbie reaching the final table, and even win it all in the end.
After the first session ended, Dalla was in charge of typing up the names of the surviving players. He then came across one name he thought was just made up, "I thought here's a poker player who's probably his name is Chris Smith and maybe Moneymaker's is his nickname. Chris Moneymaker Smith, Chris Moneymaker Jones, you understand what I mean?"
So Dalla himself went up to Chris and asked him before the start of Day 2 to verify his real name. The eventual champ of the event pulled out his ID that showed "Christopher Bryan Moneymaker".
A few days later, the amateur stunned the poker world as he won the tournament. Millions watched the 2003 WSOP Main Event via ESPN and was wowed when they saw an ordinary Joe win $2.5 million! For the viewers, it seemed so surreal, easy, exciting and awesome. Because of this historic win, poker finally was able to come out of the shadows and become the mainstream game we see today.
Now at 42 years old, Chris Moneymaker is still very active in poker with current total lifetime earnings of $3.7 million. He is an ambassador for Team PokerStars. He said, "It's been 15 years since the big win and it only feels like yesterday. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life."
In the 2018 WSOP Main Event, there were a total of 7,874 players who signed up, almost 10 times as many entrants as compared to 2003.
All In: Sparking The Poker Boom
The podcast is titled All In: Sparking The Poker Boom
Description: The 2003 World Series of Poker should not have been a success. Its host casino teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, internet qualifiers knocked out the most marketable stars, and the production company tasked with showing the event on TV knew nothing about the game. "All In" explores how the 2003 tournament overcame the odds to spark a poker boom and forever change poker's place in America. This episode was reported by Keith Romer. 30 for 30 Podcasts is hosted by Jody Avirgan.
Listen to the ESPN 30 for 30 Podcast here.