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Hand History Time Capsule: Chris Moneymaker’s Magical Run

Hand History Time Capsule: Chris Moneymaker’s Magical Run

by Brian Pempus |  Published: Jun 07, 2011


In this new series Hand Histories, Card Player digs up memorable hands to help you relive, or perhaps discover for the first time, pivotal situations from some of poker’s most profitable runs.

The World Series of Poker main event has historically been home to some of poker’s most infamous and interesting hands. In 2003 an accountant from Tennessee, who qualified online for just $40, captured the poker world’s attention by cruising through the 839-player field in shocking fashion. He did so by making a mammoth call against an insane bluff, knocking out poker’s soon-to-be greatest player, and shoving all in with complete air against a grizzled veteran with all the money on the line.

Here is a brief look at the series of hands that helped spark the poker boom.

Moneymaker Puts it All on the Line

The Action:

With 650,000 in chips (one of the top stacks remaining in the tournament), Moneymaker was facing a preflop raise by Dutch Boyd, who was on his right in the small blind and had him covered by about 100,000. Moneymaker called with pocket threes from the big blind, and the flop came 9Heart Suit 5Diamond Suit 2Spade Suit.

Boyd checked, and Moneymaker bet 100,000. Boyd contemplated before eventually moving all in with the KDiamond Suit QClub Suit, for just king-high. Moneymaker tanked before finally deciding the hyper-aggressive play was a bluff. Boyd disgustedly turned over his king-high, and Moneymaker was in good shape to gain a commanding chip lead over the field. Moneymaker stood up and was shouting for low cards. The turn and river bricked for Boyd, who was crippled and eventually busted in 12th place.

Moneymaker had the correct read and went with his instincts, despite playing a pot that could be considered ill-advised given his chip stack. Even though he had been sailing through the tournament up until that point, the strange hand versus Boyd arguably changed the course of poker antiquity.

Phil Ivey Takes One for Poker

The Action:

Poker’s latent popularity, which became actualized after Moneymaker’s win in the 2003 main event, had to get past one man that historic summer – none other than Phil Ivey.
Ivey was coming off a 23rd place finish in the 2002 main event (after winning three bracelets that summer) and was in great shape to compete for the title again a year later. However, he came out on the wrong end of one hell of a cooler at the unofficial final table of ten.

The action started in the fateful hand when Moneymaker opened for 60,000 in early position with the AHeart Suit QDiamond Suit. Ivey made the call from the cutoff with the 9Spade Suit 9Heart Suit, and Jason Lester made the call from the small blind with pocket tens.

The flop came QHeart Suit QSpade Suit 6Spade Suit, giving Moneymaker trip queens. Lester checked, and Moneymaker bet 70,000. Ivey thought it over before finally calling. Lester mucked. Ivey hit gin on the turn when the 9Club Suit fell, giving him nines full. Moneymaker was unaffected by the card and bet out 200,000. Ivey didn’t take long before announcing all in for 300,000 more. Moneymaker snap called and exposed his trip queens. Ivey was in great shape to build a chip stack for the official final table. He needed to dodge an ace, queen or six in order for his full house to hold. However, disaster struck when the ASpade Suit peeled off the top of the deck.

Despite the devastating exit in 10th, Ivey went on to establish himself as the best player in the game over the course of the next seven years of the decade. In addition to winning poker tournament after poker tournament, Ivey benefited from the online craze, winning millions on Full Tilt Poker, and representing the site around the world.

While Ivey recovered from the loss, Moneymaker sparked a poker boom that saw the game’s popularity explode. There aren’t many hands that could be argued as having changed the history of poker, but Moneymaker v. Ivey with one card to come is one that has an excellent case.

Moneymaker Makes Titanic Bluff

The Action:

After 11 hours of final table play, Moneymaker decided to make an all in bluff versus Sam Farha during heads-up play that showed the poker world he deserved to be playing for the main event title. With the KSpade Suit 7Heart Suit, Moneymaker opened from the button for 100,000 and Farha defended from the big blind with the QSpade Suit 9Heart Suit.

The flop came 9Spade Suit 6Spade Suit 2Diamond Suit. Farha checked, and Moneymaker quickly checked behind. The turn brought the 8Spade Suit, giving Moneymaker a ton of outs to beat his opponent’s pair of nines. Farha bet 300,000, and Moneymaker made it 800,000. Farha called, and the river brought the 3Heart Suit. Farha checked, and Moneymaker put his opponent all in. Farha tanked before eventually folding, and Moneymaker looked visibly relieved, having notched a crucial blow to his veteran opponent.

It wasn’t long before Moneymaker finished off Farha, when his 5-4 held against Farha’s J-10 after a J-5-4 flop. After a brick on the turn and river, Moneymaker was the champion and poker was forever changed.

How the Hand Histories Look Now

Moneymaker’s semi-bluff turned stone-cold bluff on the river was regarded as exceptional at the time, and many still see it the same way. However, given how the game has evolved, and with the rise of the online heads-up specialist (which can be credited to Moneymaker’s effect), was the line he took really that fundamentally sound? At the time it worked, but how does the play stand up against the test of time and the ever-expanding universe of poker theory? Moreover, was Moneymaker ahead of his time in being able to pick off a hyper-aggressive bluff by Boyd? Or was the accountant just a calling station that benefited from a wild play from another big stack?

Those answers are for you to decide.