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The Chris Moneymaker Story Continues

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Apr 21, 2021

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Gavin GriffinAfter graduating from college, my wife took a job at Los Angeles County Public Works. We lived in Fullerton at the time, a college town in northern Orange County, about 25 miles from her office. She didn’t last too long at that job because the 50 miles of commute each day would take her around three hours in LA traffic.

Perhaps because she was already in a foul mood from the commute, she started to develop opinions about Chris Moneymaker of all people. There was a billboard on her route that featured Chris in an Aston Martin with scantily-clad models surrounding him. The ad was for a PokerStars promotion called The Moneymaker Millionaire, which was a freeroll with a $1 million first prize.

The ad made a lasting impression. For some time, my wife would make comments about Chris whenever he came up. Then, when I was signed by PokerStars, she met him. She was ready to dislike the guy she had stared at in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours, but as she found out, it’s very hard to dislike Chris Moneymaker.

My first event as a sponsored pro was the 2008 European Poker Tour main event in Monte Carlo, which Chris also attended. It didn’t take him long to win her over with his friendly disposition and charm. To this day, she thinks of him fondly.

If you’re reading this, I imagine you almost certainly know the Moneymaker story. But for those who might be new to poker, I’ll briefly summarize. As a casual poker player, he won a satellite online, and then a few months later, took down the World Series of Poker main event for $2.5 million. It’s a story that is so ubiquitous in the poker world that it’s hard to imagine the time before you knew about it.

Chris MoneymakerI used to read the late Andy Glazer’s tournament reports religiously, and it was in his nightly updates about the 2003 WSOP when I first read about Chris. I told my parents that his name must have been made up because there is no way that someone who won the biggest poker tournament in the world was actually named Moneymaker.

Then I watched the ESPN broadcasts and saw the fearlessness with which he played and became an immediate fan. I hadn’t heard of PokerStars at the time, but I signed up for an account not too long afterwards and remained a customer until Black Friday in April of 2011. I had already started playing poker pretty seriously by the time I heard of Chris, but his association with PokerStars was a big part of why I started playing online. I know a generation of poker players who can say the same. It’s no surprise why he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2019.

Chris is easy with his time and his energy for fans, even though I know it wasn’t natural for him. He’s handled his (much greater amount) of fame and notoriety better than I did my (small amount). I was and still am, kind of surly and anti-social. It’s hard for me to be gregarious and outgoing. But Chris could do that… even though it might not have always been his favorite thing to do. Many people have asked me over the years about Chris, and I’m always ready to tell them that he’s a good guy who loves doing his part to grow the game.

Getting to know Chris over the time we were both sponsored by PokerStars was a joy, and I’m glad we became friends over the years. Chris was always in higher demand at these events than I was, but we found time to hang out at every stop. I was actually shocked when he and PokerStars parted ways at the end of last year. I think if the Scheinberg family was still running the company, Chris would have been a sponsored pro for life. But I still so closely associated him with PokerStars, that it was tough to think of them ever breaking up.

And now that he’s sponsored by Americas Cardroom, I expect nothing but good things from them. Chris confirmed my suspicions almost immediately by launching a campaign that raised $100,000 for the Tunica Humane Society, as well as a great promotion with ACR called The Next Moneymaker that will award one player a $105,000 sponsorship.

Chris went from being an unknown accountant in Tennessee to the most-talked about poker player in the world overnight, and while there were struggles along the way, he is still around 18 years later making the best of his opportunities.

I defended Chris to my wife when she saw those billboards. I spoke up for Chris’ playing style to all kinds of people who thought he was bad at poker because of a few televised hands played back in 2003. But the truth is that I’ll always be a fan of Chris Moneymaker because he makes it so easy on me. ♠

Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by HeroPoker.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG