You would have heard of many celebrities that have dabbled in poker. Shannon Elizabeth of American Pie fame once described poker as a second career and was known as one of the hottest women on the circuit. Ben Affleck, Hollywood actor, director and screenwriter, has a penchant for high stakes poker games. However, in the last two decades more and more poker players are becoming celebrities in their own right because of their exploits on the tables. Chris Moneymaker was among the first of them and with a name like that he was destined for greatness. His net worth stands at $16 million today.
Start of a Poker Career
Chris Moneymaker shot to fame as the 2003 winner of the World Series of Poker (WSOP), easily the biggest and the most popular tournament in the sport. WSOP had been running since 1970 and had seen many champions so just the win was not what drew attention to Moneymaker.
Online poker was an established activity by 2003 with several poker rooms attracting players from across the world. Qualifying rounds for the Main Event were held online and the selected winners could then come to Las Vegas to play in the tournament. Till 2002 none of the online qualifiers could make any impact at WSOP. In 2003 Moneymaker became the first online qualifier to win the WSOP Main Event. He began by winning a $86 satellite tournament at the online poker card room PokerStars. This win gave him a seat at a table in a larger satellite tournament whose prize was an entry to the WSOP Main Event, which otherwise would cost $10,000. Moneymaker placed first and took home $2.5 million, the biggest WSOP purse till then. He was immediately idolised by thousands of online poker players who now believed that their WSOP dream could come true.
Chris came from an American family of German origin that was engaged in the production of gold and silver coins. The family had changed their German last name “Nurmacher” to Moneymaker. Chris was born in Atlanta on November 21, 1975, and he attended Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. He then earned a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee in accounting.
The WSOP win was not the first taste of tournament prize money for Chris. He was playing poker online at PokerStars, another major host in the world of poker. At Poker Stars Caribbean Adventure Main Event in 2001, he ranked 11th among the best poker players, a title that earned him $130,000 at the time.
The Moneymaker Effect Legacy
The Moneymaker Effect was the term created by the media for the exponential surge that engulfed online poker after Chris won the WSOP in 2003. Moneymaker became the new poster boy for everyone writing about poker.
- Howard Swains wrote in The Times that the Moneymaker win was inspiring potential players to believe that staying at home and playing poker online in front of a computer screen could be more profitable than going to work.
- South Florida Sun carried an article titled “Internet Levels Playing Field for Poker Glory” by Adam Goldman that said, “His improbable win also started a new era in poker in which a nobody could topple the feared pros.”
- According to an article in the Las Vegas Sun, Moneymaker’s victory and televised tournaments with hole-card cameras have launched the poker craze that shows no sign of ebbing.
An immediate demonstration of the Moneymaker Effect was seen at the 2004 WSOP when Greg Raymer, another online qualifier, went on to win the Main Event. The field had tripled to 2576 players from the 839 in Moneymaker’s year and the prize money for the winner had doubled to $5 million.
The personal front was a bit turbulent for Chris. He was married at the time of his big win, but that ended in a divorce in 2004. Chris wanted to be a traveling poker pro and his wife said she had married a stay-at-home accountant and not someone who was away from home and gambling a lot of money. With his first wife, Moneymaker has a daughter, Ashley, born three months before he won the WSOP Main Event. Chris married his current wife, Christina Wren, in 2005 and they live in Nashville, Tennessee.
2005 saw the release of his biography Moneymaker: How an Amateur Poker Player turned $40 into $2.5 Million at the World Series of Poker. Moneymaker became a brand ambassador for his first online poker site and plays as a member of Team PokerStars. His profile on the website reads: “His story sparked a tidal wave of interest in poker, a phenomenon that’s been nicknamed the ‘Moneymaker Effect’ […] he’ll always be remembered for that epic victory in 2003. It’s a legacy he is clearly proud of and one that’s given him the kind of life all poker players dream of.”
The Later Years
Chris Moneymaker consistently won prizes at poker tournaments through the following years, though none were as big as the WSOP Main Event. He did well in other WSOP events and the rival World Poker Tour tournaments as well. He continued winning prize money in online events, mainly sponsored by PokerStars. A prestigious outing was in 2011 at the National Heads Up Poker Tournament where Moneymaker placed 2nd against Erik Seidel. His total live tournament winnings are almost $4million. The bulk of his net worth comes from the high stakes cash poker games, however, which is true for any poker professional. In 2019, Moneymaker was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Other Poker Players
Chris Moneymaker has his ten seconds of fame because he fanned the online poker revolution. There are other poker players much higher up on the net worth rankings like Daniel Negreanu with $50 million.