The History of Poker—Online Poker—Moneymaker



Over the years, we've seen a lot of poker legends emerge. Players like Doyle Brunson, Phil Helmuth, and Stu Unger were famous in poker circles and considered celebrities.

In the early 2000s, one amateur poker player would become a legend himself, almost overnight. Even though he couldn't match the WSOP record of someone like Phil Helmuth, Chris Moneymaker's contribution to the poker world is perhaps more remarkable.

This article looks at his story and how it influenced countless others to pursue their chance at the online poker tables and usher in a new era that would boost poker's popularity beyond anything ever seen before.


Chris Moneymaker was born in Atlanta, Georgia. After obtaining a master's degree in accounting, he worked in accounting and part-time at a local restaurant.

Growing up, Moneymaker was always interested in card games. He learned to play poker from his father, but it was "Rounders", a cult poker movie, which inspired him to follow his poker dreams.

While working as an accountant, he also played online poker. One day, he entered a $39 satellite tournament and won a ticket to the main online qualifying tournament for the World Series of Poker. Moneymaker then won the man qualifier too and got a free entry into the $10,000 WSOP main event in 2003.

However, despite winning a free ticket, Moneymaker couldn't afford to travel to Las Vegas and participate in the tournament despite working two jobs. To fund his travel, he sold a share of his potential winnings to his father and an aptly named friend, David Gamble.

After he got the funds together, Moneymaker headed out to Las Vegas. Little did he know that he would end up making poker history and become a household name. He also honored his promise and shared his winnings with his father and his friend.


The main event of the World Series of Poker is a $10,000 no-limit hold'em tournament since the 1970s. It offers millions of dollars to the winner and the sought-after unofficial title of poker world champion.

The WSOP main event in 2003 was Moneymaker's first live tournament. For the main event, thousands of players sign up every year; a mix of professional poker players and amateurs who can afford the $10,000 buy-in or win a free ticket from satellite tournaments like Moneymaker did.

In 2003, as the tournament went on and the field started getting smaller, Moneymaker's chances of winning the tournament kept increasing. On the starting day of the main event, he faced mostly amateurs, but the competition naturally kept getting more challenging.

Against all odds, Moneymaker eventually found himself in the tournament's final table, facing off against five professional poker players. However, near the end of the tournament, only two players remained—Chris Moneymaker and Sam Farha (a veteran in his own right).

Even though he was severely outmatched, Moneymaker eventually knocked out Farha, winning the tournament in 2003. He became the first WSOP winner to enter the tournament with an online satellite tournament.

His story of turning $39 into millions of dollars became a media sensation and brought America's attention to online poker. This has been called the "Moneymaker Effect" and increased the active users on online poker rooms to levels never seen before.


At the main event, Chris Moneymaker finished first and won $2,50,000. It remains his most significant win to date, even though he came close to winning a WPT event just a year later and eventually finishing 2nd.

The lack of any notable wins in his career other than the main event has led to some calling Moneymaker lucky and doubting his actual poker skills. He was nominated to be inducted in the Poker Hall of Fame in 2016, but there wasn't enough support due to his lack of results compared to other professional poker players.

Critics have also said Moneymaker's most enormous contribution to the game wasn't on the table but off it. He was the one who demonstrated it was possible to become a poker pro with online poker, which was considered very niche then.

Due to the popularity of his win, it is likely that Moneymaker will always carry the "lucky" tag unless he manages to win another WSOP bracelet.

Yet his role as an ambassador for online poker has been critical. Following his WSOP title win, PokerStars signed him as a spokesperson, maintaining his presence in the professional poker world. In 2019, he was nominated to be inducted in the Poker Hall of Fame again, and he was finally listed among the greatest poker players ever.


The "Moneymaker Effect" led to a rush online poker sites had never seen before. Over the following few years, it kicked off a poker boom both online and offline.

By this time, the online poker sites had also improved massively, along with the rest of the internet. It was almost a new gold rush and at the center of this were two poker sites called PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

In our next article, we look at these two sites in more depth and the booming online poker scene that was kicked off majorly due to Moneymaker's story.