Several decades ago, author Hunter S. Thompson set out on "A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream," which ended up being the tagline to his most famous body of work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. By the end of his psychedelicfueled journey, Thompson was crushed to learn that the dream is only a myth. After the rebellious waves of the 1960s crashed somewhere in the Nevada Desert, the bright and glitzy lights of Las Vegas represented the high watermark as the revolutionary tide rolled back into the Pacific Ocean.
For the last few decades, the eternal flame of the American Dream dulled to a tiny flicker. Millions of lost souls found themselves sleepwalking through life, unexcited about the things, places, and people around them. That was until a mildmannered accountant from Tennessee by the name of Chris Moneymaker became the focal point of the gambling world. You know the story: Moneymaker won a seat in the 2003 WSOP via a satellite on PokerStars and parlayed a $33 investment into $2.5 million.
Maybe it's the name "Moneymaker" or simply timing, but Chris Moneymaker is often listed as one of the primary causes of the 21st century's poker boom. It's not so much a boom as a viral infection or an epidemic and if you've attended the last two WSOPs or play online poker, you'll see the Moneymaker Effect in full force. Poker players from the farthest corners of the world flew into Las Vegas for their shot at fame and glory. Over the last two years, television companies and channels have churned out dozens of poker-themed shows. For a while, you'd have to stay up until 3AM to see a poorly edited episode of an old WSOP final table. Today all you have to do is turn on your TV and you'll find a high stakes game, celebrity poker, or multiple episodes of the WSOP.
If you've been playing on PokerStars over the last few years, you also know about the steady growth of players on the site. In 2005, PokerStars online qualifiers represented almost 20% of the overall field. At the 2006 WSOP, over 1,600 players won their seats on PokerStars, which is almost twice as many people that Moneymaker had to beat out in 2003 for his world championship. Chris Moneymaker revitalized the American Dream. Underneath the bright lights of downtown Las Vegas, Moneymaker's run at the Horseshoe in May of 2003 captivated an international audience as he busted poker greats such as Phil Ivey and Humberto Brenes. Moneymaker survived an epic heads up battle against local high roller Sammy Farha, which gave poker players at home something that had been absent from their lives for a very long time... hope.
In physical appearance, Moneymaker looks like any guy in your homegame or in your office. He was clad in a PokerStars branded golf shirt and hat and wore sunglasses as he stared down the slick and cool Sammy Farha, clothed in an expensive black dinner jacket and his trademark unlit cigarette dangling from his lips. ESPN's cameras caught one of the greatest bluffs of all time from Moneymaker. It's moments like that which rattled the competitive juices inside everyone who watched. Moneymaker represented the average Joe Sixpack online poker player and he took down a Vegas shark in Farha.
Witnessing that epic feat gave thousands of other players encouragement to sit down and take a shot at the big time. Moneymaker was the snowball that launched the avalanche of televised tournament poker. He passed the torch along to fellow PokerStars player Greg "Fossilman" Raymer who would go onto to win the 2004 WSOP Championship. Not only did Raymer also win his seat to the WSOP online at PokerStars, he also won the last full WSOP Championship to be held at Binion's Horseshoe. To be continued...