The PokerNews Interview: Chris Moneymaker
Chris Moneymaker, along with the hole-card cam and the WPT, has always been one element of the perfect storm that brought poker to the masses in 2003. Moneymaker's unlikely victory over Sam Farha showed the world that anyone could become a poker champion. The Moneymaker Effect is still going strong in poker, as every year there are more players, more tournaments and bigger prize pools than the year before.
As for Moneymaker himself, he's been relatively quiet in the poker scene since his 2003 win. In some circles, he's even reviled as the guy who got lucky and never really backed up his performance. That's all appearing to change in 2007, as Moneymaker took 17th in the pro-packed PokerStars EPT London main event. His finish in London seems to show fans and peers that maybe there's more to Moneymaker after all. Here's what he has to say about it.
PokerNews: You came in 17th at the EPT London main event, your highest finish in some time. Tell us about that experience.
Chris Moneymaker: It was good! I hadn't played a whole lot since my win. I guess in February of '04 I got second in a WPT. I got 10th in an Omaha. I've had some decent finishes, but it's been awhile since I've had a good finish and 17th was all right. I wanted it to be better, of course, but it was fun. They run a good tournament over there. It's great that it was a PokerStars-sponsored event, and I had a good time.
PN: Tell us about the hand you went out on, with versus Florian Langmann.
CM: The table had been playing pretty tight. We were about to go from 17 players down to 16. We were on hand for hand, and there was a money jump of £4,000 (or $8,000). Our table – the hand was dealt, and it shouldn't have been dealt. We dealt faster than the other hand had completed, so they were debating on whether they would take the hand back or not, or wait. I looked at my hand as it was being dealt. I liked it. I was on the button with and I liked the hand. It's a good hand, so I said we needed to keep the hand. It's already been dealt, so let's just go, let's play it. I was pretty adamant that I wanted to play the hand. Certain people at the table picked up on that, and Florian raised to 22,000 when the blinds were 4,000 and 8,000. I had about 205,000, ballpark. Maybe a little less than that at the time. And he had me barely covered. It would have crippled him and eliminated me. So I just made the call. I almost popped him there. I popped him earlier with the and this time I had a . For some reason I thought he might be strong, like A-K strong, which is what I really put him on.
So the flop came 10-6-4 with one spade. Rainbow otherwise. He made the same 22,000 bet. To me, it just reeked of A-K, A-Q – something in that range is really where I put him. So I chose, instead of raising at that point – looking back, it wouldn't have mattered – I just smooth-called on the flop, trying to catch my 7 and see if he would make a big mistake on the turn. The comes on the turn to put two diamonds on the board and he checks, and I just decide to, you know, now that I have an up-and-down and believe he's on A-K or A-Q – I'm going to go ahead and push and see if I can win it right here. If I'm wrong, I probably have at least eight outs to win the pot, if he somehow does call. It ended up – he checks, I push in, and without any hesitation he called immediately. Before he flipped the hand up, I can't really guess where I am. I'm thinking , , something in that range. He flipped over , which was even worse for me. It left me with six outs, and he hit his flush on the river and sent me out in 17th place.
PN: What is your next live event?
CM: It's up in the air. I have a chance to nail it down today. I was going to Dublin, but I had to back out of that for some other travels I have to do. It looks like now, I just started to commit to a WPT event in Atlantic City which will be November 7, [which] I believe is the start of the main event. And then in December, I know I'm playing in the Asia Pacific Poker Tour with PokerStars down in Australia.
PN: Are you playing in the Aussie Millions in January?
CM: In January – one of the things I've talked about with my wife, even though we have a kid on the way, is playing more tournaments, and getting more active on the tournament circuit. In January I plan on going to the Bahamas and they're going to go with me for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure event. There are two tournaments in Tunica at the same time. I live in Memphis, so it's about a 45-minute drive to get down to Tunica. So I'm going to spend the rest of the month in Tunica playing in the tournaments down there once I get back from there. January's pretty much booked up. I don't feel like going to Australia two months back to back.
PN: Speaking of your family, you have another child on the way. How has that experienced shaped you as a person?
CM: It just changed my priorities. When I was with my first wife, even, my priorities were mostly probably playing poker, work, and then family was somewhere in the middle to last place. My new wife opened my eyes to what family means. I've re-prioritized my life and saw what was important and now, family comes before anything else. We do things together every single day, and I choose my travel based on what they do. So it went from poker being probably the primary thing in my life back in '03 when I won the World Series to '04 – to somewhere in mid-'04 changing to family, and then starting a business comes second, and then endorsements, and then finally poker comes in last. That's just basically how my priorities have changed since being with my wife and starting a family with her and having this great connection with her.
PN: What do you spend most of your time doing these days?
CM: I spend most of my time working on – I have a slot machine company and a chip company which take up most of my time. The slot machine company's taking up probably 90 percent of my time right now. It's a very time-consuming and hands-on ordeal. I spend quite a bit of time with doing that. When I'm not doing that, I spend a lot of time with my family. I spend a lot of time with them, and then I'm trying to play at least one tournament a month. That's pretty much my goal for here on out. Play one live main-event tournament a month if I can. Sometimes I'll miss something – January, I play three main events, so that'll make up for when we do have the baby in March. I'm going to miss February and March, not play any events. So my main goal is just to try and get in 12 tournaments a year and try and maybe even play in up to 20 a year.
PN: What's the hardest part about being a public figure, and has it gotten easier over the last couple years?
CM: It's getting easier in the respect that I'm used to it. People staring at you all the time, people looking at you, wondering if you're Chris Moneymaker, what's really going on – the people staring at you constantly – today we were at Backyard Burgers down here in Florida, and the staff were all staring at me while the poker was on TV, and the next table over was looking at it, looking at me – I wasn't even on, but they knew who I was, you could tell by their reactions. I used to try to duck out of the way of it, and now I just don't pay much attention to it anymore. But it's gotten easier in the fact that it's been awhile.
The hard part is, you can't really do anything without people criticizing it. If I bust out of a tournament, it's a big ordeal a lot of times, where a lot of other pros that bust out, it's not a huge ordeal. Since I haven't won anything in three years of any significance, now I'm a terrible player, where you know, there are other players – Howard Lederer… they don't do – they play basically about as much as I do. They don't have results like I don't, but you don't hear people bashing them. It's just, I don't know. You get bashed a lot for doing nothing, basically.
PN: So you get recognized in public fairly often, still.
CM: Oh, yeah. About an everyday occurrence as I'm out and about.
PN: What cash games or events are you usually found in on PokerStars?
CM: Well, it really depends on the day. I try to play anything from $1/$2 No-Limit to $100/$200 Limit, and sometimes I'll play $200/$400 Limit. For the most part, $100/$200 Limit's my normal game. If I'm not playing that, then I can be found at $1/$2 No Limit, $3/$6 No-Limit, $5/$10 No-Limit, $5/$10 Limit, messing around with people. I'll play $10 rebuys, I'll play the Sunday Million. I don't play a whole lot of tournaments because they are so time constrictive in that they take 8-10 hours to play. I usually don't spend the whole afternoon playing, so I prefer cash games. But every once in awhile, I'll play in the Sunday Million, or I'll play in the Sunday Million and a $10 rebuy along with it. Or one night, if I'm out of town, I'll play a lot of tournaments. Depends a lot of I'm out of town or not, too. That's usually where you'll find me – basically everywhere.
PN: The Moneymaker Millionaire was a big success for Stars. What was that like, and are they planning anything else with you along those lines?
CM: They've talked to us about doing a three-champ type idea, but I think that now that they signed Daniel Negreanu, they're doing something "play with Daniel" this year. I'm pretty sure every year down at PCA they're going to have some other type of promotion that's geared toward one of their players, whether it's a three-champ, or Daniel, or me, or whatever. I was the one that started the trend, and this year's going to be Daniel, and it was a great experience. It changed the life of Quillan [Nagel], who's actually a really nice guy. I met him at the World Series again this year, and he seems like he's doing really well with the money. Turned him into a millionaire, for a freeroll. It's a great opportunity and a great idea for these players. I don't know what Daniel's promotion has – I don't know what his promotion's about, but I think every year at the PCA, PokerStars is going to put on a cool promotion that people will really get a kick out of.