More than seven years have passed since a 28-year-old accountant from Tennessee won the World Series of Poker Main Event, proving not only that anyone can play poker, but that anyone can win. Chris Moneymaker went on to become a wildly successful ambassador for the game as the face of PokerStars, but what of his eight opponents? Welcome to a new series where we take a look back at some of poker’s greatest final tables and discover “where are they now?” First up, the tournament that changed the game as we know it — the 2003 WSOP Main Event.
Ninth place, David Singer ($120,000)
These days, ninth place in the Main Event will earn you at least a million dollars, but when David Singer was the first player to exit the Final Table in 2003, he took home only $120,000. As poker boomed in the aftermath of Moneymaker’s win, Singer started spending more time on the tournament trail than in high-stakes cash games. Since ’03, Singer has made five more WSOP final tables (including two stints at the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. final table) and won his first bracelet in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em event in 2008. He also made two final table appearances on the World Poker Tour during Season 4, finishing third at the PokerStars Carribean Adventure and sixth in the Borgata Poker Open.
Tournament earnings before the final table: $276,395
Tournament earnings since the final table: $3,930,766
Eighth place, David Grey ($160,000)
David Grey already had a WSOP bracelet in seven-card stud when he arrived at the 2003 Main Event Final Table. A longtime regular in some of the highest-stakes cash games in the world, Grey, like Singer, ratcheted up his tournament schedule in the wake of the poker boom. Grey won his second bracelet in 2005 in the $5,000 No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw event and shortly thereafter started scoring invites to play in made-for-TV tournaments like the Poker Superstars Invitational, the NBC National Heads-Up Championship, and Poker After Dark.
Tournament earnings before the final table: $627,370
Tournament earnings since the final table: $886,323
Seventh place, Young Pak ($200,000)
I’m sorry, who? Young Pak may have earned some face time on ESPN, but he’s hardly recognizable in the poker world these days. Pak’s only in-the-money finish at the WSOP since 2003 was a 246th-place finish in the 2005 Main Event. Pak also cashed in events at Mandalay Bay and Atlantic City’s the Sands, but aside from that, he has hardly been heard from at all.
Tournament earnings before the final table: $34,039
Tournament earnings after the final table: $47,195
Sixth place, Amir Vahedi ($250,000)
With his contagious smile, quick wit and trademark cigar, Amir Vahedi became one of the most beloved personalities in the game following his Main Event Final Table appearance in 2003. During the “Bennifer” era, J-Lo herself retained Vahedi’s services as a poker coach for Ben Affleck. Following the 2003 WSOP, Vahedi returned to what he did best — winning tournaments. Playing events with buy-ins between $200 and $2,000 Vahedi racked up countless final table finishes and 26 wins, his largest single-tournament score the $446,292 he took home for winning the $1,485 Limit Hold’em event at the 2005 L.A. Poker Classic.
Vahedi sadly succumbed to complications from diabetes and passed away on January 8, 2010. He was 48 years old.
Tournament earnings before the final table: $873,204
Tournament earnings after the final table: $2,214,789
Fifth place, Tomer Benvenisti ($320,000)
Unlike Singer, Grey, and Vahedi, Tomer Benvensti was not a professional player when he sat down at the final table of the 2003 Main Event. Benvenisti was more likely to be found in a middle-limit hold’em game on the Strip rather than at the final table of a major event. Benvenisti did not find a great deal of tournament success after the 2003 WSOP, although he did min-cash in the 2004 WSOP Main Event and finished 27th in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout in 2005. Benvenisti is still lurking around Las Vegas; he turned up at this year’s Main Event (wearing a visor that said “The Luck of a Schmuck”) and made it to Day 3 but did not finish in the money.
Tournament earnings before the final table: $0
Tournament earnings after the final table: $63,430
Fourth place, Jason Lester ($440,000)
Much like Singer and Grey, Jason Lester is primarily a high-stakes cash-game player, spending serious hours behind a stack of chips in Bobby’s Room. Since 2003, he has made four WSOP final tables and won his first bracelet in the 2006 $5,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em event. In 2010, Lester has been on a bit of a roll. He finished 12th in the $25,000 buy-in WPT World Championships, came in 16th in the $10,000 World Championship Pot-Limit Omaha event at the WSOP and cashed in the Main Event, as well, earning some face time on ESPN along the way. Lester also appeared in a cameo role in Curtis Hanson’s critically reviled film Lucky You, but perhaps he’d prefer it if we left that one off his resume.
Tournament earnings before the final table: $162,745
Tournament earnings after the final table: $1,504,886
Third place, Dan Harrington ($650,000)
For a guy who is not and has never been a full-time poker pro, Dan Harrington hasn’t done too badly for himself. In what is often referred to as one of the greatest feats in WSOP history, Harrington followed up his third-place finish in 2003 with a fourth-place finish in 2004, earning $1.5 million. He also quite literally wrote the book on no-limit hold’em tournaments, penning the wildly successful “Harrington on Hold’em” series. Harrington has two WPT final table appearances on his CV, finishing second at Bellagio’s Festa al Lago in October 2005 and winning the 2007 Legends of Poker Main Event for more than $1.6 million. Harrington earned a seat in the 2010 WSOP Tournament of Champions via popular vote and is currently nominated for the Poker Hall of Fame.
Tournament earnings before the final table: $1,796,265
Tournament earnings after the final table: $4,161,953
Second place, Sam Farha ($1,300,000)
Sam Farha was already a WSOP bracelet winner when Moneymaker pulled off the “bluff of the century” during their heads-up duel in the 2003 Main Event. He added a second to his collection, winning the $5,000 Omaha Hi/Lo event in 2006, then captured a third in the $10,000 World Championship Omaha Hi/Lo event this summer. A fixture on GSN’s High Stakes Poker, Farha remains one of the most popular players in the game, despite playing a very light schedule. He was among the top 20 players voted into the 2010 WSOP Tournament of Champions, earning more votes than the man who wrested the Main Event title away from him seven years ago.
Tournament earnings before the final table: $196,853
Tournament earnings after the final table: $1,341,385
First place, Chris Moneymaker ($2,500,000)
He’s still the reason we’re all here, and more than seven years later, Chris Moneymaker still earns the respect that comes with igniting the worldwide poker boom. After his Main Event win, Moneymaker signed with the site where he so famously parlayed a $39 investment into $2.5 million — PokerStars — and still represents the online poker giant in tournaments around the world. What has been more difficult for Moneymaker is the fact that every person at every tournament table he sits at wants to take him down, mainly so they can tell their friends and family that they busted a world champion. Moneymaker has worked hard on his game since winning the Main Event and is starting to see some better results. After winning two $1k NLHE side events at the 2008 APPT Sydney, Moneymaker took down a $500 pot-limit Omaha side event at the 2009 Gold Strike open in Tunica, then went on to finish 3rd in the $5,000 Main Event. Moneymaker also finished ninth in this year’s NBC National Heads-Up Championships and cashed the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo.
Tournament earnings before the final table: $0
Tournament earnings after the final table: $555,316
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