FRIDAY MAY 26, 2017
 
Blog TALKING TO
CHRIS MONEYMAKER
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It was just over a decade ago that accountant and amateur player Chris Moneymaker stumbled into a satellite tournament on PokerStars by mistake and went on to claim a WSOP bracelet — plus the $2.5 million prize that went with it.

His victory resulted in the so-called “Moneymaker Effect”, which led every other everyman with half an interest in poker to think they actually had a shot too, increasing the number of online competitors by tens of thousands and making the game’s top players stars.

But as Moneymaker knew, lightning rarely strikes twice. Long gone are the days when Johnny Moss and Doyle Brunson were multiple main event winners. Nine new names have claimed a WSOP bracelet since Moneymaker’s now famous 2003 win.

And now, he’s back in Las Vegas for another WSOP, older and definitely wiser, with no regrets. TORO caught up with the affable Moneymaker during a break in the action for this conversation.

Is it hard to believe that 10 years has passed since your World Series of Poker?

It seems like 10 years sometimes. Then sometimes, it seems like a week. Other times, it seems like 20 years ago. But I guess I am 10 years older because I can't do some of the same things I could when I was 27. I was a bit more spry and I could play longer. As I'm getting older, I'm finding it's a bit more difficult.

It is a physical grind to survive a tournament, isn't it?

If you look at the top of the poker world, the top players are all in shape and they're doing all kinds of physical training. That's where the game is today, sort of like any other sport. I mean, it does take a lot to sit there for five or six hours and focus but the good players are doing it for 14 hours. It's really difficult to keep your focus for that long and not make a mistake. I played really well two days ago for about 12 hours then I made one mistake in that 13th hour and I was out of the tournament.

How do you handle the bad beats and losses?

I teach poker camps and one lady asked me during a camp: "You know, whenever I bust on the bubble or take a bad beat or I lose a big tournament, it stays with me for a week — it really bothers me. How am I going to get over that?" And I said, "The answer's pretty simple. If losing a poker tournament bothers you for a week, maybe you need to find something else to do."

If I bust a poker tournament, it's not going to bother me longer than the time it takes me to walk out the door. You lose poker tournaments more than you ever cash. It's a mathematical fact. If you can't get used to losing in this game, especially in tournaments, you just can't survive. The best players in the world only cash 14% or 15% of the time.

Did you always have that mentality or was it something you learned from experience?

Well, when I started playing, I thought I was going to win every tournament I played. Ten years ago, poker was in a different place. People didn't know what they were doing. There wasn't as much information out there. It was really just a hobby. I spent the last 10 years learning this business and really understanding how the business has evolved. Everybody's gotten better at it. So really, more or less, you learn from experience.

Did you think you would win in that first World Series of Poker main event?

I actually entered it by mistake. Pokerstars back 10 years ago didn't have the nice layouts it has now. Now it's easy to find satellite and cash games, you can easily see what it is you're registering for. Back then, online poker was a bit remedial with everything thrown in together, they didn't tell you if it was a satellite or cash tournament. They just told you the buy-in amount. And the other thing was that games didn't fill up that often and it was kind of hard to find a sit-and-go going off because they didn't have the traffic they do now. So I saw a sit-and-go about ready to go off and it was filling up and I jumped in. Once I got into it, I was like, "Oh shit, this is a satellite."

With my bankroll back then, playing a satellite to a larger satellite to a larger satellite wasn't even something I was interested in. First of all, if I win the first one, the chances are pretty slim that I'll win the next one. And if I win the next satellite, then I have to go up against the best in the world. My poker history had been playing with friends around a kitchen table and a little bit online. So I was really upset that I'd entered and I just wanted to survive. I had no illusions of cashing or winning the thing. I was sure the the best players would be able to read every hand that I had.

You won a lot of money and gained a lot of attention, did it change you?

It did a little bit. I try to think that it didn't, at least not the core values, but, obviously, it does. I tried not to let it change me. I kept my job and went back to work for eight or nine months but just what was going on with everything, things did change. But it made me who I am today. Ten years ago, my biggest fear was doing interviews and public speaking and I had to deal with getting up in front of people and I was really shy when it came to that. And then the first interview I did was on David Letterman. I was insanely nervous. I was more nervous right after the tournament doing those interviews than I was during the whole tournament. That and heights were my two biggest fears. I'm not over the heights part but I'm OK with public speaking.  So it did change me in some ways.

Something like that can also teach you who your friends are.

Oh for sure. I didn't have that many friends before, but I had friends coming from everywhere for a while. And now, I only have a couple friends from before the win. I did learn that friends and money don't mix — and you figure out pretty quickly who cares about you for you.

Did you want to go after another WSOP bracelet?

I didn't really think about it, to be honest. I knew I didn't want to go out and become a professional poker player, I didn't want that lifestyle. I wanted a steady paycheque. I didn't want to sit at a poker table every day to earn money. I didn't want to travel the circuit. I wanted to play some more poker tournaments but I wasn't going to be a pro and go out and play every single day. I thought I was going to win another tournament at some point. I mean, I won the biggest one so why can't I win some of the small ones.

Even the best players in the world don't win all the time. There's skill, yes, but luck does come into play.

If I was to play in a cash game for one night, you can get lucky and beat me. But if you want to sit down and play with me every single night for a month or two months, no matter how lucky you get, eventually, you're going to go broke, you're going to lose. It's the same principle as black jack in a casino. They have an edge. It might be a small edge, but it's an edge and over time, they will get your money. That mathematical edge is what's built into poker. Better players, over time, are going to make better decisions and mathematically, they're going win.

And, over time, you have sometimes have to ride out the bad beats.

I've been doing this for a long time so I understand that that's the way it is. But there are definitely times when it's hard, when you go on a bad month or a bad two months. You go on those runs and you start questioning your game or if you want to do this and it just takes renewed purpose, you know what you're doing, you're making good decisions and things will work out.

Sounds like you're in a good place going into this year's WSOP.

I feel really good going into my 10-year reunion. I've been playing really strong poker. I've just go to hope that luck is on my side a little bit and that it'll be a good year.

Related >> TORO Talks to Daniel Negreanu | @CMONEYMAKER | FB/PokerStarsNet

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