PokerStars School: Firstly, taking yourself back to 2003, how did you feel when you won your $10,000 buyin to the WSOP Main Event? I think even winning this seat is a huge achievement for most players. This must have been exciting moment?
Chris MoneyMaker: I was super excited, I called everyone I knew and told them I was going to the World Series of Poker. Most of which responded, "what is that?". I would liken it, to winning a Platinum Pass today. I was looking forward to an experience, I never thought I was going to win it would just be an experience.
PSS: When it sank in that you'd be playing in the biggest poker tournament of 2003, playing against the best players in the world for huge prize money, how did you start to prepare for the tournament?
CM: Preparing for a tournament in 2003 was not the same as today, there were not as many resources available to study. My buddy went and bought me sun glasses, I showed up 4 days early just to get some practice, I'd never played live before, I wanted to see if players could read me or I could read them.
PSS: The day finally arrives, you take your seat for the Main Event, and you're dealt your first hand. How are you feeling at this stage?
CM: The first hand of the main event, I was extremely nervous, I felt like I was hyper ventilating leading up to the start. For the first 3 hours, I was a ball of nerves, I didn't play a hand for the first 30 minutes, until I was dealt kings.
PSS: How many hours each day were you playing poker? Was it tough to play for such a long time?
CM: The poker days back then, were a lot longer than they are now, we'd start at noon and go to about 1am, sometimes 4am in the morning. They had to hit certain numbers, so they'd continue playing until they hit them. I was 27 years old, so my stamina was much better than now. A mixture of water and energy drinks helped too.
PSS: Making Day 2 must have felt amazing, what was your strategy during the mid-levels of the tournament?
CM: My strategy each day all the way to day 5, was just to make it through the day, just to survive, play as least hands as possible. I kept telling the PokerStars reprehensive, I can just fold my way to the money and that was my plan.
PSS: At the end of each Day, what did you do after the tournament ended to relax and unwind?
CM: I waited for the seat draw to come out, which usually came out at 1am in the morning. I'd go and play $1/$2 No Limit, once the draw was out, I'd go find Dan Goldman to tell me who was good at my table, he knew most of the players back then. This would give me the rundown of the players at the table.
PSS: As the bubble neared, the pay-outs must have been on your mind? Did you adjust to try and make the money?
CM: Normally it would be a situation where I'd tighten up and get nervous, but I had a really big stack, and no one else on the table had a stack. So, I did something quite unusual back then, it's popular now, but I abused the bubble and made plays. Making people fold hands, raising people.
PSS: Were there any key hands that stand out for you, on the way to the final table?
CM: The biggest key hand for me was Ah5h, id raised in middle position. I was playing any suited ace, a guy called in the big blind and the flop came 9T7 and he checked, I checked, 6 on the turn, he bet 15k, I made it 30k, he made it 45k, then I made it 145k, he called. I got no heart draw just a bare ace. Then Q came on the river, making a possible straight, he checked, I moved all-in for 400k, he had about 200k left and let it go.
I also played a hand against Scotty Nguyen, where he raised in middle position, I three bet him with KJ, he called and the flop came Q high, I checked, he bet and I check raised him and he folded. At the time, I knew who Scotty Nguyen was, so that was a big pot for me.
PSS: Knocking out Johnny Chan on your way to the final table must have felt amazing? Did this effect your game?
CM: It gave me more confidence knocking out Johnny Chan, on day 3 I knew he was the perfect poker player. When he's sitting 2 to my left, it's just a nightmare situation, he beat me up good on day 2, so for me to knock him out the tournament was a big confidence boost going forward. If I could knock out Johnny Chan, I could play with anybody in this tournament.
PSS: You went into the Final Table as chip leader, 2,344,000 (27.9%), this must have been a real confidence booster?
CM: Going into the final table, I told my Dad the night before it started, that I'm going to get heads up with either Amir Vahedi or Sam Farha, whoever wins the flip between them. They were both sitting around 900k in chips and I had 2 million, I had a feeling that those guys would be the most active players, that they would eliminate some players, have a big flip and I'd play that person heads-up. As it turned out I knocked out a majority of the players and did play the person who won that flip.
PSS: Were you fearful of any players at the final table, was there anyone you wanted to avoid entering pots with?
CM: At the final table I wasn't knowledgeable of any of the players apart from Dan Harrington, but he was one of the tighter players at the table, so he never put me in tough spots or made my life difficult. I played with him on day 1 so already saw him play a little.
PSS: What was your strategy going into the final table?
CM: The strategy ended up being up much different to what I actually did, my strategy was to sit back and just wait for the other players to knock each other out, wait for hands and move up the money ladder. As it turns out, I started getting hands and started knocking people out, and kept getting hands and knocking people out.
We get down to 3 handed and I just went on to hyper turbo aggressive poker, I'm not sure what came over me, but I just went bananas and started raising every single hand, 3betting every single hand. I could tell both Sam and Dan were super tired and I could capitalise on that.
PSS: Were there any key hands at the final table before you made the final 3?
CM: The hand with Jason Lester where I had QJ, he had 3bet me with AQ and I flopped the nuts so dusted him. Also another hand I had raised with A2s, a couple of players called and Tomer Benvenisti moved all-in with TJ, and it was a pretty big shove, around 20 big blind shove, I called and won. Back then making a call like that was kinda awkward, these days it's not as uncommon.
PSS: Heading into the final 3, you had two tough opponents, Dan Harrington and Sam Farha, were you confident that you'd make it to heads up?
CM: Heading to the final 3, I did have 2 tough opponents, but neither player was putting a ton of pressure on me. Sam seemed to be biding his time and wasn't playing back too much, both were tired. So, I raised about 90% of the hands and built a nice lead, I was in the zone so had no fear whatsoever.
PSS: How long was your heads-up battle with Sam Farha? Were there any key hands you can recall?
CM: The heads-up battle was around 24 hands, I knew it would be short. We did discuss making a deal, but Sam thought he deserved more money based on his experience. That told me he wanted to keep the pots small, so I put a lot of pressure on him. The only key hands were the ones you saw on TV, where I bluffed him with a king high and made the full house when I won.
PSS: On the final hand, you flopped two pair, holding 5d 4c on a board of Js 5s 4c, you were a 76% favourite to win this hand and insta-called when Sam Farha pushed all-in against your flop raise. How did it feel when Sam Farha turned over his hand and you were a huge favourite to win the Main Event title?
CM: On the final hand, I flopped two pair, and I just bluffed Sam the hand before that, so I knew he was on tilt, so the second he said all-in, I knew I had him, I knew he was dead. This point in my poker career I never knew what a bad beat was, I'd never taken a bad beat, so it was 76% but in my eyes it was 100%, I was never going to lose that hand.
PSS: After the win and interviews, what did you do that evening to celebrate?
CM: After the interviews and everything I took me and my friends and all the dealers and whoever wanted to go to a club. I ended up spending $25k but only had $15k on me, so a friend in the group gave me Huck Seed's number, I didn't know him at the time but he lent me $10k to pay off my debt in the club.
PSS: It's without a doubt that when you became the WSOP Main Event Champion, you inspired many other new players to join the game, creating the Poker Boom AKA the Moneymaker Effect. How does it feel to have had such a huge impact on Poker?
CM: Obviously the Moneymaker effect is a very humbling thing, I started a movement and created something that lasted for years and still so today. To see that and hear the name the MoneyMaker Effect in books, articles is very humbling. We just had a podcast come out, we are potentially working on movie, so all this stuff is surreal to me. 15 years later it just amazes me that when I walk into a Poker room I get the same reaction as I did back when I won.
You certainly cannot argue with the Moneymaker Effect claims, look how much the WSOP Main Event grew after Chris won his title. Of course Poker on TV, new Poker Rooms Live and Online also helped to create this Boom.
It's a great feeling, at the end of the day Poker's a great game and I'm glad that so many people get to play it. Especially the environment that we have now, where there's so many opportunities for small stakes guys to get in and play tournaments and have the opportunity to play. You know back in the day you couldn't find tournaments; you couldn't play No Limit Hold'em there was just no games.
PSS: What ever happened to the famous sunglasses from the WSOP Main Event? Will they ever make a reappearance to the felt?
CM: Lou Diamond who picked me to win on Day 1, he came to the club after my win, and ended up going home with the glasses. He called me up the next day and said, "I have your glasses", I said just keep them dude. I'm not sure if they will ever make a reappearance to the felt, those maybe long gone. I've got some other cool memento's, but I don't have the sunglasses.