Chris Moneymaker Interview

Chris Moneymaker Interview

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Meet the man who changed everything.

It’s been 11 years since Chris Moneymaker changed the game for everyone (including Leo DiCaprio) and somehow, he’s still relevant. We caught up with him at the recent UKIPT Isle of Man to get a small peek into his life.

How’s your Isle of Man trip been?

It’s actually been really good. I’ve had a good time, I went and saw the (PokerStars) office. The tournament itself was pretty unique - I had a really easy table, but my hands just didn’t seem to hold up.

We heard a scouser giving you grief all day!
Yeah, it was a talkative table. It was fun and we bantered all day. I just couldn’t really get anything to hold up. I started well, but bluffed it all back. Then blinds go up and that’s how it goes.

How much does it affect your live tournament game, when the players at your table always want to speak to you?

You can’t focus as hard sometimes because you get caught up in conversations, but that’s not really an excuse - I should be able to focus anyway. When I’m playing I like to keep it really competitive and I do like to talk at the table; I’m usually good at talking and using the information against the people. But sometimes I find that if I’m at a fun table I can lose focus, but it’s not normally my style.


What do you look for in a tour stop?

I look to go to new places. I like to see the world. I’ve been to London every single year. I’ve been to Monte Carlo every year. I’m skipping those two this year. They’re probably my least two favourite of all the EPT stops because it’s so serious. If you go to the Isle of Man, it’s very relaxed. I’m going to Prague this year instead. I like to visit new places. I’m looking for new locations to open up and to get to visit them and see what it’s like. I don’t really pick tournaments on the field, I just like to go visit places.

Why do you think poker is so accessible, so that players can qualify online and get a seat next to the champ?

It’s the NASCAR model I guess. Before a race, you can go down and talk to all of the drivers. You can interact with them - I think that’s why NASCAR is so popular. You can’t do that in almost any other sport. Golf you can see them pretty close, but for sports like football or basketball you can’t get near the players. Those sports obviously carry themselves. If you can’t interact with NASCAR drivers - or poker players, the sports would probably die off. Because it’s all about getting to know the players and having the opportunity to have those interactions is key to developing a fanbase. Poker isn’t going to be on TV every week with a league that you can follow the same players. When poker is on TV, you probably won’t know all of the players. It's a new group every single time, so it makes it difficult.


It’s been 11 years. Are people still playing back at you?
The game evolves so much and play changes so much. The first six or seven years, it was just obscene how much people played back at me. It was just every single day, every game I played - no matter what, people played back at me. As the knowledge base of people has grown, even amateurs more often than not, will play a little bit different but not much. No one goes out of their way to bust me any more, where as in 2007, people would just go bananas to have that Rounders moment where they bluff Johnny Chan. Poker has evolved now, you don’t have the really bad players; they’ve been weeded out. If you’ve been around poker this long - you either have a job that supports your losing or you’ve been doing well. Fewer people are taking crazy shots.

It’s been so long, we’re effectively two poker generations post-2003. People who are crushing now might have just started in 2011, but they still seem really appreciative of what you did for the game..

Yeah, it’s weird. I have a friend who was one of the better players online in 2005. He’s selling cars now. We had people like Brian Townsend, Tom Dwan etc and now most of them are gone. We’re probably on our 3rd or 4th generation of new players. Once you reach a certain level and play high stakes, it’s tough to revert back after a downswing. I tell all the young guys coming up to be careful and live within their means - to understand the value of a dollar. I always consider that I’m putting my kids’ money in the pot. But the young guys now; they’ll rent planes or rent yachts - stupid insane things. And they wake up 2 years later and they’re broke.
It’s weird that the first generation of players looked down on my game and as time has progressed people have been nicer about it.

There was never any real backlash and that still remains. People are still, wow it’s Chris Moneymaker.

I think it shows how I treat people. I’m never a dick to people, I just try to relate to them. I try to have fun at the table, I try not to have a big head or flash money around. I’m just a guy trying to enjoy playing poker and I want everyone to have a good time. I just want to be an ambassador for this game and put a positive light as much as possible. I’ve seen pros not show up for things - I’ve never seen a job where you can do that. But some poker players think that’s acceptable and to be honest, most of them aren’t around any more.

So apart from poker. What does Chris Moneymaker get up to these days?

I watch Tennessee lose football games obviously! (Tennessee have just lost 10-9 to Florida). I spend a lot of time with my family. I have three kids who keep me busy. Taking them to school or gymnastics, soccer or whatever. Just spending as much time as I can with them. I home maybe 50% of the time and the rest of the time I’m on the road.

They’re nine, six and two. So not old enough to come out on the road.
I like playing fantasy sports. I like to watch football and play golf. We have some cool small businesses and we’re starting a radio show and a YouTube channel. It’s a mixture of poker and fantasy football. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.


Was it hard after winning the Main Event to adjust to playing tournaments again for low sums?

Nah, not really. When I won the money, I didn’t look at it for a long time. I knew at 27, I couldn’t retire.. The biggest game I played is $100/$200 - but in those games it has to be the perfect lineup, where I have a huge edge. I always value all my scores. I played $8 tournaments in ‘04 and I’ll still play them. I think all the good grinders do that theses days. People like Calvin Anderson play literally everything.

Where’s the most random place you’ve been recognised?

I was at a Hollywood party and I got a tap on my shoulder and it was Leonardo DiCaprio. He told me he was a huge fan. It was surreal.

What plans do you have for 2015? Any plans to play online?

I only get to play online when I’m out of the US. But all indications show we’ll be able to play (on PokerStars) in New Jersey soon. It seems like it’s been a couple of weeks away for the last six months. That might change my plans if it comes in. Other than that, I’m going to Prague. I’ll be at the Brazilian Series of Poker. Then it’s PCA and my spring is booked up all the way through almost to the World Series. I’ll still be at home 50/50. It works out well - when I get sick of my wife I can go on the road and then when I miss her, I can come home.

Tags: Chris Moneymaker, interviews