The Book of Moorman: How to make $10m in seven years

The Book of Moorman:  How to make $10m in seven years

Friday, 1 November 2013

We chat to the most successful online pro in history.

Chris Moorman is back on top. Last month he became the first online tournament player to surpass the $10m mark in career winnings (according to data compiled by Then, the night before we spoke to him for this interview, he made six final tables, winning the Sunday Brawl and T-Rex at Full Tilt and the $60,000 guaranteed at PartyPoker outright. With a hangover. On one hour’s sleep, Chris talks to Bluff Europe about his journey to the top and how staking nearly broke him.

Chris, tell us about last night!

It was pretty crazy. I ended up winning three tournaments, which never really happens on a Sunday with all the big fields. I was always going to play but a lot of my friends went out the day before on an all-day drinking celebration at the races. Tom Middleton was celebrating his EPT win and 35 of us went out for that and drank all day. I was feeling terrible to be honest, hung-over and not in the best frame of mind, but I still couldn't miss out on Sunday. I went over to Toby Lewis' house and started playing there. I didn't fancy my chances at the start of the day but I just couldn't lose a hand!

Were you feeling massively in the zone or just running like God?

Obviously, most of the stuff I tried was coming off. Maybe I was making the right folds. A lot of it was just hitting a set every time I had a pocket pair which helps (laughs). I definitely should have won one tournament whatever happened, but obviously it's pretty amazing to win three.

You’ve just surpassed the $10m mark online and must be feeling top of the world. Does that help you play better?

It gives you confidence when you’re deep in tournaments. Poker is such a confidence game. If you get down to two tables, you feel like you're going to be finishing top three, maybe even first when your confidence is high. Obviously you get the flipside of that sometimes as well; when you're on a bad run you just know you're about to get coolered. In the Trex (at PartyPoker), my internet disconnected and I was down for about 15 minutes with 20 people left and I got back just in time to win a three-way all in with aces! About 10 minutes later I got two all-ins again and hit a set over aces and won again. There was hardly any skill to that!

Can you trace your development as a poker player for us? How the hell did you get so damn good?

I started out in cash games, mainly. I was playing them and doing pretty well – up to $3/$6, $5/$10 levels as my main game. That was seven years ago. They were quite big games at the time. There weren’t $100/$200 games then; the biggest games were $25/$50. I occasionally played $20/$40. I did well in that. I only played at one site which actually went down because of the original American government thing (UIGEA). So that week I discovered PokerStars and Full Tilt and set up accounts. I didn't want to play cash on there because I couldn't get my Poker Tracker and HUD working and I didn't want to play against new players I'd never played against before without it. So I started playing online tournaments.

Everyone was a lot worse in cash games back then anyway but in the tournaments they were ten times worse. It was crazy! I'd never seen anything like it. I got hooked on the tournaments. I did well in one, a Full Tilt Sunday one – it was much smaller then. I think I got $13k for fifth. I loved the buzz of the format... the way multi-tournaments worked. I got hooked. I never really got back into cash much after I got hooked on playing tournaments as they were soft and so much fun to play. It was a great buzz when you got to the final table. It just kept poker fresh for me.

What year was this?

I think 2006. From there, tournaments became my regular game. At first I was a very solid kind of player, didn't do anything too crazy. Gradually, I started talking to different people, one of them a Scandinavian friend. I talked to him and he obviously played like a typical Scandinavian. He was best friends with Annette_15. I learnt a lot of things from him and I started playing crazy. By then I'd built up quite an image as a tight player so it worked particularly well for me at the start. People always folded to me. From there, I went on a big run, learning different parts of games from different people. I spoke to a lot of players and tried to take a bit from each and every one of them to create my own style.

Were you putting in big volume from the beginning?

Yes. I was always going to play all the buy-ins. I didn't really care if it was a small tournament. I had the same focus in an $8 rebuy or a $1k freezeout. Every tournament was the same. At the start, I didn't play the $100 rebuy until I felt I was ready. I would study and watch those tournaments, make notes on people. So when I did actually start playing, I had notes on all the regulars and they hadn't really played me that much as we'd only come up against each other in big Sunday tournaments. I wasn't playing the $100 rebuy for a while. I had a database on them but they didn't have much information about me, other than that I was a regular player. That kind of helped me. When I did start playing the $100 rebuy I was really motivated to play my best.

How many tables are too much for you? Everyone has their limit.

These days you can't play as many tables just because the standard of play is much higher. Even the fish are aggressive and have a clue what's going on. There aren't that many people any more who can't win a tournament. The guy might not be a good player but he's still aggressive and puts you to decisions for all your chips. He's not going to limp call or check fold. It's changed. Back in the day I may have played 21 tables or something. You could pile up a lot in the early stages of tournaments. Now I don't get away with that.

I broke my monitor the day before yesterday – stood on it when I was drunk. I didn't realise until I started to play and turned on my monitor and it wouldn't work. I was stuck with my laptop screen so I tried to play fewer tables. Because I was on for the Triple Crown I still tried to play stuff on there, tournaments that I don't normally play on sites where I hadn't won. Most of the time I was on about 15 or 16 tables but always on the laptop screen which made it a bit hectic. Any more than that would have been really bad, a real hindrance. I think 12 to 16 is my magic number. It's weird. If I'm playing fewer than 12 I try and play too many hands. Once you get deep in, say, three or four tournaments, that's when you're playing your best game. I know a few people who play, especially in the WCOOP for example, five or six tables at a time. If I was playing five or six tables at a time for the whole session I'd start making too many spewy plays. Playing more tables keeps me in check, not trying to play every hand.

You're the most successful online tournament player in the world. Do you ever stop and think, why me? What is it about me that's so good?

I'd say the main thing is a lot of hard work. I’m quite self critical if I go on a little downswing. Obviously, everyone moans they’re running bad but I won't really try to use it as an excuse. Rather, I'll try and look at certain spots where I'm getting owned by other players and constantly keep trying to make my game better. Obviously, you've always got room for improvement. I'm always looking at what I can do better and what other people are doing better. Also, I feel like I have a wide group of people to talk about poker with and they all have different views. I try to bring it all together.

There was a period, about two to three years ago, when you weren’t winning so much. Do you feel vindicated now you’re back on top?

It's weird. I had one of my worst years online in 2010. It coincided with my breakthrough year in live poker. I finished second in the WSOP Player of the Year. I had three final tables but didn't win anything, I kept coming second. All that stuff was going on live and maybe it took a bit of focus from my online game. I feel like in that time I was running really good. I was running good in live poker, winning those key flips.

It was funny: at the time, certain people were asking how I was playing differently in live poker. I thought I was playing similar to how I had before but I was just getting a bit of luck in the key situations that I hadn't really had before. At the same time, it was the opposite online. I felt like I was playing well. Maybe I was a little rusty as I hadn't been playing as much. Maybe it took 5%-10% off my game. I remember on PokerStars the previous year I was ranked on the Official Poker Rankings top 50 on the site out of hundreds of thousands of players, and then within a year I was ranked 200,000 instead of top 50. It wasn’t like I had suddenly forgotten how to play poker. It shows the variance of online poker. The fields are so big. You need a couple of big scores to make a big profit. You need to have those big Sundays. You're trying to get wins during the week for $4 or $5k to keep you afloat but the real profit comes from the big scores, which I wasn't able to hit at the time. To get back to winning consistently is great and it’s even sweeter when you’ve been on a bit of a downswing.

You’ve staked a lot of players in the past. How was that experience?

It all started with one of my friends who owed me some money and he didn't have any way of getting any money in the foreseeable future. I sorted out a backing deal with him which was the best way to get paid back some money. He did OK for me to begin with. Then I got a couple of other guys. The first big live tournament I played I had three or four guys in the PCA Main Event. One of my guys, Tyler Reiman, got second for $1.7m. I ended up getting just over half of that as we had a little make up as well. I spent the day watching the final table, having a couple of beers, supporting him and every time someone busted out of the tournament I was making another $100k (laughs). It was crazy. I'd been working so hard, playing hundreds of thousands of tournaments to make this money and then bang, one day, watching the final table and I'd made $1m! It was a blessing. It's amazing. The next day I woke up and checked the results and couldn't quite believe it until he sent the money to my account.

It got me hooked on it. I signed up almost anyone who asked me. It kind of went out of control. I did get some really good players but also got some players that weren’t up to scratch and were playing stakes that they couldn't really beat. It was weird. I had too many guys, 25 to 30 guys, and it was just me supporting them which was way above what my bankroll could handle, really.

I was fortunate enough for a long time. I ran good to begin with. I had people win EPTs, WPTs, WSOP bracelets, watched them win hundreds of thousands of dollars. I met a lot of great people through it, got to travel the world, made great new friends. There were definitely a lot of highs but the swings are crazy. Mohsin Charania won the EPT Grand Final for me in Monte Carlo for over €1m. Then he sent me the money and I had a lot of money on PokerStars. The next week it was the SCOOP and obviously there are a lot of big buy-ins, $2k buy-ins, $1k rebuy turbos, crazy stuff. I didn't have control. I was putting everyone in everything and it got out of control. All the money that I’d just won I’d lose back in make up. It was so up and down it was stressful. It definitely distracted my game at times. It was hard for me to focus. In the end I decided to get out of it. I had a lot of fun doing stuff and it was great. The good times were really good but the swings of it were really stressful. Unfortunately, I got carried away too early and overextended myself with too many guys in big tournaments. But it was fun.

Was there a point when you thought "if I don't stop this it could ruin me"?

Yes. You had a lot of money one week then the next you felt the pressure, then you'd win a tournament again and you have a lot of money again. It wasn't really a lot of money if your guys didn't perform for a few weeks. It was very volatile. It was more trouble than it was worth. There's a lot of work to do, keeping up with everything as well. You have to rely on everyone being trustworthy. People on the whole were great in that sense. But you get the odd person who screws you over.

There’s a lot of debate about poker tracking software and whether it's scaring away the recreational players. Do you have any opinions on that?

I did use a HUD for a little while but I found it was a bit of a hindrance. I was making plays based on the numbers on the screen and I wasn't really thinking as much as when I wasn't using a HUD. If I made a play and got it wrong and I did it because of the HUD numbers it got me frustrated. So I stopped using a HUD, even though I know it makes sense to use one. A lot of times, people get a lot better reads on someone than me. But I just felt like it was affecting my game negatively. I can see how recreational players would hate that stuff as it allows mediocre regs to play a lot better. If you know someone's playing a certain amount of hands from certain positions it's so much easier to play against them if you have half a brain. In an ideal world I’d like HUDs to be banned but I don't think that's going to happen. I feel like it would be a lot more of a level playing field for everyone. When regulars put the hours into working the HUD they can take people’s games apart and really take advantage of their weaknesses.

You've just launched your website. Tell us a bit about that.

I had a website before that I didn't really keep up to date with and I didn't really like, to be honest. This new site looks really professional. I'll definitely be active on it. I'll log in at least once a week and keep up to date with everything. It's nice to talk to fans. That stuff is really important to me. I remember when I started doing well and I developed this fanbase. It was weird because I didn't expect that at all. I was one of the few online guys who played from the UK. It was kind of just me. At the time, I looked at the rankings and it was me from the UK and everyone else was from America. It felt like doing it for UK poker. A lot of people said nice things to me about that; that I was an inspiration. I've always tried to be successful for my fans. Hopefully this will be a good communication tool. I'm looking to do different things, video blogs maybe, answering people's questions. It’s only just started but I think the potential is enormous.

Do you think you'll always be a poker player?

I'm sure at some stage in the future I'm definitely going to do something else. I still really enjoy poker and that's the main thing for me. The minute I fall out of love with the game, hopefully I'll be in a position to do something else. I don't really know what that is at the moment. When it happens it happens. I don't think it will be any time soon. I'm not going to be playing poker forever. I don't think I'll be a Doyle Brunson.

Tags: Chris Moorman, Online tournaments, $10 million, milestone, staking