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Best of Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
 

Moneymaker happy to be back in spotlight

15 March 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Without Chris Moneymaker, there wouldn't be a National Heads-Up Poker Championship.

For that matter, if it wasn't for Moneymaker we might not even be talking about poker.

His story has become legend.

Moneymaker, an unknown Tennessee accountant, won a $39 satellite tournament on the Internet gambling site PokerStars in 2003. That earned him a seat at the World Series of Poker's Main Event, the $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em World Championship.

A few days later, Moneymaker traveled to Las Vegas and topped a field of 838 players at Binion's Horseshoe to win poker's premier event, taking home $2.5 million.

Following his improbable feat, Moneymaker joined the professional poker circuit. But he never really emerged as a star. He's had only one other first-place finish in a tournament event since 2003 and went two years -- 2005 and 2008 -- without cashing in a sanctioned tournament.

"I was really a super-inexperienced poker player," said Moneymaker, who had been playing online for a short time when he qualified for the World Series of Poker. "I really didn't focus on the game and I paid the price."

Moneymaker took a step toward redemption this month when he finished as runner-up in the National Heads-Up Poker Championship at Caesars Palace, losing to Erik Seidel in the final. Second place was worth $300,000, his largest tournament event payoff since winning the World Series of Poker.

Moneymaker said he recommitted himself to the game last year, hiring a mental coach to help him overcome the peaks and valleys that can be associated with tournament poker.

Before playing in the Heads-Up tournament, Moneymaker played in two PokerStars-sponsored live events in the Caribbean. He earned $130,000 for an 11th-place finish in one event.

The two taped-for-television Caribbean events, coupled with the Heads-Up tournament, which will air on NBC, will give Moneymaker both a reintroduction to poker's fan base and much-needed self confidence.

"Before, I wasn't ready to commit to the game and there were so many good players who were much more experienced than I was," Moneymaker said. "Now, I'm putting the time in to my game and I'm focused. I've learned how to rid myself of negative thoughts."

The Heads-Up Poker Championship featured 64 top poker professionals and celebrities in a series of one-on-one no-limit hold'em matches that are set up in a bracket-style format.

Competition was single-elimination, with the championship determined by best-of-three games.

Seidel, a member of the Poker Hall of Fame who earned $750,000 for the championship, eliminated Moneymaker in the round of 16 in last year's Heads Up event. Seidel, an eight-time World Series of Poker individual event bracelet winner, finished as runner-up to Annie Duke in 2009.

"That's a good sign," Moneymaker said. "I've done well in this tournament."

Following Moneymaker's inconceivable victory in 2003, interest in poker exploded. Online poker participation boomed with legions of new poker players hoping to emulate Moneymaker's success.

Poker rooms in Las Vegas reopened and expanded. Regional casino markets added poker tables. The game's established stars saw their careers revived and wealth and riches pour in.

New televised poker events multiplied as cable channels opened space.

Meanwhile, the World Series of Poker has more than tripled its participants since 2003, increased its number of events, and saw its prize pool top $187 million last year. The World Series of Poker now has an offshoot tournament in Europe and circuit events in the U.S.

Many credited Moneymaker for the resurgence, dubbing the phenomenon "The Moneymaker Effect."

The resident of Spring Hill, Tenn., however, shrugs off the notoriety.

"I do enjoy the attention and getting noticed," he said.

During the Heads-Up event, Moneymaker beat 2010 World Series of Poker finalist John Racener as well as poker legend and 10-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Doyle Brunson.

NBC will air episodes of the tournament over six consecutive Sundays beginning April 17.

"The television exposure will be nice," Moneymaker said.
Moneymaker happy to be back in spotlight is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.