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Kevin Smith

Moneymaker's Win Brings Attention to

7 August 2003

When the World Series of Poker got underway in June, Rich Korbin was just hoping one of his players would finish in the money and maybe get some exposure for

As the marketing director for, Korbin helped arrange 32 players to get spots in the crown jewel of poker events. The site sent more players to the event than anyone else, other than the host Binon's Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

As the main event, No Limit Texas Hold 'em, progressed and one of PokerStars qualifiers continued to advance, Korbin’s goals kept changing.

"Once he started doing well, I was just hoping for him to finish in the top 25," he said. "Then I just wanted him to make it to the final table, once he made the final table I really got greedy and was hoping he was going to win the whole thing."

Then, he was eventual champion Chris Moneymaker. Korbin’s expectations were met and exceeded ten-fold. saw an expected surge in hits and signups immediately following the conclusion of the WSOP and all the media coverage that surrounding Moneymaker and his story. Not only was Moneymaker playing in his first WSOP, he was partaking in his first-ever live tournament.

While the extra publicity was great for, a second wave of attention has generated more business for the site as taped coverage of the event is aired on ESPN. The network started airing one-hour programs highlighting action from the WSOP in July and is scheduled to air action from the final table and final hands in mid-August.

The extra coverage means what would have been a one-time spike in business for not only but the entire online poker sector, now becomes one of the best summers for online operators everywhere.

"We saw a tremendous rise in business after the event," Korbin said. "But nothing compares to what we have seen over the last two weeks as the ESPN coverage has hit high gear."

Now that he has seen the after-effects from the WSOP in two separate waves, once Moneymaker’s winning hand hits the ESPN airways he is predicting yet another spike in business.

"ESPN is in something like 80 million homes in the U.S.," he said. "Although there was a lot of attention on Chris after he won, I think there are a lot of people who still don’t know he won and the publicity we will get from that on ESPN will be absolutely priceless."

Denis Boyko operates the leading tracking site of online poker,, and said his research coincides with the increase in business that has experienced.

Boyko’s site is able to monitor action by the hour at the leading poker sites. He not only tracks the number of players playing and how many tournaments but also how much money is being wagered on the sites.

"My own guess is that the TV exposure has to be the number one driver to the industry growth," he said. "I believe that, and EmpirePoker which is a front-end to PartyPoker, UltimateBet and PokerStars have all had good TV exposure. I believe that TruePoker is doing TV ads now. The growth at some rooms over the course of the last year is pretty amazing."

And Boyko’s numbers show that PokerStars is among the top sites for the month of July in total players and total rake. The site vaulted to the top 5 for July after being near the top 20 just a year ago. The site is among world brands as Victor Chandler, William Hill and Ladbrokes and other Internet-only operators like PartyPoker and UltimateBet.

While their players didn’t win, a host of sites had a presence during the WSOP broadcast. Many players were wearing hats or t-shirts endorsing Golden Palace, Casino-on-Net, Ultimatebet, RakeFree, and a host of others.

Like Boyko, Korbin feels the TV exposure is the main catalyst in driving the popularity of online poker sites up. Not only is ESPN devoting unprecedented coverage to the WSOP, the Travel Channel has been airing prime-time programs covering the World Poker Tour since early spring.

"The results from the TV coverage has been unbelievable," Korbin said. "It has gone well beyond even our wildest expectations."

Korbin wouldn’t comment on specific numbers the site has experienced, either before the WSOP or after, but he said the growth has been exponential.

In the wake of his improbable win in the WSOP, inked Moneymaker to a personal services contract to leverage his success even further.

The accountant from Tennessee has kept his full-time job but is making personal appearances for and is already in TV ads the site is running in conjunction with the Travel Channel coverage of the WPT.

Korbin said Moneymaker has been great to work with and his story of casual player to World Champion can be used to inspire other players to give tournament poker a chance.

Not only can Moneymaker inspire other players, but Korbin and Boyko both say the Internet is the ideal space for a new player to learn rules of various poker games and get comfortable with their playing style and strategies.

And of course, as Korbin points out, the fundamental ideas of the Internet have helped out the world of online poker.

"Now, regardless if you live near a land-based casino or not, you can log on and play poker 24-hours a day anywhere around the world," he said. "The Internet has done so much in getting people exposed to poker and giving them a chance to try it that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. Although we have experienced tremendous growth as an industry, I still think this is just the tip of the iceberg."

Moneymaker's Win Brings Attention to is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith