6 Minutes Read
PokerStars India team pro and well-known poker personality Muskan Sethi has been consistently churning out some excellent poker content through her “Off the Felt” video series. The talk show that is live-streamed on the PokerStars India YouTube channel is already five episodes old. The fifth episode of the show took place last Tuesday, and as her guest, Sethi invited one of the most renowned names in poker, Chris Moneymaker!
There is no denying that Moneymaker is a great ambassador for the game. While in this recap, we touch upon the key snippets from the entire interview, if you want to check out the full interview, you can do that right here:
Sethi’s introduction for Moneymaker was on point: “Today our guest needs no introduction. A WSOP Hall-of-Famer, he started a new era in poker back in 2003 when he turned $86 into $2.5 Million, with a name that seems too good to be true! Let’s welcome Chris Moneymaker!”
If you are a poker lover, then the legend of the ‘Moneymaker Effect’ must have reached you too. In 2003, Moneymaker was making a living as an accountant when he booked a seat to the WSOP Main Event after winning a $86 online satellite on PokerStars. He was the only amateur to make it to the final table and was labeled by many as a ‘dark horse.’ Perhaps it was destiny, but Moneymaker went on to win the Main Event and emerged $2.5 Million richer, garnering for himself poker superstar status as the new World Champion of the game.
Since then, Moneymaker has accumulated $3.9 Million in live tournament earnings and, in 2019, was also inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Moneymaker featured in Sethi’s talk show on April 28, where they spoke on a wide range of topics including his historic WSOP victory in 2003, his life as a PokerStars ambassador, his views on table-talk and much more.
Before we get to the interview, let us tell you a little bit about ‘Off the Felt.’ Hosted by Sethi, it’s an exciting talk show featuring prominent poker players. The very first episode was released on January 4 with poker pro Rajat Sharma as the first guest on the show. Since then, many seasoned players have come on the show, such as Raghav Bansal (Episode 2), Daniel’ Jungleman’ Cates (Episode 3), and even the two-time bracelet winner Nipun Java (Episode 4).
Now, let’s get to the interview….
Before & After the Moneymaker Effect
Everyone knows the story behind the ‘Moneymaker Effect’ (if you don’t, just read the short description in the introduction). In fact, many top Indian poker players have claimed to have been influenced by Moneymaker’s incredible 2003 run into learning and playing poker.
Sethi asked her fellow team ambassador what $86 had meant to him back in 2003. To which Moneymaker went on to describe what it was like playing online poker 17 years ago. “Well, back in 2003, I had about 200 bucks on my online account. What people don’t realize back in 03, on PokerStars, for example, the Sunday Million was like $200K. The big game back then was five ten limit. They had one-two no limit. The tournaments were all like ten and twenty bucks. There was no such thing as online poker, and everybody that played online poker was considered kind of a second-class citizen. When it came to playing live poker when we came out to play in the World Series, back then, people thought we were just playing checkers, and they were playing chess. Anyway, so I had 200 bucks in my account, and I registered for an $86 tournament. I had about $8,000 in credit card debt. Living paycheque-to- paycheque. Yeah, it was tough.”
Talking about the market crash of 2003 and losing a job before he won the Main Event seat, Moneymaker revealed, “I had a really good job with Deloitte and Touche, which is a huge accounting firm and then 9/11 happened. When the World Trade Center got attacked by terrorists, and basically it shut down travel in the US for a little bit of time, which is kind of really eerily similar to right now. So, after about three months, we were all let go. I was unemployed for six months. During that time is when I started playing online poker, and I was kind of supporting myself playing online poker. Finally, I really was fortunate to stumble upon a really good job right before I won a seat into the World Series Main Event. I told everybody I’ll see them on Monday, even if I won the tournament I’ll be back for work. They were nice enough to give me a week off work to go play in the poker tournament, and I was back to work Monday morning at 8:00 am”
Winning the most coveted title in poker made Moneymaker an overnight celebrity. “I went home on Sunday we had a big party where I worked. Then I did show up for work on Monday morning like I said I would. I was getting phone calls from David Letterman and Jay Leno to do these late-night shows, and public speaking to me was the biggest fear of my life, so there’s no way I was ever going to do them.”
Being an Ambassador for Poker
Moneymaker shared how much he loves interacting with people, and that has, in turn, helped him become an ideal ambassador for the sport. “I didn’t have to change anything to be an ambassador or to be someone that promoted the game. I remember there was another Main Event winner that wanted to do kind of what I was doing. He had reached out to me. Like how do you get appearances and how do you do all this stuff. The problem is he couldn’t change just who he was. He couldn’t change his personality to fit into doing what I do full-time. I mean, it just wasn’t his personality. It’s really easy for me to go and hang out and talk to people and be friendly with people.”
“The actual socializing happens at the table. Shaking hands, taking pictures, talking with people, that’s not work to me. That’s like the easiest thing in the world. So, it’s easy to be an ambassador when you don’t have to do any work,” he summarised.
Talking about how honored he feels to be viewed as an idol by many, he said, “I mean it’s a huge honor. I’ll be honest, a lot of people don’t realize I wasn’t the first amateur that won the World Series. A year before, an amateur, just as much an amateur as myself, won the Main Event. His name was Robert Marconi. Robert’s a super nice guy, really down to earth. There was one big problem with Robert though. Robert graduated from MIT and is a very, very, very smart individual. He comes across as a very smart individual, so, people could not relate with him when he won the World Series of Poker. He’s not a pro, he’s an amateur, but he’s a super-smart guy. Well, most of the people think that if you go to MIT, you go to Harvard, or you go to some of these really top schools that people are smarter than you. Well, fast forward one year and you see some dumb redneck from Tennessee win the tournament and think, well, hell if that idiot can do it, I can do it. And that was really what the premise for the Moneymaker Effect was. It wasn’t so much that an amateur won the tournament, it was an amateur that made people realize if he could do it, I could do it.”
Tips on Bankroll Management
Coming from an accountancy background, Moneymaker had some solid bankroll advice to share. “No one ever plays proper bankroll management, let’s go ahead and put that out there. I mean, if you’re playing in a cash game, you want to have a hundred buy-ins on average to play in that cash game. It seems like every single person I know always gravitates to the biggest cash game they can afford. That being said, if you’re a professional poker player, you have to include for the variants of poker. It doesn’t matter how good you are if you go broke because you’re playing too big. That’s why every single person I know that plays bigger than they should, they’re all broke. They’ll be rich one day and then broke the next.”
He went on to distinguish between poker bankroll and expendable money, saying, “So proper bankroll management is a very, very tough skill. If you want to be a poker player, it’s probably the most predominant skill you that you need is to be able to manage your bankroll. There’s a difference between a bankroll, and you’re expendable money. A poker bankroll is what you can’t replenish. You’re not going to get a paycheque and then put more money to your poker bankroll. Obviously, your poker bankrolls bigger if you can put more money to it. People will ask me; I’ve got a $200 poker bankroll. So, I ask, now what happens if you lose the $200? They say I’ll just put $200 more. Well, then that’s not your poker bankroll.”
Mid-way through the interview, Moneymaker let slip that he has rubbed shoulders with Hollywood stars like Ben Affleck, Tobey Maguire, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
He advised players to take a break from online poker during the lockdown. He further explained that even after winning the WSOP Main Event, he continued to play $3/$5/$10 games. “Just because I won the World Series doesn’t mean I’m gonna go play $50/$100 all the time now. I’ve played $100/$200, but those games are against Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio. You know games where I feel like I have an edge.”
When Sethi clarified if Moneymaker had indeed played with DiCaprio, Moneymaker shared a short tale. “I got a funny story. I was at a party in Hollywood, and this guy came up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders and goes dude I’m a huge fan. I turn around and its Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s a really surreal experience. It’s been – it’s been – a pretty wild ride.”
When asked if he likes tilting players, Moneymaker claims to be a ‘big needler’ and enjoys being on a table with people who he can have a verbal joust with. “I am an ambassador, and I get to enjoy what I do, which is just hanging out with people and communicating and talking with people. I don’t have to sit here and grind out $10,000 buy-ins against super crushers all the time. So, it’s easy to keep a positive attitude and have a good time with it when you’re not currently under the stress of you know, making multi-million-dollar decisions on a poker table every day. As far as like tilting people, I’m a big needler. I like to make fun of people. I only pick on people I know that can take it or usually that will throw it back. I mean, I’ve got a very thick skin. I encourage people to pick on me. I give as well as I can take, and so I’m constantly needling people at the table.”
Striking the Poker-Life Balance
The former World Champion also dished out some valuable advice for striking an ideal poker-life balance. “It’s honestly one of the toughest things a professional poker player can do. People want to play poker, and they want to feel like they’re being productive and working. When you’re playing poker, you can get into these spells where you just go, and you play. Especially when you’re running good, you just feel like you want to play, play, play, play. I’ve gone through periods like this where you know I’ll play, and then I’ll be running so good I go take a four-hour nap and jump right back on and start playing again. A week or two later, and I’m still just grinding non-stop. I’ve got my workstation littered with drinks because I haven’t moved, And my family’s like dad, what are you doing?! It happens to everybody. The one thing that you just have to be aware of and that’s one thing that I’ve been really fortunate for with my wife is she does make sure that I’m really balanced. She makes sure that there are other things in life.”
He continued: “I’ve just learned throughout the years that you just got to step away and make a schedule for yourself. I mean start looking at the tournaments that you want to play or the games that you want to play and set that schedule and really stick to that schedule. So, if a tournament you want to play starts at 5 pm, don’t log on at 1 pm to play that 5 pm tournament. Go exercise. Get something done because once you start playing poker, you’re not going to stop until you go to bed. Generally, the majority of people have this problem that they just play non-stop. You’ll register for multiple tournaments. You’ll just grind, grind, grind. So, each day start afresh and make sure that you get everything that you need to get done, whether it be pay your bills, or whatever it is, take care of that stuff in the morning because, again, once you start playing poker a lot of times you’re not going to stop. So, the morning time to me is the most important time.”
He also talked about the importance of being accountable to your family. “If you do have someone in your life that is important, kids, wife, whatever, tell them I’m going to play one tournament today, and when I bust this tournament, I’m gonna be out of the tournament. Tell them that, and then they’ll hold you accountable to not just go register for more and more tournaments. Then go be with those people. Take the day off, take the night off.”
Advice For Newbies
When asked to give advice to Indians looking to take up poker, Moneymaker said, “Online poker! That’s really the key for everybody that’s ever learned this game quickly and effectively – it’s getting online and playing small stakes and learning what works. You want to have a good group of friends that you respect that are good players that you bounce ideas off of. But really there’s no substitute for playing hands and putting yourself into situations. If you’re playing small stakes, try different things. Try a five-barrel bluff, try squeezing, try limping in certain spots. Just try different things and see how it works. See how it fits into your game. That’s why for years, poker was pretty easy because there weren’t all these resources. There wasn’t online poker. Then online poker started taking off, and people got good because they played online, and you learn so quickly.”