Five years ago, Chris Moneymaker shocked the poker world by capturing the 2003 World Series of Poker main event. In conjunction with the advent of hole card cameras, internet poker and expanded television coverage, the "Moneymaker factor" changed the face of poker forever.
In Part I of this interview, Moneymaker looked back over the past five years since his victory. In Part II, he discusses some misconceptions that people have of him, what his plans are for the 2008 WSOP and how he feels about the change in this year's WSOP final table.
Lee: You recently got back from the Latin American Poker Tour. How was it?
Moneymaker: It was fantastic. The weather was great. I only lasted about 45 minutes when my kings got busted by jacks. That's tournament poker for you. The tournament wasn't that great, but everything else was fantastic. They had a nice hotel right on the beach and the weather was incredible. So, it was a great time outside the tournament.
Lee: Chris, of all the things that have been said and/or written about you in the media, what do you feel is one of the biggest misconceptions about you?
Moneymaker: I don't read a whole lot of it. My dad reads a lot of it and tells me what's being said. The biggest thing I guess is that I'm broke. That's a common one that I always hear. That I'm broke or I'm a bad player, one of the two is the most common. If I make a mistake or make a bad play on PokerStars or if I'm playing in a tournament and my wife says it's time to go, well I have to bust out of the tournament. So, I'll make a very unusual play like calling off all my chips with a queen-four or something like that. Then, those hands will get posted on some chat forum, showing how bad I am. But if I make a good play, you never see this posted. But the first mistake I make is automatically posted.
Lee: It's like you're under a microscope with everything you do.
Moneymaker: Yeah. If I drop down on PokerStars and play a $1/$2 or $0.25/$0.50, well all of a sudden I'm broke again. It's quite humorous. [People say] I don't play high-stakes poker and you don't see me on TV as much because I'm always broke. So I think that's a common misconception If you see me playing a $1/$2 no-limit on PokerStars, I'm probably experimenting with something, trying something new seeing how it works.
Lee: What are your plans for this year WSOP? How many events are you planning on playing?
Moneymaker: As it stands right now, three events. I'm looking to expand on that.
Lee: Which two events besides the main event?
Moneymaker: I'm playing the first event, which is the $10,000 pot-limit hold 'em, and then the event on June 29th, which is the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha. I'm debating on whether to play in the [$50,000] HORSE event. I've been planning on playing it, but I just don't know if I want to put up that much money against that field with games that I don't play that often. I'm comfortable with the hold 'em, Omaha and stud high-low. But the other two games aren't my strongest games. I'm not comfortable at all with razz or stud. So I don't know if I want to put $50,000 with two games I'm not very strong in. We'll have to see.
Lee: You said you don't feel that strong about stud or razz, but you feel comfortable with Omaha. Have you been working on your Omaha game?
Moneymaker: I've been playing Omaha for a while now. I actually do quite well in Omaha. It's one of my better games. I love pot-limit Omaha and Omaha high-low. I do quite well in them. If I play in a casino, I usually play some kind of mixed game with Omaha and hold 'em. However, I don't play as often as most people would. I don't play every day, just a few times a week.
Lee: Overall, how do you feel going into 2008 World Series? Are you ready?
Moneymaker: Yeah, I always feel ready. It's sort of weird. I got third in a tournament in Australia. I thought I passed the corner of all my bad beats, but the next two tournaments I played in, I again got some bad beats. They happen to me all the time. I'm just looking for a couple of good beats to go my way. I can't remember the last time I sucked out in a tournament. I'm ready to play. I'm just hoping the poker gods find a little pity on me. But I can't complain about much. I feel pretty blessed.
Lee: I'm sure many people walk up to you, telling you they are a big fan and thanking you for inspiring them?
Moneymaker: Yeah. It's really nice and it makes you feel good. But when I was broke, no one ever offered to buy me a beer. Now that I have quite a bit of money, everybody tries to buy me beers. Where were all these people back when I was in college and broke? (Laughing.)
Lee: Well, sounds like you're living a good life. You are literally a poker legend. Do you have any new projects that are on the horizon?
Moneymaker: Right now, I'm working on my company [Moneymaker Gaming]. We are doing slot machines across the country, putting them in Michigan, Oklahoma, California, Florida and Louisiana. That's been the biggest push. We are so focused on the slot machines right now that we've put everything else pretty much on the back burner. We have different celebrity themes. Right now on the market, we have a professional bull-riding machine. We're doing regionalized and localized celebrities. So it's fun.
Lee: Last topic Chris. What do you think of the decision to move the WSOP main event final table?
Moneymaker: Well, it's really going to help amateurs. If I'm an amateur and I make the final table, it's going to give me the option to get promotional money from online casinos and other areas. It's also going to enable me to get a coach to improve my game over the next three months. As far as the actual game of poker, I think it's a bad thing. You shouldn't be able to go out and get coached for a single table just because you got there. If I've spent a week and half trying to learn someone tendencies and he goes and gets Daniel Negreanu to teach him how to play, now those tendencies are gone. Now, I'm at a disadvantage on that final table. So those things change.
From a business stand point, I think it's a good thing. Back in 2003, you could probably remember maybe two or three people at my final table. The average person might just remember me and Sammy [Farha]. This year, you're going to know all nine faces before the final table starts and you're going to remember those nine faces for a long time. So it's going to be great for those players from that standpoint. They are going to get media exposure, endorsement dollars, and are going to financially benefit from this change, but the game itself is taking a hit based on the fact that they will come back as different players.
Lee: How do you think you would have done in this scenario? Let's say you just knocked out Phil Ivey and got down to the final nine. Besides the endorsements, how do you feel it would have been different for you?
Moneymaker: I don't know how it would have been different. Hopefully, it wouldn't have been much different. Hopefully, I still would have won. I don't think I call with the ace-deuce of spades even though I thought Tomer (Benvenisti) was bluffing when he had a jack-ten, I still don't know if I would put the amount of money that I did with the ace-deuce. I would have paid a lot more attention to position. But it may have ended up hampering me in the long run since I won. If I didn't win, I would have liked the coaching. As it turned out, my inexperience worked to my advantage. Sometimes ignorance is bliss because I didn't know a lot of things. If we play that final table 100 times, I may win that final table, because I had such a big chip lead, 20 times. But if I got a coach, I might win it 50 times. My odds will go up if I got coached to be a stronger player, but how the cards played out, maybe I could have hurt my chances.
Lee: And, of course, the other players could have gotten coaching and improved as well.
Moneymaker: Exactly. You know you come back with a totally different final table and a totally different dynamic. Going into the final table, I told my dad that Amir [Vahedi] and Sammy [Farha] were going to play a big pot. I felt whoever wins that big confrontation, I'll be playing him heads-up. If you were to go away for three months and get coaching, who knows what would have happened. I don't think you could coach Sammy Farha to be tighter, but the other people would come back different.
Bernard Lee is the weekly poker columnist for the Boston Herald and hosts a weekly poker radio show on Rounders Radio and in Boston. "The Bernard Lee Poker Show," can be heard from 6-7 p.m. Tuesday, from 9-10 p.m. Thursday and from 10-11 p.m. Saturday on 1510 AM "The Zone." For questions or comments, e-mail him at BernardLeePoker@hotmail.com.