Meet the Pro | Chris Moneymaker

PokerPages PhotoWith the 2015 Main Event starting today, everyone is wondering who will be adding their name to the illustrious list of names who have won poker’s biggest prize. A thousand different stories begin this evening, but arguably the most famous story of all was when Chris Moneymaker’s win ignited the poker boom. Chris has been in Vegas preparing for the Main Event, and he took the time out from playing to speak with Backdoor Quads.

Before heading to Vegas, Chris has been playing on the Hollywood Poker Open regional tour, a tour which he is an ambassador of. I asked him how that came about.

“I was looking to do a bit more of a long-term deal with a brick and mortar casino, as I’d never done one before, so I struck a deal to be an ambassador for the HPO room up in Columbus. That was season one of the HPO and it wasn’t a regionalised tour at that point. They wanted to make it one [a regionalised tour], and they wanted me to be the ambassador.”

After talking with the HPO, his deal expanded across the entire brand, and Chris became the ambassador for the tour, making appearances at several of the regional stops. His biggest cash at one of the stops was when he won HPO St. Louis in March 2014 for $36,529.

“What I like about the HPO, is that I have a lot input as far as structure and buy-in and things like that. We all sit down and figure out what’s working, what’s not working and what’s best for the player. In the first season, the buy-in was $1,800, and we sat down afterwards and realised it was a bit high for the market we were in, so we dropped it this past season to $1,100. As a result, our attendance has doubled at every stop. Overall I’m really happy with the way things are going and the progress we’re making.”

Chris is of course still a Pokerstars Team Pro and alongside playing in Vegas, Chris also took time out to open the new PokerStars Playhouse at the Palms Hotel. Although his work with PokerStars looks vastly different to his work with HPO, Moneymaker says that PokerStars and HPO are the same type of engagement, but in different ways.

“When I go and play PokerStars events, it’s the more professional events such as the EPTs in Barcelona or Monte Carlo. When I go to play the HPO events, I’m against a lot of recreational, newer, local players and I’m trying to grow the game. It’s definitely two types of engagements, but both serve the same purpose, and that’s just to grow the game and to give people positive experiences of poker.”

Excelling-cover-725x1024Earlier this summer Backdoor Quads reviewed Jonathan Little’s new book ‘Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em’ which contains a chapter written by Chris Moneymaker himself. The chapter was entitled ‘Lower Buy-in Tournament Strategies’; a chapter which Chris decided he could contribute to after his experience of playing in several lower-buy in events such as the HPO.

“There’s a lot of resources geared towards the $10k type of tournaments, but not that much material for smaller buy-in tournaments. I’m really happy with how the chapter turned out. It’s really tough writing a book, and I’ll be honest, it’s one of the tougher things that I have to do!”

As well as Chris, the book contained a whole host of star names from the world of poker including Phil Hellmuth, Liv Boeree and Olivier Busquet.

“When Jonathan [Little] approached me I was going to do it anyway, but when he told me who all the authors were, honestly I was just privileged to be a part of the book. I thought it was such a cool thing just to be involved!”

moneymaker tipsOur conversation inevitably turned to the Main Event, and I asked Chris whether he ever felt any pressure to change or conform to what was expected of a Main Event champion following his win in 2003.

“I don’t think I felt pressure until around 2007-08, when live poker was really taking off. People were starting to suggest that I was maybe just a one hit wonder. But by then I’d had more kids so it came to a point where the game was just passing me by. I ended up going and talking to a poker coach, and he told me that I had a choice between time working on poker, and spending time with my family. The conversation was a good one to have.”

wsopsignage2013And now with the 2015 Main Event approaching, I asked Chris how he was going to approach it

“I plan on talking a lot at the table! Especially the first day or two I’ll expect it to be much more of a social atmosphere, assuming I get on a table that likes to talk. I feel like I focus pretty decent when I talk, but there are times when I’m deep in conversation with someone and the action will be on me and I won’t realise it! It does take away from the concentration sometimes, but it does serve as a distraction for when you’re running really bad!”

As we talked, one of the things I got from Chris was just how much he enjoys playing poker. This wasn’t a pro whose primary focus was on getting that next cash or the next big win, it was just his love of the game.

“When I play poker, I want the people I play with to have a good time. I want them to have a memorable experience playing with me, because poker can be so boring. That’s why, at every table I play at, I want people to be able to take a story away. Whether I bust them or they bust me, I want players to have a good experience and think “You know that Chris Moneymaker? He’s a good guy.””

As the conversation drew to a close, I just had time to ask Chris if he had any goals in poker.

“My goal isn’t to have the most bracelets or to win the most money, my goal is to be the best dad I can be, and to be a great ambassador for poker”