Chris Moneymaker’s Net Worth, a Global Icon for PokerStars and WSOP

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Chris Moneymaker
Image: Google/Wikipedia Commons

Is Chris Moneymaker the most influential poker player who bluffed a King high?

In 2003, Chris Moneymaker put online poker on the map. His shock win at the World Series of Poker Main Event – founded by Benny Binion – rocked the traditional poker world to its foisty foundations.

It was the stuff of dreams. A shy accountant from Tennessee, just 27 years old, playing at his first ever major poker tournament; a seat he had won in an $86 online poker satellite.

He played a ‘check raise’ game; checking his hand and raising, if someone made a bet. It was bad form, unprofessional play, frowned upon – and even banned – in Las Vegas casinos. The veteran players had no idea how to tackle this unknown online poker upstart.

Many questions following his new-found success in poker are answered here including: ‘What is Chris Moneymaker net worth?’ and ‘Who is Chris Moneymaker’s wife?’

Chris Moneymaker Net Worth Summary

Oblivious to the wealth of poker talent surrounding him, happy to take risks and play ‘his game’, Chris Moneymaker would ride his luck all the way to the final table; eventually beating Sam Farha with a full house.

Now, a Championship bracelet and $2.5 million richer, Moneymaker had lived up to his name. Poker would never be the same again. It was a sensation; the ‘Moneymaker Effect’ was real.

Everyone had seen the impossible happen. Now, everyone knew it was possible. You could convert an $86 buy-in into a WSOP Main Event multi-million-dollar jackpot.

As ESPN poker analyst Norman Chad, who was covering the event, said at the time: “This is beyond fairy tale. It’s inconceivable!”

From 2003 to 2006, online poker would boom. The ‘Moneymaker Effect’ drives huge volumes of traffic to online poker rooms with lucrative bonuses. When Chris Moneymaker won in 2003, he beat 839 players.

A couple years later, 8,773 poker wannabes would be testing their luck – and praying for a little Moneymaker Magic – at the tables of the WSOP Main Event. If the Chris Moneymaker net worth had exploded from minions to millions, it can happen to anyone.

How It Started

Traditionally, poker was an old man’s game; played in the dark back rooms of dingy bars and social clubs. Old school, Stetson-wearing, characters like Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim ruled the roost; working the Wild West trope at the tables; hustling, from state to state and town to town.

In 2003, no one knew who Phil Helmuth, Annie Duke, or Phil Ivey were. But years later, these poker players would be among the best names in the business with the WPT live on television. Poker was ubiquitous, popular, and everyone wanted to get in on the game.

ESPN filmed the entire 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event. The hole card camera, creating drama with every hand. The viewers know what player is bluffing and what player is about to crash and burn.

From Books to the Bets

In 2003, poker was just a hobby for Chris Moneymaker. His main job was working as an accountant for a small Nashville restaurant chain. When he wasn’t working the books, in his spare time, he played at PokerStars; one of a small handful of new online poker rooms.

Moneymaker was a ‘good local player’; introduced to the game by a friend in 2001. He was an avid sports bettor but a run of bad luck had encouraged him to switch his focus to poker as he had debts to pay.

As well as the occasional poker night with friends, he played online at PokerStars. One day, mid-session, without thinking, he quickly jumped into an 18-player sit-and-go tournament.

Moneymaker didn’t realize the prize was a $650 buy-in to another satellite, with the chance to win a $10,000 seat at the 2003 WSOP. “If I knew, I never would have played it,” he recalls.

He won the first satellite and went on to win the second. The top three prizes were all seats at the WSOP. In fourth place, the prize was $8,205. At the time, Chris Moneymaker thought the cash prize sounded more appealing than the Main Event entry. He also tried to sell his winning ticket – without success.

Today, there are different ways to play WSOP Main Event for under $10,000 if you have restricted funds.

Binion’s or Bust

When Chris Moneymaker arrived in Las Vegas, he walked into Binion’s and there was no one there to greet him; just a note saying come to room 510. PokerStars had been operating for only two years. They had brought fourteen online players to the game. He was given a bag with some spending money and his WSOP Main Event pass.

This is how Moneymaker recalls it: “Poker was so different back then. If you were an online player, you were not a real poker player. The seasoned pros were older guys. They were running the show. I was one of the youngest in the field.

“I’m a small little fish, playing against the best in the world. I watched them play and I thought they sucked. Once, I was in the game, I made my choices. I’m just playing poker. I was more stressed about looking like an idiot on live television.

“I was so nervous of messing up on the television table, I forgot I had a hand. I was learning on the fly. Everyone was telling me how bad I am. Phil Ivey didn’t scare me. I didn’t really know who he was. Ignorance was bliss,” he said.

Ultimately, he bluffed Sammy Farha in one of the most epic poker hands of all time, which is analyzed in this Facebook video, so you can watch the magic moment.

Brand Ambassador

Chris Moneymaker PokerStars
Image: Google/Wikipedia Commons

Chris Moneymaker returned to his regular job, for eight months after the tournament. Everything changed when PokerStars wanted to sign him up as a brand ambassador.

“They offered to pay me $60K and I just had to go and smile at people. I thought it was great. I was the first poker ambassador to get a deal like this. No one knew what to pay me,” he said. “PokerStars went from a site about to close. It became the place to play.”

For the lady lucky enough to call herself the Chris Moneymaker wife, the rapid rise to fame was too much to handle. He said: “She didn’t sign up for that life. She was married to a stay-at-home accountant who was not traveling the world all the time, and gambling a lot of money.”

The couple divorced in 2004. However, Chris remarried a year later to Christina Wren, and the couple are still together to this day.

There is a stigma attached to Chris Moneymaker. He is the ‘one-hit wonder’, the player who got lucky once – at the right time, in the right place. It’s telling that it took until 2016 before he was finally inducted into the Binion’s Poker Hall of Fame.

In fact, Moneymaker has won more than $4.8 million, playing poker since 2003, and he is still hard at it. In May, he won three events, at the 2024 Triton Poker Super High Roller Series in Montenegro, and took home a total of $1,264,800. Not bad for three days of work to boost the Chris Moneymaker net worth.

In 2020, Moneymaker and PokerStars went their separate ways; the end of a mutually beneficial 17-year relationship. Moneymaker made Pokerstars and Pokerstars made Moneymaker.

The Moneymaker Effect may have fizzled away but the man is still on the frontline of poker. He now has his very own poker tour: the Moneymaker Tour, with events across the US and in the Caribbean.

He is also a pro for ACR Poker, a Costa Rica based online poker room specializing in cryptocurrency.

Whatever the future holds for Chris Moneymaker, his legacy is assured. He may not be the best earning poker player in town but he will always have the ultimate king high bluff in his back catalog, as well the name that drove a narrative and ignited a billion-dollar industry.

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Paul Cullen
Casino Industry Expert
Paul Cullen
Casino Industry Expert

Paul Cullen is an industry veteran, with a track record that stretches back to day one. He started his career as a copywriter and creative for the world’s very first online sportsbook: Intertops.com. There was no one else. Since then, he has seen the industry evolve and grow, working at BetonSports, BetWWTS, Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet, InterCasino, PartyGaming, Mansion, Bodog, Casino Choice, Costa Bingo and Casumo. The evolution of Internet gaming, the arrival of the online casino, the poker revolution, and the bingo boom. He’s got the t-shirt.