Chris Moneymaker Deserves to Be in the Poker Hall of Fame

Steve Ruddock : November 23rd, 2015


Chris Moneymaker belongs in the Poker Hall of Fame. Beyond that, Chris Moneymaker is a “can’t miss” first ballot Hall of Famer. At least as far as I’m concerned.

Every year, two people are inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, but next year most people believe there is only a single open slot, as one Hall of Fame plaque is already reserved for someone named Phil Ivey. In this column I’ll lay out the reasons why both spots should be mortal locks, with Chris Moneymaker being inducted alongside Ivey.

The Poker Hall of Fame will go through the usual process, and create a list of 10 finalists, but there’s really no reason to. Here’s why.

Poker’s greatest ambassador

Forget Chris Moneymaker the poker player; Chris’s induction can be based entirely on his 10-plus years as poker’s greatest marketing campaign. Really, who has done more to grow the game of poker than Chris Moneymaker?

And forget the argument over his qualifications: here’s the criteria for non-players listed by the Poker Hall of Fame: “… contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.”

That line was essentially written for and about Chris Moneymaker – in fact just put his name at the front and it could be his encyclopedia entry:

Chris Moneymaker contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker, with indelible positive and lasting results.

That’s not an opinion, that’s fact.

I know a lot of people in the poker community feel players trump contributors when it comes to the Poker Hall of Fame, but even if you hold this point of view, Chris Moneymaker is a special case. 12 years since his WSOP Main Event victory his name still resonates – it’s essentially synonymous with the word poker – and If you asked a random person on the street to rattle off poker players, Chris would likely be among the Top 5 names mentioned.

Whether you like it or not, Chris Moneymaker is poker.

Luck’s got nothing to do with it

Please stop calling him a luckbox, or that his win was just a case of being in the right place at the right time. There was far more to the “Moneymaker Effect” than simply winning the Main Event in the right year.

Chris’s WSOP victory had everything a Hollywood producer would look for:

  • The name, by god the name!
  • Winning his way in for $39 at PokerStars
  • A complete amateur playing in his first live tournament
  • Early confrontations with poker legends captured on camera
  • Getting lucky to survive
  • Making a dramatic call and picking off a bluff
  • Making a stone cold bluff to take control heads-up
  • Besting a debonair poker pro for the title

Chris was the quintessential everyman and he prevailed. I’m sure the poker boom would have occurred regardless, but there is simply no way it occurs as fast, or reaches its eventual peak, if Humberto Brenes is sitting at the final table instead of Chris. Or if Chris finishes in 7th place.

Chris also willingly assumed the mantel of poker ambassador, and no, not every player would have done this. In 2003 there was no such thing as sponsorship deals, and there was no reason to suspect a poker boom was on the horizon and you’d make money for years by teaming up with PokerStars. It was almost a year before anyone realized how powerful the impact had been. And let’s not forget that the 2004 WSOP was nearly cancelled. Chris’s decision to become a poker ambassador was from the no-brainer people make it out to be.

Downplaying Chris’s impact, or thinking anyone would have had the same impact is rewriting history.

Chris the poker player

Is Chris Moneymaker a Hall of Fame caliber poker player? No. No, no, no.

That being said, he’s one of the more accomplished contributors you’ll come across, and that only adds to his resume:

  • 2003 WSOP Main Event champion
  • 2nd in the 2004 WPT Bay 101 Main Event
  • 2nd in the 2011 NBC National Heads Up Championship
  • 11th in the 2011 PCA Main Event
  • 2014 Hollywood Poker Open Main Event champion

And those results are just the cherry on top of Chris’s accomplishments as a poker ambassador and promoter of the game, he doesn’t need them to get inducted.

The buzz would be through the roof

I also have a selfish reason for wanting Chris to be inducted, as I feel it would be great for the game.

I know a lot of people feel gimmicks cheapen the honor, but this is absolute horses**t. Benny Binion created the WSOP as a gimmick, and the Poker Hall of Fame was an extension of that gimmick – which is why Wild Bill and Edmund Hoyle were in Binion’s inaugural class.

In addition to being a distinguished honor, the Poker Hall of Fame serves a second function, and that’s to promote the game of poker.

Not only would ever media outlet try to recapture Chris’s amazing 2003 WSOP Main Event run, but think of the headlines that would be produced if the Poker Hall of Fame inducted arguably the greatest player of all time in Ivey, and arguably the game’s most important figure of all time in Moneymaker.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony would likely have more press than the Main Event final table.


The idea that Chris Moneymaker’s induction into the Poker Hall of Fame is even being debated likely has Benny Binion rolling over in his grave. Not only does Chris have a Wikipedia entry, but the term “Moneymaker effect” has its own Wikipedia page!

If you’re still not convinced, go pick up a copy of Eric Raskin’s The Moneymaker Effect. Chris Moneymaker was poker’s version of hitting the Powerball jackpot.

If anyone deserves to be in the Poker Hall of Fame, it’s Chris Moneymaker.

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