Chris Moneymaker, 2003 WSOP Television Production Featured in ESPN 30 for 30 Podcast

Chris Moneymaker was featured on a recent ESPN 30 for 30 podcast for his historic WSOP Main Event title in 2003. The audio docu-series shed light on the sports network’s production of that year’s poker championship event, the first year television viewers witnessed a World Series of Poker tournament from start to finish.

Chris Moneymaker ESPN WSOP

ESPN 30 for 30 podcast featured Chris Moneymaker for his 2003 WSOP Main Event title 15 years later. (Image: capelesscrusader.org)

ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast is an audio spin-off of its popular television series that highlights some of the most interesting – and sometimes unknown – sports stories throughout history. Stories about world-class athletes such as Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson have been featured in past 30 for 30’s.

You can catch the 49-minute podcast on Moneymaker for free at ESPN.com. In the episode, you’ll hear commentary from Moneymaker, Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, Norman Chad, and the man who produced the 2003 Main Event — Matt Maranz.

Blind Leading the Blinds

Because poker wasn’t a mainstream game in 2003, few anticipated impressive television ratings that year. And almost no one envisioned a massive poker boom months later. Even the WSOP’s media director at the time, Nolan Dalla, was shocked.

“I was thinking it was just another year,” Dalla told CardsChat about the build-up to ESPN’s coverage months after Moneymaker won.

He said he “had no idea” poker would soon go from the back rooms to the mainstream. Maranz also wasn’t sure what to expect. In fact, he hardly knew anything about poker. But he was asked to film the event at Binion’s in downtown Las Vegas from start to finish.

Unlike the Main Event in recent years, camera crews filmed the tournament and then produced edited episodes months later.

“You have to understand I knew nothing about poker. We were an outfit that did not deserve to be producing the World Series of Poker. I mean we were idiots,” Maranz said in the 30 for 30 podcast.

That year’s world championship event drew 839 players, a record at the time by more than 200 entries. While that may have seemed like a ridiculous amount of players in a $10,000 buy-in event at the time, it was a fraction of the number of participants the tournament would attracted in subsequent years.

Who the Heck is Chris Moneymaker?

Chris Moneymaker wasn’t even a real name, or so Dalla thought. He was just an amateur at the time who won an $86 satellite into the tournament on some new online site called PokerStars. None of the other players knew who he was. And no one expected an online poker amateur to run deep, let alone win it all.

After the first session concluded, Dalla’s task was to type up the remaining players one by one. He came across one name he didn’t think was legit.

“I thought here’s a poker player who’s probably his name is Chris Smith and maybe Moneymaker’s is his nickname. Chris Moneymaker Smith, Chris Moneymaker Jones, you understand what I mean?” he said on the podcast.

A frustrated Dalla still didn’t believe Chris’s last name was accurate. So, he sought the eventual champion prior to the start of Day Two for clarification. The future PokerStars Team Pro member pulled out his ID that read “Christopher Bryan Moneymaker.” Okay, so that settles it.

A few days later, the amateur shocked the poker world and won the tournament. Millions watched the 2003 Main Event on ESPN and saw an “Average Joe” win $2.5 million. It seemed so easy and exciting. As a result, poker finally became a mainstream game.

In 2018, 7,874 players entered the Main Event, nearly 10 times as many entrants as in 2003.

We won’t spoil the whole podcast for you. But we recommend giving it a listen. You can check it out for free at ESPN.com.

Written by
Jon Sofen
Semi-pro poker player with 17 years experience on the felt and more than five years working as professional poker media.

Comments

hugh blair wrote...

$86 dollars into 2.5 million dam what a result 15 years ago already time flies.
Great that it televised start to finish each year interesting to watch.

Misaki wrote...

It always make me smile when I see his surname and I know that his person is connected with big poker boom. Money maker. Sounds nice. Probably poker, especially online would be bigger soon or later but still I’m curious when It would be happen. Amazing score, amazing success which changed his life and many thousands, or even millions players. Good job.

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