Shake your moneymaker

On May 24th, a man named Chris Moneymaker (no, really, that does seem to be his real name) won the last and the biggest tournament in the 2003 World Series of Poker, walking away with 2.5 million (before taxes, of course.) A few weeks before, he entered a tournament at the online poker site PokerStars.com for $40. He won, and this gave him entry to a second online tournament, which he also won. This gave him a free seat at the big tournament (normally it costs 10,000 dollars to enter), where he beat out 838 other people to take first prize. $40 to 2.5 mil: not bad, eh? There are lots of interesting things about this story. Moneymaker's the first guy to win it who qualified online. Online poker's in a gray area legally. Regular poker is illegal in many states, but none of the major online poker rooms are based in the US. The government has gone after some gambling online (mostly sports betting, I believe), but has left online poker alone so far. No one's sure if existing laws apply to it, and it has not been tested. As online poker becomes more popular (several sites have thousands playing at any give time), government non-interference might not last.

Anyway, Moneymaker's interesting because he had never played in a real life tournament before, only online, and he was able to come in and win the biggest, most prestigious tournament in poker. There are a number of professional poker players, many of whom routinely place well in these tournaments, but this is the second year in a row an amateur won the big one. As a poker player myself (though not a very good one), this makes me happy.

One last interesting bit. Moneymaker sold two 20% shares of his seat (for 2k apiece) in order to finance the trip to Vegas. He sold one to his father and another to his friend. The friend's last name? Gamble.

I picked up this info from reading the usenet group rec.gambling.poker, but here are some links to news stories if you want to read more.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/West/05/24/offbeat.poker.win.ap/

http://washingtontimes.com/sports/20030524-125622-1944r.htm

http://www.knoxnews.com/kns/local_news/article/0,1406,KNS_347_1993641,00.html

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