Season Four Episode 2

All In: Sparking The Poker Boom

The 2003 World Series of Poker should not have been a success. Its host casino teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, internet qualifiers knocked out the most marketable stars, and the production company tasked with showing the event on TV knew nothing about the game. All In explores how the 2003 tournament overcame the odds to spark a poker boom and forever change poker’s place in America. Reported by Keith Romer.

Transcript

 

 

Hello, and welcome to 30 for 30 Podcasts, our series of original audio documentaries from ESPN Films and ESPN Audio. My name is Jody Avirgan.

 

This is episode two of our fourth season — all about the most famous poker tournament of all — the $10,000 dollar buy-in World Series of Poker Main Event.

 

This last summer nearly 8,000 people competed for the chance at the top prize of $8.8 million dollars.  But it wasn’t always like this. In the first three decades since its beginning in 1970, the World Series was a much smaller affair, a few hundred players at most.  Then came the 2003 World Series of Poker, and all of a sudden, poker became a thing.

 

30 for 30 producer Keith Romer brings us the story of the story that changed poker forever.  

 

A quick warning — this episode, it’s about gamblers, maybe no surprise here — contains mature language.

 

And now — All-In: Sparking the Poker Boom

 

 

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

 

KEITH ROMER: Where do you even… Where do you begin?

 

MATT MARANZ: You… well, you begin with the end.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: This could be the last card of the 2003 World Series of Poker.  

 

MATT MARANZ:  You have all the characters and storylines that you want to follow, and you try and figure out the best way to weave them in and out.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

DEALER: One card away from a new world champion.]

 

MATT MARANZ:  There’s only one thing that you know for certain, that absolutely one hundred percent has to be included in the show.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

DEALER: It’s a five!!!

 

ARCHIVAL: Fans cheering.]

 

MATT MARANZ: My name is Matt Maranz, I’m executive producer of 441 Productions. And back in 2003, we produced the World Series of Poker.

 

KEITH ROMER: Matt Maranz knew a lot about telling stories on television. He actually had a master’s degree in journalism.

 

[OUTSIDE THE LINES: “SPORTS BEHIND BARS (1999),

 

OTL NARRATOR: All of the barbaric rigors of the world behind bars.

 

MATT MARANZ: I’ve done a documentary about prisons.  I’ve done a documentary about organized crime.

 

[OUTSIDE THE LINES: “GANGS AND SPORTS (1997),

 

OTL INTERVIEW: I didn’t care if I died in the streets, you know I didn’t care if I ended up in jail for the rest of my life.]

 

MATT MARANZ: I’ve covered civil wars in Nicaragua and the first Gulf War.

 

[ARCHIVAL: Gunfire]

 

MATT MARANZ: The desire to tell stories, I think that really it’s just about curiosity. It’s a big world out there.

 

KEITH ROMER: One day, Maranz picked up a book about professional poker players.  And his curiosity started to kick in. He went to ESPN and said — “This is my next show.”

 

MATT MARANZ: I started pitching them — “We should do something on the World Series of Poker.  The players are just fascinating.”

 

KEITH ROMER: But the executives he was pitching weren’t buying it.

 

MATT MARANZ: ESPN always would say –“Who’s ever going to watch a show about poker? And say no.”

 

KEITH ROMER: It wasn’t like it was a new idea to ESPN.  

 

MATT MARANZ: Poker had been on television for a long time and always was the same.

 

[1987 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

ANNOUNCER: We’re back with more action at the World Series of Poker.  There are now five players remaining at the final table.]

 

KEITH ROMER: Newspaper columnist Norman Chad was a gambler himself.  And even he didn’t like those old shows.

 

NORMAN CHAD: Most the time I watched…

 

[1987 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

ANNOUNCER: And now it’s time for the flop.]

 

NORMAN CHAD: It’s the whole thing about watching paint dry you have no idea what the players have.

 

[1987 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

ANNOUNCER: Jim checks. Bob Ciaffone reaching is going to add.]

 

NORMAN CHAD: If you’re a casual viewer, it’s hard to watch.

 

MATT MARANZ: It’s nine guys sitting around a table staring at each other.

 

[1987 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

ANNOUNCER: Jim Spain decides he’s not bluffing, and folds.]

 

MATT MARANZ: And you weren’t sure how, or why, or anything that happened. And then the show would be over.

 

KEITH ROMER: And it wasn’t like the people playing on TV were exactly Wheaties Box material.

 

NORMAN CHAD: There’s still a stigma for some people about walking into a card room and playing poker.

 

MATT MARANZ: It was frowned upon.

 

NORMAN CHAD:  There’s a whole thing about the deal like a back room with guys with cigars.

 

MATT MARANZ: A lot of the poker players out there they lie about their profession.

 

KEITH ROMER: Still, ESPN had to air something.

 

NORMAN CHAD: In July or August, when all they have is baseball and they don’t have it on every night, there’s a programming hole there.

 

KEITH ROMER: And poker was cheap.

 

NORMAN CHAD:  You pay literally billions for the NFL, and the NBA, and MLB. For the poker thing they were paying out of, I don’t know,  not even a half a million dollars. They’re paying like ten thousand dollars. It was virtually free.

 

KEITH ROMER: In the end, ESPN signed up for a seven-episode show. Not just about the Main Event final table, but about the entire five-day tournament.  For Maranz, it was great. Except for one little detail.

 

MATT MARANZ: 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.

 

KEITH ROMER: Still, Maranz had a show. Which meant — it was time for a little research.

 

MATT MARANZ: So I go out to Vegas for a month.

 

[1983 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

ANNOUNCER: To enter the dazzle that is Glitter Gulch in downtown Las Vegas, where Binion’s Horseshoe Hotel and Casino can be found.]

 

MATT MARANZ: I walk into Binion’s for the first time and I don’t know anybody.  All I know is there’s a sign that says the World Series of Poker is being played in this room.

 

[1983 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

ANNOUNCER: High stakes poker action goes on 24 hours a day during World Series Time.]

 

MATT MARANZ: It’s a place that feels a little bit illicit, a little bit dangerous, a little bit sleazy. It smells like urine coming out of the bathrooms. It’s one of those places where nothing really good is going to happen.

 

KEITH ROMER: It wasn’t just outsiders who thought this about Binion’s. Nolan Dalla was PR Director for the casino at the time–and even he thought the place was a little bit shady.

 

NOLAN DALLA: Every lowlife, scumbag, millionaire–I mean they were shoulder to shoulder in that place, 24/7.

 

KEITH ROMER: There was even an on-site pawnbroker.

 

NOLAN DALLA: He wore these loud-checkered jackets, half-shaven all the time horn-rimmed glasses, white shoes. And his name, I’m not making the name up; his real name was Sam Angel. And he’s the pawnbroker. Gamblers, I mean, are literally pawning their jewelry, their watches. This is going on inside the casino. So, I mean, this place was a complete clusterfuck. It was a circus!

 

MATT MARANZ: My reaction to Binion’s, once you get past the smell, and the sounds, and things like that was–this is the perfect setting to do a show about people who play poker for a living.

 

DOYLE BRUNSON: I’m Doyle Brunson.  I’m 84 years old, and I’ve been a professional poker player since I was 22 years old.

 

JOHNNY CHAN: My name is Johnny Chan, winning ‘87, ‘88 and runner-up in ‘89 of the World Series of Poker.

 

PHIL HELLMUTH: I’m Phil Hellmuth, fourteen-time world champion of poker.

 

MATT MARANZ: It was like all the people that you would ever want to tell a story about, somehow found their way to this, you know, a ballroom on the second floor of this dilapidated hotel.

 

KEITH ROMER: The tournament attracted the greatest poker players in the world.

 

MATT MARANZ: But then you’d also just seeing normal everyday people who’d just come out to the World Series of Poker to take a shot.

 

KEITH ROMER: One of those normal  everyday people was a 27-year-old named Chris Moneymaker.  Chris had developed a taste for gambling in the nineties when he had been a student at the University of Tennessee.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I didn’t do a whole lot of gambling my freshman year, I had a really good GPA. By sophomore year that had stopped. I figured out you could drink anytime you wanted, and then I also figured out you could sports bet.

 

KEITH ROMER: At first, Chris couldn’t lose.  He had such a good run that his dad started going in on bets with him.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: We ended up sending down some money to offshore sportsbook account. And we were doing really well. I think we had run up the tune of sixty thousand dollars over the course of the year.

 

KEITH ROMER: Then, things went south.  One Saturday, Chris drove with some buddies to a frat party a few hours away.  He called in his bets to his bookmaker from the road.

 

[IOWA AT PENN STATE, SEPTEMBER 17, 1994,

 

ANNOUNCER: Here are the Nittany Lions of Penn State.  They will face Big Ten Rival Iowa. The Hawkeyes also 2-0.]

 

KEITH ROMER: First halves, teasers, parlays.  He bet thousands of dollars that day. Then, Chris got very, very drunk.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I ended up sleeping with a friend of mine’s girl on the golf course, which was bad.

 

KEITH ROMER:  Also bad–losing every single bet he had made.

 

[IOWA AT PENN STATE, SEPTEMBER 17, 1994,

 

ANNOUNCER: Once again, the final score here at Beaver Stadium is Penn State 61, Iowa 21.]

 

KEITH ROMER:  The entire sixty grand he and his father had had in their account was gone.  

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: So yeah, that ended up being a pretty bad day.  It wasn’t until I got all the way back to Knoxville that my dad finally called.  Hung up the phone and we didn’t talk for another like two days, which for me my dad was pretty significant.

 

KEITH ROMER: Chris eventually patched things up with his dad.  He got his degree, and in 2001 he got an accounting job and moved to Nashville.  But adult life wasn’t the easiest fit.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: You know, I was heavily drinking back then.  I was married but I wasn’t happy.

 

KEITH ROMER: Also, he was broke.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: Not counting mortgage and stuff, I probably had fifteen, twenty thousand dollars in debt. I mean that’s like, you know, half my year’s paycheck.

 

[ROUNDERS,

 

MATT DAMON/MIKE MCDERMOTT: Listen, here’s the thing, if you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table then you are the sucker.]

 

KEITH ROMER:  It was around then that Chris discovered the movie Rounders.

 

[ROUNDERS,

 

JOHN TURTURRO/JOEY KNISH: You’re making a run at it aren’t you.  Rolling up a stake and going to Vegas.  

 

MATT DAMON/MIKE MCDERMOTT: I can beat the game.]

 

KEITH ROMER:  It was like someone had made a movie just for Chris.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I probably watched the movie, I would say probably twenty times.  

 

[ROUNDERS,

 

JOHN MALKOVICH/TEDDY KGB: Hanging Around. Kid’s got alligator blood. Can’t get rid of him.]

 

KEITH ROMER: The movie pitched a fantasy that was super appealing to someone like Chris. A fantasy about how if you made the right gamble at the exact right moment, you could escape your mundane, dead-end life.

 

[ROUNDERS,

 

MATT DAMON/MIKE MCDERMOTT: I sat with the best in the world, and I won.

 

JOHN TURTURRO/JOEY KNISH: You fucking move on Chan, you son of a bitch.]

 

KEITH ROMER:  Chris fell hard for poker.  And he wasn’t the only one. Back in the early 2000’s, hundreds of thousands of novices all over the world found their way to late night games that were held, not in smoky back rooms, but on a handful of new Internet poker sites.  On work trips for his new accounting job, Chris would stay up all night in his hotel room, staring at his laptop, playing poker on a site called PokerStars.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I found it really easy.  People were not that good. I only put down a couple hundred bucks but, you know, I was able to play and, you know, build up that bankroll.  I remember I had twenty-two hundred dollars in my account at one point, I thought I was, you know, rocking and rolling.

 

KEITH ROMER:  One day on a lark Chris put up eighty six dollars to buy into a nine-player tournament.  He won, which qualified him for second, bigger tournament.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: They’re giving away three seats to the main — the WSOP main event and fourth place was 8,000 in cash.

 

KEITH ROMER:  Combined, the players’ buy-ins were enough to pay for three $10,000 dollars entry fees into the World Series Main Event, and a fourth-place prize of $8,000 dollars in cash.  To Chris, the idea was simple.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I was trying to get fourth place.

 

KEITH ROMER: Eight grand would get him halfway out of debt. But Chris did so well that when it started to get down to the last few players, he wasn’t sure he could lose enough, fast enough, to be certain that he wouldn’t end up in the top three.

 

He even told the other players in the little chat window that he was trying to lose.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I said, listen guys, you all take… so you get three guys take the seat. I’ll take fourth and someone else, this guy, I remember his screen name was ‘Got Milk’ said –“No, I want fourth! I don’t want the seat either.”

 

KEITH ROMER:  A poker buddy of Chris’s who was watching online called Chris on the phone and tried to convince him to stop.  It was like, Chris had missed the entire point of Rounders.

 

[ROUNDERS,

 

MATT DAMON/MIKE MCDERMOTT: You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. But you can’t win much either.]

 

KEITH ROMER:  In the end, Chris went ahead and won the World Series seat. But to guarantee himself something, he convinced his dad and a different friend to invest $2,000 dollars each. If he won, they would win too. And if he lost, well, at least he’d still have their $4,000 bucks.

 

Chris wasn’t the only one who had qualified off of the Internet.

 

NOLAN DALLA: So I walk in and there were thirty, I think, thirty-nine was the number, thirty-nine guys standing in the middle of the upstairs.

 

KEITH ROMER:  Binion’s PR Director, Nolan Dalla was in charge of welcoming these new players to the World Series.

 

NOLAN DALLA: A lot of them were wearing black shirts and they all look kind of young which was unusual, by the way. A poker player was an old guy,  it was an old white guy usually from the south. He wore a cowboy hat maybe a ball cap, wore a windbreaker, but you see these young people all standing in the hallway.

 

KEITH ROMER: Like Chris Moneymaker, all those, it turns out thirty-seven guys in black shirts had won their buy-ins on PokerStars.  The presence of all these new players was great for pros like Phil Hellmuth.

 

PHIL HELLMUTH: No, I mean to me Internet poker players in 2003 were super easy to read and that was lovely.

 

KEITH ROMER: Johnny Chan felt pretty much the same way.

 

KEITH ROMER:  If you had heard that somebody was an Internet player what would that have meant to you?

 

JOHNNY CHAN: Yum yum!

 

KEITH ROMER:  Between the new Internet players and the old school poker pros, eight hundred and thirty-nine people signed up for the Main Event in 2003, a new record. All those $10,000 dollar entry fees added up to a record prize pool too.  The winner would take home two and a half million dollars.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I remember sitting there with my head between my legs, sort of a breathing really hard and just super nervous. Every one of these guys are professionals and I’m this guy wearing a PokerStars shirt that basically labels me as an amateur.

 

KEITH ROMER: What did you think your chances were?

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: Zero.

 

PHIL HELLMUTH: To the normal person at home they’d think,  “Oh, it’s an eight hundred thirty-nine to one shot to win it.” It’s not that at all. Especially in 2003 there were so many bad players. Of the eight hundred and thirty-nine players, four hundred can’t win no matter what happens.

 

JOHNNY CHAN: I would say at least three hundred fifty dead money. So in other words three and a half million. Dead Money. Where else you go gamble with three and a half million dead money into the pool. Only at the World Series of Poker.

 

KEITH ROMER:  To document the stories of the eight hundred and thirty-nine players at that year’s World Series, Matt Maranz hired a full production team.

 

MATT MARANZ: There was about 30 people on our staff: Producers, cameramen, grips, production assistants.

 

KEITH ROMER: And one color commentator – newspaper columnist Norman Chad.

 

NORMAN CHAD: I’m not sure what color commentator is on ever seeing the color thing, but that’s what he hired me to do.

 

KEITH ROMER: Maranz had hired Chad because he thought he was funny, but also because they thought the same way about how poker on television should work.

 

NORMAN CHAD: The biggest problems with the old show’s were two-pronged and simple. You did not know what the cards were and you did not know who the players were.

 

KEITH ROMER: Matt Maranz thought he had figured out solutions to both of those problems.  The first one was a technical fix.

 

MATT MARANZ: We used lipstick cameras small little cameras that looks like a lipstick holder and we just sewed them into the cushion of the poker table.

 

KEITH ROMER: Those tiny cameras would let viewers at home see the players’ cards.

 

MATT MARANZ: Binion’s was concerned. They thought the secrets would get out.

 

KEITH ROMER: After days of back and forth, Maranz finally convinced Binion’s to allow the cameras, but not before the casino added some personnel to the TV production booth.

 

MATT MARANZ: And in front of them were security guards with guns. Scary! But also awesome.

 

KEITH ROMER: Maranz also thought he had figured out how to get viewers interested in the players.

 

MATT MARANZ:  You have to give them a reason why they should watch, and why they should care about these individual players.

 

KEITH ROMER: At least part of Maranz’s solution–celebrity.

 

NORMAN CHAD: The easiest starting point is with big names in the game that might resonate with a casual person.

 

[1988 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

ANNOUNCER: Yes he is going all in, and Chan has him, Johnny Chan, the master!]

 

MATT MARANZ: Johnny Chan’s about the most famous poker player on earth and it’s not just because he was a great player who won the World Championships, but he figures prominently in Rounders.

 

NORMAN CHAD: He’s presented in Rounders for not even a minute’s time. But that minute just made him just a larger than life figure.

 

MATT MARANZ: The Matt Damon character is down in Atlantic City.

 

[ROUNDERS,

 

MATT DAMON/MIKE MCDERMOTT: About eight-nine months ago, I’m at the Taj and it’s late, and I see Johnny Chan walk in and he goes he sits 300-600. You know, the whole place stops, Johnny Chan walks in. Everybody puts an eye on him.]

 

KEITH ROMER: Rounders defined the poker dream as not just winning.  But winning against the best. Matt Damon’s character goes right at Johnny Chan.

 

[ROUNDERS,

 

MATT DAMON/MIKE MCDERMOTT: I just decided you know, I don’t care about the money.  I’m just going to outplay the guy. I’m just going to outplay this guy, this hand.]

 

KEITH ROMER: Because it’s a movie.  It works.

 

[ROUNDERS,

 

MATT DAMON/MIKE MCDERMOTT: I sat with the best in the world, and I won.]

 

KEITH ROMER: Matt Maranz wanted that kind of drama and that kind of star power. He was going to approach his production less like a sports event, and more like a movie.

 

MATT MARANZ: We’re going to shoot the entire event live.

 

KEITH ROMER:  But not broadcast it live.

 

NORMAN CHAD: Matt walked me through Binion’s and one of the first things I asked him, I said, “What’s ah — so Matt, where’s our broadcasting vantage point.” And he cocked his head and looked at me like I was from Mars and I said, “I’m such an idiot. I’ve never used the term vantage point in my life. What am I, an Ivy Leaguer?” So I said, “Where are we broadcasting from?” He looked at me again weirdly and says,  “You know we don’t do any broadcasting from here.” I go, “What!” – “No, it’s all done afterwards.”

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Hello everybody and welcome to Las Vegas Nevada and Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, I’m Lon McEachern.]

 

KEITH ROMER:  As the tournament got started the TV crew fanned out around the casino to film the action.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Day one of this grueling five-day event reveals a record number of eight hundred and thirty-nine entrants.

 

KEITH ROMER: Maranz told his team, don’t try to capture everything.  Just focus on the top players.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: And at our featured table today we’re very lucky to have two of the biggest names in the game. Two-time champion Doyle Brunson and defending champion Robert Varkonyi–a nice contrast in styles.

 

KEITH ROMER: Maranz had even given his cameramen binders with the forty most important players.

 

MATT MARANZ: So it was really like elementary school. Here is a photo book a picture book of the people that you’re supposed to follow. I was so proud of that picture book.

 

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: So Doyle Brunson, the two-time world champion is eliminated on Day 1, the exit scene is tough for everyone…]

 

MATT MARANZ:  About an hour into the tournament about 20 of those players were knocked out. And we’re all looking to each other, and they’re all laughing at me like what do I do now that all my pictures are gone.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: And that is it.

 

ROBERT VARKONYI: Okay, I’m done. Good luck everybody, good luck!

 

LON McEACHERN: Robert Varkonyi had been eliminated….]

 

MATT MARANZ: We had a very detailed plan. We just realized our detailed plan is fundamentally flawed. You know within a couple of hours.

 

KEITH ROMER:  Maranz and his team had to scramble.

 

MATT MARANZ: The big fear in any television production is you don’t have footage. If you don’t have footage it doesn’t exist.

 

KEITH ROMER:  But it was next to impossible to predict which of these hundreds of players Maranz was going to end up needing footage of.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Welcome back to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.  You’re looking at Barry Greenstein, the chip leader… You think he’s in the driver’s seat right or wrong, nobody has ever won this tourney after leading on day one.  Trailing Barry by about 25,000 was an investor from Houston named Sam Farha.]

 

KEITH ROMER:  That first name–Barry Greenstein–he was in the picture book.  But figuring out who Farha was, wasn’t quite as simple.

 

MATT MARANZ:  Sam Farha was a bit of a mystery man. When we’d interview players we’d always ask him, “OK well! You know, what do you do for a living.”  I do remember Sam not wanting to talk about it. You know, he was a businessman and just kind of left it at that.

 

NORMAN CHAD: He wouldn’t tell people that he was a gambler.  He was an investor or a professional businessman. He gambles for a living and he gambles big.

 

KEITH ROMER:  To tournament director Matt Savage, Farha was a known quantity.

 

MATT SAVAGE: You know, he wasn’t known as the best player but he was known as the biggest action player.  He had no fear.

 

NORMAN CHAD: Sammy Farha famously said, “You know, I’ve got to win this thing just to break even for this for this month.”  And he’s not kidding.

 

KEITH ROMER:  Farha looked great on camera.

 

NORMAN CHAD: Apparently Sammy Farha came out of the womb with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth, with hair, and a look of Humphrey Bogart from a 1945 film.

 

KEITH ROMER:  But Maranz had to figure out a way to present Farha to people watching at home that went beyond “an investor from Houston.”

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

SAM FARHA: Sam Farha.  I’m very superstitious.  If I have a winning session, I’ll keep the same things on.  The same moves. The same thing.]

 

MATT MARANZ: I think the key to creating a character in any TV show,  is to come up with a way for the viewer to latch on to them.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

SAM FARHA: I don’t smoke, and I keep the same cigarette. And if I lose a pot, I’ll change the cigarette. Throw it away, put another one.  Very superstitious.]

 

MATT MARANZ:  Give me one thing. One thing that the viewer the next day after watching the show can go, “Oh yeah! I remember that person, that person did this.”

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: That’s a good luck cigarette unlit in his mouth.  Of course… you can’t smoke here in the Binion’s poker room. ]

 

KEITH ROMER:  The first day of the five-day tournament ended some time after midnight.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

DEALER: Players, I’m gonna hand you bag please put your chips in the bag.]

 

KEITH ROMER:  Maranz’s crew turned off their cameras, the 300-odd players who had survived went off to get some sleep, and Binion’s PR director Nolan Dalla headed up to his office to put together a list of the players who remained in the tournament.

 

NOLAN DALLA: One by one typing the names up with the chip counts with the hometowns and I get to this name and it’s said, Chris Moneymaker.

 

NOLAN DALLA: I was like ‘Chris Moneymaker’ what? And now you have to understand what poker players do. There’s poker players have nicknames, no one knows  Doyle Brunson but his name is “Texas Dolly” or Bobby “The Owl” Baldwin. So I thought here’s a poker player who’s probably his name is Chris Smith and maybe Moneymakers is his nickname. Chris Moneymaker Smith, Chris Moneymaker Jones, you understand what I mean? And of course it’s four fifteen and I’ve got another thirty-five slips there in that stack.  And I was mad at the guy, I said, “This jerk is won’t even fill it out properly.”

 

KEITH ROMER:  Eventually Dalla got through his list and went off to bed.  Day two started, and he went to find his mystery man.

 

NOLAN DALLA: Chris looks like what you would expect somebody that graduated from the University of Tennessee that loved football and drinks beer to look like when he shows up at the Binion’s Horseshoe that you don’t really take seriously. He’s an amateur poker player that looks like a nice guy to have a beer with.

 

KEITH ROMER:  Baseball cap. Big belly. Wrap-around sunglasses.  Little goatee.

 

NOLAN DALLA: So I go up and I said, “Excuse me, can you tell me your real name, please?”  

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER:  Something I’ve dealt with my entire life. People don’t believe my name. So I was like, yeah here!

 

NOLAN DALLA: You know, so he pulls out the wallet.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER:  Here’s my ID. Yeah, it’s me.

 

KEITH ROMER:  Tennessee Driver’s License.  And there’s the name–Christopher Brian Moneymaker.

 

NOLAN DALLA: I said, “Sir, I’m so sorry” I just didn’t think that could be your real name. And he, of course, he laughs. He was so nice. He couldn’t have been nicer.

 

KEITH ROMER: Part of the reason for how nice he was–On day one,  Chris Moneymaker from Tennessee had absolutely crushed his table. He had turned his starting stack of 10,000 in chips into more than 60,000.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER:  Which put me like fourth or fifth place. So obviously I’m ecstatic.

 

NORMAN CHAD:  We had eight hundred and thirty-nine players. Sixty players got paid out of the eight hundred and thirty-nine.

 

KEITH ROMER: Chris’s first priority –Finish at least sixty third and win the minimum, $15,000 dollars.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I mean if I go out there and play the World Series Main Event and I bust, and I don’t pay off any of my credit card debt all this is for naught.

 

NORMAN CHAD: If you’ve never played in the World Series of Poker before you want to make the money for sure. Your mentality generally is to be very conservative.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I mean, I’m not joking when I said I’m probably was like number eight hundred out of eight hundred and thirty-nine skill level in that tournament.

 

KEITH ROMER: So Chris had a very simple strategy –Survive.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I can sit there and fold the entire day two, and make it to day three. That was my plan.

 

KEITH ROMER: As it happened though, there were two problems with Chris’s plan–the first problem was that just like on Day 1, on Day 2, Chris kept getting dealt cards that were too good to fold.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: You know, I’m going to 180,000 – 190,000 and maybe over 200,000 at this point.

 

NORMAN CHAD: As players get knocked out, players get moved around to make sure that the tables have an equal number of players at every table.

 

KEITH ROMER: Chris’s second problem was the players who were getting moved to his table.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: Towards the end of Day 2, Johnny Chan sits down. A swath of people move in behind our table that they’re going to spectate, they’re watching Johnny play. The whole dynamic of the table just changed. He took the table over immediately.

 

JOHNNY CHAN: I feel very confident. What I sit in any table. I was very comfortable, I didn’t pay any attention.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER:  Johnny Chan, it seemed like to me was purposely picking on me.

 

JOHNNY CHAN: Yum yum!

 

KEITH ROMER: On Day 3, Chris was still stuck at Johnny Chan’s table.  Only now it was ESPN’s featured table.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: And a good look at Chris Moneymaker just a regular guy an accountant for a restaurant chain here with the big boys. He’s playing next to one of his heroes and a two-time champion right there– Johnny Chan.]

 

MATT MARANZ: Chris Moneymaker is just the accessory, the prop basically that Johnny Chan is supposed to knock out of the tournament.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER:  We’d played probably three or four pots together.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

JOHNNY CHAN: I go all-in.

 

LON McEACHERN: Johnny Chan gonna put all the chips in.

 

JOHNNY CHAN: 29-4.]

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER:  And he won all of them.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: So Johnny Chan wins the pot.]

 

KEITH ROMER: And it basically went on like this between Chan and Moneymaker.  Until the players got ready for one of their scheduled breaks.

 

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

LON McEACHERN: So it’s time for the dinner break here at Binion’s. As the players fold they will move away from the table to get some extra time.]

 

KEITH ROMER: But two players didn’t fold.  Johnny Chan and Chris Moneymaker.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: And right now, we have the perfect player against the amateur of amateurs, mano a mano in this hollowed out poker ring.]

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: He bet I raised.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: He is going to raise back to Moneymaker.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I’m all in.  

 

LON McEACHERN: So there you have it, Chris Moneymaker laying down the challenge to Johnny Chan.

 

NORMAN CHAD: All Johnny has right now is a draw. I’d be surprised if he goes any further.

 

JOHNNY CHAN: Alright. We got it.

 

LON McEACHERN: Johnny is going to put it on the line.]

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER:  Honestly before the hand was flipped up I would have bet a lot of money, he had me beat.

 

KEITH ROMER: But it turned out Chris was a massive favorite.  So long as the next card wasn’t a two, Johnny Chan would be out of the tournament.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

JOHNNY CHAN: Put a deuce up there.]

 

NORMAN CHAD: In my head, it was, “What the what?”  And actually Chris Moneymaker I could have sworn maybe took off his sunglasses and he looked at Johnny… He was shocked to see what Johnny’s hand was, and Johnny was a deep deep doo-doo when all the money went in.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: All right, here we go! Moment of Truth. The turn card a nine of hearts and that’s going to do it. Chris Moneymaker with the ace high flush takes down Johnny Chan.

 

NORMAN CHAD: Wow. This is like Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson.]

 

NORMAN CHAD: And then he was gone like that.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER:  Yup! I, you know, I get to live the Rounder’s dream.

 

[ROUNDERS,

 

MATT DAMON/MIKE MCDERMOTT: I sat with the best in the world.  And I won.

 

JOHN TURTURRO/JOEY KNISH: You fucking move on Chan, you son of a bitch.]

 

JOHNNY CHAN: I tell you what, when I got that knocked out by Moneymaker, I feel like somebody died in my family.

 

KEITH ROMER: Matt Maranz felt pretty much the same way.  The show he was making was supposed to be for guys like Chris Moneymaker–wannabe poker pros who learned everything they knew from Rounders–It wasn’t supposed to be about them.

 

MATT MARANZ: So you’re a little disappointed, just purely from a storytelling perspective because you have lost your main character. If this was a drama show your main character just got killed off.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

LON McEACHERN: Norman Chad…Of our original field of eight hundred thirty-nine players. We are down to just a fraction of that.]

 

NORMAN CHAD: Poker is a game. Anybody can win at it in any given day.

 

DOYLE BRUNSON: That’s the beauty of these tournaments. People can come through them and just survive.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

NORMAN CHAD: Mr. Moneymaker has been walking between raindrops all day. But right now he’s up against aces. That’s a storm.]

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: Some of the decisions I made and some of the plays that I made, were probably pretty bad. I just didn’t know any better.

 

DOYLE BRUNSON: To be frank with you, he was really bad. He was really a rank amateur.

 

KEITH ROMER: But in poker, skill level and results don’t always match up exactly. At the end of four marathon days of poker, both Chris Moneymaker and Sam Farha were still alive, trying to make the tournament’s final table.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Ten remain. It’s about two a.m. and all the outer tables are empty and the crowd has gathered around the only table left. Tonight ten people are battling for nine spots.]

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: We were just completely drained. My goal was to not play any hands. I’m going to sit here and do nothing.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN:One more person will be eliminated. This is a tough table indeed.]

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: Everybody wants to make the final table, so everybody’s playing like I am. Everybody’s points super tight.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Jason Lester folds, Harrington folds. Up to Gray.  Not going to play.]

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: The only that guy is not really playing super tight is probably Phil Ivey.

 

KEITH ROMER: Phil Ivey.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

NORMAN CHAD: And we’re still looking at Phil Ivey in the field and I still think he’s the man to beat.]

 

KEITH ROMER: He was only 26 years old, but most pros already considered him one of the most dangerous players in the game.

 

MATT MARANZ: Phil Ivey at that point–he was the young player who was going to become the greatest player in the world.

 

KEITH ROMER: With 10 people left, Ivey took over the table.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: He’s splashing around more than most everybody else.

 

KEITH ROMER: Chris mostly tried to stay out of his way. But around four in the morning, he found a hand that even he wasn’t going to fold.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: But he’s looking at ace-queen so he’s going to make some sort of move, he bet 60,000. Action over to Phil Ivey now. And looking at a couple of nines. He’ll call it. The flop comes two queens.

 

NORMAN CHAD: A monster flop for Chris Moneymaker who makes three queens and becomes a prohibitive favorite.]

 

KEITH ROMER: Chris bet small. Laying a trap for Ivey.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Well Phil Ivey is indeed going to take that bait and he’ll call it.]  

 

NORMAN CHAD:  We had no big names left. The only name that even could possibly be a big name was Phil Ivey, and plus he’s the best player.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Here comes the turn and it’s a nine, and that gives Phil Ivey a full house.

 

NORMAN CHAD: Miracle on Fourth Street for Phil Ivey who now has the full house and the better hand.

 

LON McEACHERN: But nobody knows that here except Phil Ivey and us.

 

NORMAN CHAD: And there’s no reason for Moneymaker to put — to assume that Ivey had the pocket nines. So he’s going to get 200,000. Understandably he just can’t think he has that type of hand to beat him. He’s got to believe the three queens are best right now.]

 

MATT MARANZ: I just remember knowing even without knowing poker that this was a big moment, and I think it was because the room got really quiet.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I’m all in.

 

LON McEACHERN: He is all in.  

 

NORMAN CHAD: And quickly called

 

LON McEACHERN: The pot size is one million now.

 

DEALER: 9’s full for Phil Ivey.

 

NORMAN CHAD: Yup. Moneymaker is disgusted. He never could have assumed the two nines in the hole for Phil Ivey and now he is going to need an ace, a queen, or six on the river to win the hand.]

 

KEITH ROMER: Chris Moneymaker had just a one in six chance of winning the hand.  Five times out of six, Phil Ivey wins. Goes on to the final table with a mountain of chips.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

DEALER: Moneymaker’s looking for an ace on the river or another queen.  Here you go, we’re going to see one more card. It’s an ace!

 

LON McEACHERN: Ohhh, an ace! An ace!

 

NORMAN CHAD: An incredible knockout blow for probably the best player left in the tournament, who’s gone down.

 

LON McEACHERN: Oh, Amazing. Phil Ivey loses with a full house to a better full house of Chris Moneymaker.

 

NORMAN CHAD: Who has now knocked out heavyweights Johnny Chan, Humberto Brenes, and Phil Ivey. My goodness.

 

LON McEACHERN: Who is this young man?]

 

NORMAN CHAD:  It was like a lightning bolt to me that hit me and knocked me down. It was so incredible to watch that hand live.

 

KEITH ROMER: Incredible as it might have been, that ace on the river, meant that Norman Chad and the rest of the production team were left with a final table with exactly zero star players.

 

NORMAN CHAD:  I cannot tell you how heartbroken I was because I said, “Oh no, Phil Ivey at the final table! We’re screwed.”

 

KEITH ROMER: The 2003 World Series of Poker was an event that came to exist finally not as five days in a downtown Las Vegas Casino, but as seven episodes broadcast on ESPN.  It was a story whose contours were shaped, at least in part, by people who never played a hand of poker in the tournament. It was a TV show made by Matt Maranz and his team months after the fact.

 

MATT MARANZ:  We had over a thousand hours of footage that we have to go back to New York and figure out how we’re going to tell seven one-hour stories.

 

KEITH ROMER: As they watched the tape, they realized that a lot of the choices they had made were working.

 

MATT MARANZ: We edited the first hand from day one.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: And he starts off with two aces, Norman.]

 

MATT MARANZ:   And we all kinda have the same interesting reaction.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

NORMAN CHAD: And he slow plays that he’s just going to call with the aces.]

 

MATT MARANZ:  We’re like, that’s really compelling to watch and we’re not sure why.

 

NORMAN CHAD: The way they shot it, the way they edited it, it was just so intoxicating to me.

 

KEITH ROMER: There were the two camera moves that Matt Maranz relied on.

 

MATT MARANZ:  You have this two-shot where the players were looking at each other over their shoulder and kind of staring each other down.

 

KEITH ROMER: And you had close-ups.

 

MATT MARANZ:  You would see the player just dying inside as they tried to figure out what the right move was.

 

KEITH ROMER: Then, there was the way Maranz used the hole card cameras.

 

NORMAN CHAD:  He thought it was,  it was really critical to show the peeks. Literally, the player is looking at their hole cards.

 

MATT MARANZ:  You would see the cards like coming up and Bam! Wow, he has aces, it’s amazing!

 

NORMAN CHAD:  And he did that every single time.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

NORMAN CHAD:Pair of kings. That’s a pretty good hand to have when you got to make a move.]

 

MATT MARANZ:  The hole card cameras created an omniscient viewer.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

NORMAN CHAD: Even though he has second best hand in poker he doesn’t know he’s up against the best hand in poker.]

 

MATT MARANZ: You knew this guy was going to lose, everyone in the world knew this guy was going to lose, except the guy was about to lose.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

ROBERT VARKONYI: All-in

 

LON McEACHERN: Robert Varkonyi…]

 

MATT MARANZ: You then could have this suspenseful game. We were really approaching this like a  drama that you would see on normal TV.

 

NORMAN CHAD:  You establish the conflict early and then you resolve it. And you know the good guys beat the bad guys. This is sports in a nutshell.

 

KEITH ROMER: On July 8th, nearly two months after the World Series ended, episode one was broadcast on ESPN.

 

MATT MARANZ: So the first episode airs, and we hear back from ESPN the next day, or the day after, that the ratings were great. And it wasn’t in the tone of, “Man, congratulations the ratings were great.” It was more of like a disbelief like, “Hey, The ratings were great.”

 

NORMAN CHAD: This is unbelievable. I just, I was in shock. I was thrilled but I was shocked that it was taking off this way.

 

DOYLE BRUNSON: I didn’t think there would be an audience.   But I was wrong, and America fell in love with poker.

 

KEITH ROMER: However popular the first episodes were, for the broadcast to truly be considered a success, it had to nail its season finale.  Spread over two weeks, episodes six and seven would reveal which character survived the final table to become the new world champion.

 

Americans watching at home were greeted with a montage of dazzling Las Vegas casino signs, and the by now familiar voice of host Lon McEachern.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Over four days had nearly fifty hours of poker have been played here at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino and a big payday is finally here.]

 

KEITH ROMER: The picture cut to a shot of the dingy Binion’s ballroom, rows of stackable chairs quickly filling with friends and family of the remaining players.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: The crowd ready to witness a bit of history as the nine surviving players…]

 

NORMAN CHAD:  There is a Seinfeld episode that once had a cockfight, a rooster fight, I think it goes a little Jerry was fighting and, you know,  you’re in some ridiculous warehouse basement. That’s what the final table reminds me of. At the most a couple of hundred people around this boxing ring with nine players in it.

 

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: All bets are off, so now let’s put the cards in the air. The final day of the 2003 World Series of Poker is coming up next.]

 

KEITH ROMER: Seven of the nine players assembled at that brightly lit poker table were seasoned pros, including a former champion.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: ..Dan Harrington, he won this tournament back in 1995.

 

KEITH ROMER: An Iranian-born tournament expert.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: That man Amir Vahidi.

 

NORMAN CHAD: Yeah, a tournament veteran with a lot of titles under his belt.]

 

KEITH ROMER: And, unlit cigarette perched at the corner of his mouth, the “investor from Houston.”

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Sam Farha, a very active player throughout.]

 

KEITH ROMER: Then, there was the unlikely chip leader.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Norm, so far. Chris Moneymaker using his newness to a great advantage. We’ve seen other guys do that as well.

 

NORMAN CHAD: Yeah, the amateur. It’s hard to read. And also the amateur doesn’t have as much pressure as a professional, which is an advantage.]

 

KEITH ROMER: As a kind of emotional surrogate for the stone-faced Moneymaker, the cameras picked out Chris’s father in the crowd.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

BERNIE MONEYMAKER: Hah-ho Money.  

 

LON McEACHERN: His dad is here in the House supporting him.

 

BERNIE MONEYMAKER: That’s the boy. That’s the kid.]

 

KEITH ROMER: But viewers who weren’t blood relations didn’t much like Chris’s chances.  Binion’s PR Director, Nolan Dalla.

 

NOLAN DALLA: Moneymaker’s probably not somebody, I  even at the final table the final nine, I don’t think I even paid him two seconds of attention.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: And here it comes Two 8’s and an ace. Chris Moneymaker has a pair of aces.

 

NORMAN CHAD: Uh. And he continues to sleep with angels.]

 

NOLAN DALLA: This is a cut throat game. This is a game that doesn’t take prisoners.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Chris Moneymaker needs some help with these cards to come and wow, did he get it.

 

NORMAN CHAD:  He’s flopped the top straight. My goodness.

 

LON McEACHERN:Eight, nine, ten, jack, queen. Wow!]

 

NOLAN DALLA:  When you have this kind of an event going on,  you don’t waste time with — you don’t waste time with the extras.  You’re looking for the stars and a lot of us still at that late stage thought that this is one of the extras. Good story, Tennessee accountant coming out of nowhere, winning his way through a satellite. As he finishes — Hey, let’s just make this up seventh place. Hey, great story. Yeah, that’s that’s paragraph six. Well done sir. Congratulations Mr. Moneymaker. We’ll probably never see you again, but great story.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

NORMAN CHAD: And the body count continues to grow. Chris Moneymaker he’s become the Terminator knocking out another player.

 

BERNIE MONEYMAKER: I knew he could play I didn’t know he could play this good.

 

LON McEACHERN: I wonder how much money he’s taken off dad over the years.]

 

KEITH ROMER: When just two players remained, they brought out the money.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Well this is it, eight hundred thirty-nine players down to just two.]

 

KEITH ROMER: On their TVs viewers watched a security guard, flanked by three men with shotguns, carrying a box full of bricks of cash through the crowd.  

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: And there you see the two and a half million dollar first prize carried up from the vault in a two dollar cardboard box. It’s a Binion’s tradition.]

 

KEITH ROMER:  Also a tradition — not really putting millions of dollars in the box.

 

MATT SAVAGE: A lot of people don’t know that it’s not real money. It’s hundreds on the outside and dollars on the inside.

 

KEITH ROMER: After the cash was stacked on a side table, the cameras turned their attention to the two men who still remained.

 

On one side of the long green table–Sam Farha in a black suit jacket and a white shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest. Across from him, Chris Moneymaker wearing his Pokerstars hat and polo shirt, his eyes hidden behind mirrored, wraparound sunglasses.

 

NOLAN DALLA: And these two individuals could not be more opposite. They are like night and day.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

NORMAN CHAD: This isn’t exactly David versus Goliath but it’s maybe David versus Hulk Hogan. I mean Sammy’s been around the block. He’s seen the slingshot, he’s been in so many more situations than Chris Moneymaker.]

 

KEITH ROMER: Just before play resumed a conversation took place between Moneymaker and Farha that viewers at home did not have the opportunity to see. Moneymaker offered Farha a deal.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I’m like, “Man you know, it’s been great, it’s been fun. You just want to chop it up and play for it.”

 

KEITH ROMER: They could split the difference between the 2.5 million first prize and the 1.3 million for second. Just play for the title of World Series Champion.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: And then he said, “No, honestly, you know you played really well. But you know, I think, I deserve a little bit more, you know, I’m an experienced player. This is what I do.” And I just remember looking at him dead in the face and I was pissed when he said, that I said, “Fuck you. Let’s play.”

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: No bet from Moneymaker but of course Sam Farha bets $150,000.]

 

MATT SAVAGE: I remember it being — Sammy having this kind of like wry smile like this kid’s not beating me heads up. There’s just no chance.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

SAM FARHA:  Price of poker’s going to go high now.]

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: My plan was just to bulldoze the living hell out of him. I wanted to beat him bad.

 

KEITH ROMER: After dozens of hands back and forth, Chris chased a draw all the way to the final card.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: And is a 3 of hearts.]

 

KEITH ROMER: And missed everything.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

NORMAN CHAD: Moneymaker doesn’t get to either draw.]

 

KEITH ROMER: But, with his worthless king high, Chris decided he was going to outplay this guy. This hand.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I’m all in.

 

DEALER: Chris is all in.

 

LON McEACHERN: Chris Moneymaker going all-in with nothing.]

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: Honestly I felt like someone else took over my body. I don’t know. I can’t explain it to this day what happened.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

NORMAN CHAD: A stunning play from Moneymaker who missed his draws has nothing and now has put Sam Farha all in.

 

SAM FARHA: You must have missed the flush, huh?

 

LON McEACHERN: Sam’s absolutely right.

 

NORMAN CHAD: He would have to put all his chips in if he lost this pot he’d be out of the tournament.

 

LON McEACHERN: He is not going to do it. Chris Moneymaker bluffs Sam Farha out of a big stack of money.

 

NORMAN CHAD: And considering the situation I know we’re early in the century, but that’s the bluff of the century. What a play from Chris Moneymaker.]

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I don’t know where it came from, I don’t know how it happened, but I just turned into a beast, like I was playing really good poker.

 

MATT MARANZ:  We like our history to be all clean, and neat, and tidy and almost like inevitable.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Sam Farha bets one hundred thousand to Moneymaker who quickly calls it.]

 

MATT MARANZ:  You know history doesn’t work that way.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

NORMAN CHAD:And Sammy a two to one favorite right now going to the flop.]

 

MATT MARANZ: Like it’s messy, and it’s clunky, and millions of things have to happen in exactly the same order.

 

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

NORMAN CHAD: Once again Chris Moneymaker has gotten another fortunate flop.]

 

MATT MARANZ:  And if one little thing doesn’t go that way, you know, history changes.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Chris Moneymaker checks.  Now, over to Sam Farha who throws in the bet of 175,000.]

 

KEITH ROMER: Chris Moneymaker didn’t know it yet, sitting there under the lights, staring across the green felt at Sam Farha.  But his life as an anonymous accountant was over.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: I thought you know what,  I’d play a poker tournament here, and play a poker tournament there, and go back to work. Nothing much would change.

 

KEITH ROMER: Chris was becoming a character in a very different kind of story.  A story that the entire world was about to know.

 

[LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN,

 

DAVID LETTERMAN: We have a guy by the name of Chris Moneymaker on the program, do you know who this guy is Paul?

 

PAUL SHAFFER: I’ve heard a little bit about him.

 

DAVID LETTERMAN: This guy is 27-year-old, he’s a certified….]

 

KEITH ROMER: Chris Moneymaker would go on Letterman, and Jimmy Kimmel.  

 

[LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN,

 

PAUL SHAFFER:: Did he change his name to that?

 

DAVID LETTERMAN: No, he didn’t change his name to that.  He’s always been Chris Moneymaker.

PAUL SHAFFER: …always been named Chris Moneymaker.]

 

KEITH ROMER: He would sign six and seven figure-deals to represent PokerStars and Canadian Club Whiskey.

 

[POKERSTARS COMMERCIAL,

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: …people come up and ask me for advice on how to get started I tell them usually, get online on PokerStars, play….]

 

KEITH ROMER: TV networks would piggyback on Matt Maranz’s success and broadcast thousands of hours of poker programming.

 

[CELEBRITY POKER SHOWDOWN,

 

KEVIN POLLAK: Good evening and welcome to celebrity poker showdown.]

 

KEITH ROMER: Internet poker would become a billion-dollar business.  And the Main Event of the World Series of Poker would attract two thousand, then five thousand, then eight thousand entrants.  

 

But none of that had happened yet.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Chris Moneymaker checks.  Now, over to Sam Farha who throws in the bet of 175,000.]

 

KEITH ROMER: One more card still needed to go Chris’s way.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: This could be the last card of the 2003 World Series of Poker.

 

DEALER: It’s a five!

 

ARCHIVAL: Crowd cheering

 

FAN: You did it, man.  You did it!

 

LON McEACHERN: With a full house, Chris Moneymaker eliminates Sam Farha and a 27-year-old…]

 

MATT MARANZ: Just euphoria from him. You know he’s running around, he’s jumping in the crowd, his dad a beautiful moment with his dad.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

NORMAN CHAD: This is beyond fairy tale. It’s inconceivable.]

 

NOLAN DALLA:  And you can see from Moneymaker’s face that… it’s he still can’t believe it after three or four minutes.

 

CHRIS MONEYMAKER: You have to sort of pinch yourself. Wow! this can’t be happening.

 

NOLAN DALLA:   It still it hasn’t sunk in yet.

 

[2003 WORLD SERIES OF POKER,

 

LON McEACHERN: Chris Moneymaker the young accountant from Nashville, Tennessee…]

 

KEITH ROMER:  Where do you even… Where do you begin?

 

MATT MARANZ: Well, you begin with the end. There’s only one thing that you know for certain, that absolutely one hundred percent has to be included in the show. And that is Chris Moneymaker is going to win. So you work backwards from there.

 

 

Credits

All In: Sparking The Poker Boom

Jody Avirgan, Host, Senior Producer and Series Editor

Erin Leyden, ESPN Films Senior Producer and Series Editor

Keith Romer, Reporter and Producer

David Kestenbaum, Editor

Mitra Kaboli, Sound Mixing

Taylor Barfield, Production Assistant

30 for 30 Podcasts

 Ryan Nantell, Producer

Andrew Mambo, Producer

Julia Lowrie Henderson, Producer

Vin D’Anton, Associate Producer

ESPN Films

Connor Schell, Executive Producer

Libby Geist, Executive Producer

Rob King, Executive Producer

Adam Neuhaus, Director of Development.

Jenna Anthony, Associate Director of Development

Deirdre Fenton, Producer

Tom Picard, Director, Production Management

Catherine Sankey, Production Manager

María Delgado, Production Manager

Jennifer Thorpe, Production Manager

Louise Argianas, Director of Footage Licensing

Alex Bohen, Development Production   

Paul Williard, Associate Producer

Eve Wulf, Production Assistant

Sean Mercer, Production Assistant

ESPN Audio

Traug Keller, Senior Vice President

Tom Ricks, Vice President, Audio Digital Strategy & Marketing

Megan Judge, Director, Audio Distribution & Marketing

Pete Gianesini, Senior Director, Audio Production

Ryan Granner, Director, Digital Audio Operations

Ryan Hurley, Program Director, ESPN New York

RJ Santillo, Associate Producer, ESPN New York

Raymond Deenihan, Producer, ESPN New York

Rodney Belizaire, Chief Engineer, ESPN New York

Devon McGowan, Senior Marketing Manager

Elizabeth Fierman, Senior Manager, Event Marketing

Additional Production Support

Brad Ross, Anny Celsi, Kate McAuliffe, Roger Jackson, Tony Chow, Linda Tran Tutovan,  Justin McCraw, Mitchell Clements, and Laura Hernández.

Special Thanks

Erik Seidel, Andrew Feldman, Dan Goldman, Carol Anderson, and Eric Drache and 441 Productions.

30 for 30 Podcasts theme music composed by Hrishikesh Hirway, host of the Song Exploder podcast.