The 45th annual World Series of Poker is starting today. This is a huge event in Vegas. Upwards of 40,000 poker players descend on the Rio for the six weeks of tournament play and poker rooms all over town are, as Max Rubin would say, rammin’ and jammin’.
There will be 65 bracelet events, including a new $25,000 event (Mixed Max No Limit Hold ’Em), 12 $10,000 events, the $1 million Big One for One Drop charity event (which last year attracted 48 players who ponied up the cool mil and had a payout of more than $18 million, with $6 million going to charity), and of course the $10,000 Main Event, which last year fielded nearly 6,400 players.
I like poker, though I’ve never been much of a player. I know the math, but never could do calculations in my head quickly or under pressure; my BJ card-counting days were short-lived, because I found I couldn’t keep track of the count without moving my lips! Talk about a tell!!!!
But Brad and I watch poker on TV now and again, especially when the WSOP is televised. There’s so much drama, tension, strategy, and psyching out at the poker table—and, of course, the producers create exciting television programming around it. Also, like plenty of other people in the gambling life, we’re fans of some of the personalities.
For all these reasons, I was very interested in the new book my publishing company just released, The Moneymaker Effect. This book is, for the most part, an oral history about the legendary 2003 World Series of Poker, won by amateur Chris Moneymaker, who was playing in his first live poker tournament ever. He prevailed over a field of 800 players and a couple dozen of the “poker celebrities” are interviewed about the experience. It’s fascinating to “listen in” as they recount their memories of it.
It was also the first year the hole-card camera was used in a televised poker tournament, which triggered a subsequent eruption of poker TV. And because Moneymaker had won his $10,000 seat in the Main Event in a PokerStars.com satellite tournament, his winning the WSOP is widely credited with launching the explosion of poker, both online and live. People thought, If this neophyte can beat the likes of Johnny Chan, Phil Ivey, Dan Harrington, and Sammy Farha, why, I can too!
So there was a lot more going on at the 2003 WSOP than just the Moneymaker story. And the book covers all that in detail too.
To me, though, the best part of the book are the descriptions from the pros about how it felt to get so close to winning the WSOP, only to lose in the end. I know something about losing; losing and I are longtime close companions. But I have a feeling that losing likes me more than I like losing!! However, it comes with the gambling territory. The tales told by Howard Lederer, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Dutch Boyd, Dan Harrington, and Sammy Farha, among others, are not only gripping, but they’re very instructive as to how the big boys handle it.
Anyone who likes poker stories, gambling stories, sports stories, inspiring underdog stories, or a discourse on the agony of defeat will, I predict, love this book.