How the Moneymaker Effect Continued to Change Poker This Year

December 27th, 2014 | by Jason Reynolds
Poker tracking

Poker tracking software is an important tool for pros, but hinders the game from attracting new player pools. (Image:

The Moneymaker Effect, the legendary run by amateur Chris Moneymaker at the 2003 World Series of Poker, forever changed the game. The following year, Greg Raymer, another amateur, won the $5 million final table prize.

Now a decade removed from the historic feats, when will another casual poker player not just reach a premiere event finale, but take the title? Don’t hold your breath; it might be awhile considering the following hurdles in today’s game.

Poker Software

In 2003, Chris Moneymaker was a 27-year-old accountant living in Tennessee. While many thought the game had seen its glory days, the big boom was just about to start.

With the majority of consumers still using dial-up connection speeds, the plausibility of poker being played via the Internet seemed like nothing more than a crapshoot.

After winning $39 and $86 online satellite tournaments, Moneymaker was awarded a seat at a larger satellite, which of course he won and sent him to the WSOP Main Event.

Today’s professional poker player lives online, a drastic change compared to just 10 years ago when most preferred brick-and-mortar tables. Not only do experienced sharks possess a superior skillset than the amateur, they are also now equipped with another weapon: software.

Tracking programs allow any Internet player to record and analyze opponents, giving them an edge in knowing tendencies of the person sitting across the table.

While utilizing computer card programs is illegal on certain sites in the United States, it’s a prevalent practice around the world. This stacks the odds even greater against a hobbyist from achieving the levels of success obtained by Moneymaker.

2014 November Nine

 November Nine

The 2014 November Nine consisted of eight pros and just one true amateur. (Image:

The World Series of Poker Main Event final table is the game’s most important and most seen contest. The 45th edition was nothing short of riveting as November Nine big stack and first day leader Jorryt van Hoof surrendered an extensive lead on the second day to eventual winner Martin Jacobson.

The two-night telecast averaged over one million viewers during its hours of coverage. However, of the nine that sat down at the finale, only one was a true amateur.

Billy “Pappas” Pappaconstantinou, a pro football player, had zero WSOP experience and just $16,379 total earnings, largely from an eighth place finish at the 2010 World Poker Finals.

Although eight of the last nine standing from the 6,683 who entered the $10,000 No Limit event were professionals or semi-pros, they weren’t exactly household names.

Mark Newhouse, who made history as the first back-to-back qualifier, was arguably the most well-known figure – and the first to be eliminated.

Pros and Cons

The Moneymaker Effect has ultimately blurred the line between professional and amateur. As countless players discovered online poker, experienced a little success, and tried their hand at making a living from their home computer, they also assumed the title of “pro.”

With so many tables operating 24/7 around the globe, players with enough chips can continually perfect their skillset and take advantage of casual competitors. Several so-called pros who reached the November Nine were nothing more than above-average amateurs before their big runs in 2014. Here’s proof:

– Felix Stephensen finished in second, winning $5,147,911. Before 2014, he had zero WSOP cashes and $30,963 in worldwide earnings.
– Fourth place finisher Will Tonking accumulated $93,306 over his six-year career before taking $2,849,763.
– Aside from winner Jacobson, Dan Sindelar, and Mark Newhouse, the other six had just 12 WSOP event cashes totaling $88,129.

What defines a “pro” is unclear in the game of poker. Will a marquee event ever see a true novice rise from the ranks to win a multi-million dollar payout in the near future? It seems unlikely, but the chances of a skilled amateur doing so appears to be a safe bet.


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