Earlier this month marked ten years that Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, an occurrence that many say was the reason for the boom in poker’s popularity.
It’s a story that has become one of the biggest and widely told in the poker world. A 27-year-old with all the attributes of an ‘average Joe’ plays a $39 online satellite tournament from his home and wins it, with his prize being a ticket into the world’s biggest poker event.
He goes to Las Vegas, plays in it, does extremely well, well enough to take out the whole thing and the $2.5 million dollar cash prize. Elements of the mass media get wind of it and report on it as something akin to a rags to riches story, which results in a number of people being interest in playing the game.
The effects are felt almost instantly, and continue to be felt in the months ahead of the huge win. The WSOP Main Event in the following year was the first to get over 1,000 participants and 2,000 participants at the same time, with 2,576 players turning out to the felt for a shot at some riches. That was more than triple the 839 players that turns out the year before.
2004 also spawned the first ever European Poker Tour (EPT) events, with seven cities all over central, western and northern Europe playing host to this game of cards that caught the attention of people the world over. The EPT grew as poker kept attracting more and more people to play the game, with tournaments expanding to well over ten European cities until Season 9 in late 2012.
Participant numbers kept on going up, up and up, with the 2006 WSOP Main Event attracting a whopping 8,773 players, resulting in a first place cash prize of over $12 million. Those numbers dropped to 6,358 the following year, but they have stayed around that number ever since, a testament to the continuing popularity of the game.
The WSOP was not the only poker event to see increased numbers as a result of what has become known as the ‘Moneymaker Effect’. The Aussie Millions went from attracting between 100-170 poker players every year to boasting fields of over 700 in the years that followed Moneymaker’s win.
Multitudes of other poker events also sprang up when it appeared poker was going to be something bigger than just a short fad. Major poker events like the Asia Pacific Poker Tour, the Latin American Poker Tour and the Macau Poker Cup all arose in the years following the big victory and have since been mainstays on the poker itinerary.
It is not just major professional events that have been spawned as a result of the Moneymaker Effect. Even the amateur has seen a huge surge of poker services and tournaments on offer all around the world.
In Australia, for instance, poker companies like the Australian Poker League (APL) has hosted a number of events in venues around the land down under after the 2003 WSOP Main Event. The same has occurred in the UK, where companies such as The Nuts Poker League and Champions Poker League were formed after the event that started the poker boom. Both of those companies continue to host events at various venues throughout the UK, attracting those who play poker for the love of the game.
While most of the last decade has been kind to the global growth of poker, there have been recent signs that may be pointing to a potential decline. This year’s WSOP Main Event attracted the lowest number of participants since 2005, with 6,352 players taking to the felt. That is still a huge turnout by anyone’s standards, however.
With 146 participants, this year’s World Poker Tour (WPT) Championship event also attracted the lowest turnout since the first season back in 2003. That being said, other events at the most recent season of the WPT had a solid showing.
The Crown Australian Poker Championship, better known as the Aussie Millions, has also had a small, but constant decline since 2010, when 746 poker players took part in the event. That may have dropped to 629 this year, but that is still a strong showing in one of the world’s southernmost major cities.
The ten years following Chris Moneymaker’s first place finish at the WSOP Main Event has shown his win truly is historic. It has played a huge role in the growth poker has experienced worldwide ever since, and the game remains popular and strong day as a result.