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Make Your Own Million

Despite not repeating his 2003 WSOP Main Event success this year, Chris Moneymaker made the the European Poker Tour Grand Final in Monte Carlo, the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods, the WPT Invitationals among others. He also authored Moneymaker: How an Amateur Poker Player Turned $40 into $2.5 million at the World Series of Poker, and has started his Moneymaker Gaming company. So life has been farily high-profile since the days of anonymity three years ago. Now, adding to the Moneymaker Mark, is the newest inception from PokerStars (pokerstars.com), where his success all began with a $39 online satellite tournament win. The Moneymaker Millionaire tournament is well underway and gives online players a chance to win $2.5 million in cash and prizes—the amount Moneymaker won in that pivotal year. Here, we check in with the champ to get the latest on life at and away from the felt.

GOM: You're doing a lot of smiling these days in the Poker Stars ad campaigns. What's been putting you in such a good mood?
Chris Moneymaker: Life is good. I have a wonderfully supportive family. I get the opportunity to play poker for a living, and I have a great partner in Pokerstars.com. I have the ability to play poker when I want and work when I want. At 30 years old how could I not be smiling?

How has the response been toward the Moneymaker Millionaire tournament?
The response has been amazing. I have played in three of the round-one tournaments and there were over 7,000 in each of those tournaments. Giving people this kind of opportunity for free is a big draw and PokerStars has been gracious enough to do that for a few individuals.

Any favorites you're eyeballing at this point?
It’s too early to have a favorite at this point. There’s still a lot of play left and many seats for the Caribbean are still open. It’s a wide-open race right now.

In your opinion, are players getting younger and better because they can play thousands of hands online per week as opposed to just a handful at the tables?
Definitely. Young players can see hundreds of thousands of hands in a short period of time online. One of the keys to poker is experience and getting yourself in a lot of different situations. By playing online you’re able to do that quickly and repeatedly.

Your mantra for this year is "No bad beats" yet you bowed out of the WSOP Main Event during Day 1. Can you walk us through what happened and how you're bouncing back?
Well my plan was to sit back and wait for hands. With the tables I had, I didn't have to do that. I built a chip stack without winning many big pots or showing down many hands. I was up to $34,000 in chips late in the evening and the wheels feel off. I went on a three-hour run where I missed every draw and couldn't make any of my four big pairs hold up. I was down to $20,000 and decided to make a stand in a bad spot after my rough luck. A gentleman moved in for $9,000 with a flop of Q-4-5. I had A-Q and a bad feeling but called off anyway. (This was the one big mistake I made during the tournament.) My opponent flipped over A-A and took half my chips. I built back my stack to just over $15,000 and found my final hand late on day 1. In late position I opened with a raise with A-J and the BB called. The flop came A and two rags. The BB led out and based on my play with him earlier in the day, I had a feeling I was in the lead. I called with the intention of moving on his turn bet. The turn came—another low card. He led out and I pushed in thinking I had much the best of it. He insta-called and I felt like my read had been incorrect. Oops. Oh well. There’s always next year. We flipped up the hands and my read was correct, he had A-10. I had him drawing to three outs. The river delivered a fatal 10 giving him two pair and sending me home. I played good poker with the exception of one hand for about 13 hours on Day 1, so I walked out of the room pleased. I didn't need to recover.

What else do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I try to make plenty of time for my family and I get to see them quite a bit since outside of the WSOP I don’t play in many poker tournaments. We’re taking two trips to Aruba this year. I plan on playing in the Pokersuperstars and working with PokerStars and my companies. Should be a relaxed remainder of the year overall.

What's a Moneymaker Christmas like?
Pretty low key, the kids don't understand the concept so we don’t do anything extravagant yet. Me and my wife exchange small gifts. It’s pretty small right now.

Do you plan on swimming with dolphins in the Bahamas in December when the Moneymaker Millionaire tournament culminates?
I did that last year and it was a blast. I strongly recommend it. I think I’ll do it again.

Log on to PokerStars.com and play for free for a chance to win $2.5 million in cash and prizes in the Moneymaker Millionaire tournament.

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