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Virtual Poker Gets Real

Poker enthusiasts are honing their skills online and taking their game to the casinos
Michael Kaplan
From the Print Edition:
Alec Baldwin, May/June 2004

(continued from page 2)

Maybe not, but it's not unlike telling Moneymaker that he was lucky to have won the World Series. Although he hears it all the time, Moneymaker still smiles and replies, "Fine. I was lucky." He's quick to acknowledge that everybody who wins a poker tournament needs some luck. "But you've got to give a person credit for winning the World Series."

It was an amazing achievement for Moneymaker and for online poker. His victory showed that the Internet has completely leveled the playing field, allowing stone-cold neophytes to beat the professionals. Since winning the big one, Moneymaker has competed in a few major tournaments, and recently managed to outplay a bunch of pros to make a final table—but, alas, he failed to win. No matter, as acing the series has irrevocably changed his life. After winning the $2.6 million first-prize, Moneymaker gave half of the winnings to his father and a friend (who had kicked in a total of $5,000 to buy a piece of him), purchased a new house and car, paid off credit cards, curbed his sports-betting habit, amped up his poker skills, and gained a kind of fame among the game's top players. "I don't know if they respect me," he acknowledges as he eats a slice of pizza at his desk while screwing around in a $200 buy-in tournament. "But they talk to me. If I hadn't won the tournament, they wouldn't even do that."

Moneymaker has no interest in being the Internet champ who turns pro and blows his winnings. He says he likes his job as a CPA and his life in Nashville as it is. will sponsor him in this year's World Series and he,ll surely get a lot of TV exposure in his sweatshirt and baseball hat.

Although he's accomplished something extraordinary, Moneymaker accepts the daunting odds that are stacked against him ever winning the World Series again. "People keep telling me that I need to win another big tournament to prove that it wasn't a fluke," he says before making a statement that clearly differentiates the new breed of poker player from the old. "That doesn't mean much to me. Right now I'm more interested in holding on to my money." v

Michael Kaplan is Cigar Aficionado's gambling columnist.

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