LG: In All In: The Poker Movie, you said that you were seated at a featured table with Johnny Chan and Howard Lederer and obviously it would make a person nervous. But if you were to be seated now with three or four top name pros, would it make you nervous at all?
Chris: No, not at all. You know, when you go to a poker tournament now it’s all pros basically in a lot of the events. You play the World Series – that’s one thing – but when you go to Monte Carlo, or you go to other 5-10Ks, I’m not playing with people that the people at home would know who they are.
You know who all the professionals are.
I’m sitting down with them, to me it’s fun to battle with them. I was intimidated back in the day because I didn’t really feel that I was equipped. I hadn’t put the time in the game to learn what they all knew but now I’m fully comfortable sitting down and playing someone like Jason Mercier, probably one of the best in the world, I’m completely comfortable and have no problem with it.
LG: What business venture are you in?
Chris: I was in a chip company/slot machine business for a long time and once the sort of recession hit, we were placing slot machines in Oklahoma, celebrity slot machines; one of our celebrities is in the professional bull riders association. We were working with Playboy…yeah…that was sort of our pet project that we were working on.
The recession hit and we stopped placing games. We still have a few games out there I believe…not many. But that business has sort of wound down.
Right now I’m actually developing a poker/scrabble game that I’m working on. It’s going to be an application. It’s something I’m just working on myself with a friend. And outside of that I’m doing a couple of small projects like I’ve done with poker rooms, brick and mortar poker rooms. My business interests are definitely geared more towards poker now than the slot machine industry.
LG: Do you still bet sports or did you lose that desire?
Chris: I lost the desire for probably 6 or 7 years and it’s times like now where we are marked bandits, I’ll go and I’ll make some small wagers on sports bets. Back in the day when I was making 40K a year betting one or two thousand dollars a game, it was really bad. But now I can sit down and put $500 on the game and get the same enjoyment out of it. But it’s not something like…before I had to bet on every single game that was on TV. Now I’ll just find a random game and bet on it and enjoy it for what it is. It’s entertainment value now where before it was something I needed.
LG: When you won the main event, were you hustled for loans and stakes? And do you stake anyone now?
Chris: Oh, of course. My phone was always ringing for someone to borrow money, to stake people, and there are still people that think just having money…
LG: It goes with the territory, huh?
Chris: It does.
LG: Do you stake anyone now?
Chris: I don’t stake anybody anymore. I staked some people for awhile and just never really had a great experience with it. It was fun every once in awhile, sweating a horse that was making a deep run, but to be perfectly honest, it was more of a headache than anything else. Loaning money is always a bad proposition. My general rule now is I just don’t stake anybody, I don’t loan any money. I just…if you think you’re good enough to make your own money, then you should be fine.
The only poker players I really staked and helped out were people that were sort of like me that had families and other responsibilities; that’s where their money went.
I mean if you’re a single guy and you’re a poker player, and you’re good at it, there’s no reason you should be broke. You are only supporting yourself. But if you have a family to support and you have other things going on…OK, I can understand you need a little bit of help. Those are the guys I staked. I never really staked other professional poker players that were single guys, because I figured if you’re a single guy, why would you need a stake?
LG: When all the news recently hit about the Full Tilt Poker pros and their owing all of that money to Full Tilt, did that surprise you at all?
Chris: Not really. I knew what happened and I had an idea about how much they were getting paid and just common sense tells you that you shouldn’t have been paid that much money. Honestly, online poker sites do really well but not as well as how much money those people were being paid.
So I was surprised that Full Tilt was in as bad a shape as it was but it didn’t surprise me that guys owed millions of dollars to the company and they did have a little bit of a short fall. I honestly thought they had enough to cover the player balances for the most part but I didn’t think they had a whole lot of liquid after that.
That question took me a little bit by surprise.
LG: It’s been my experience in the games that loaning and borrowing is just the way it is. It’s not always related, obviously, to poker, but I think it puts a huge black eye on poker when it comes out like that – my opinion, obviously.
Chris: Yeah, well the old way of borrowing and the new way of borrowing is definitely different. Back then, most of the old school guys, you know, people are going to go broke and be flush and when you’re flush you give money to people who have gone broke. Maybe just sort of pay them back when you can. Well, that’s just not the way the new school thinks.
If I were to give a loan to somebody or somebody were to give a loan to me, I would expect you to pay back in a relatively short term and I’d expect you to pay it back when you say you’re going to pay it back. If I ever loan, which I generally don’t loan money to anybody – and I don’t really take loans – but I’ve had people help me out.
Like, just recently I had a buddy out in Vegas that needed some money and I wasn’t out in Vegas, I couldn’t help him out but I got someone to do it for me. Now back in the old school, I just wouldn’t pay that guy back until maybe I saw him down the road or whatever. But now, I think, ‘I gotta go run to the bank. I gotta get that money taken care of because that guy helped me out.’
The new way of doing it, if someone does you a favor, you gotta pay back when you say you’re going to pay it back. You don’t ho-hum about it, you don’t say, ‘well, yeah, whenever I make a tournament or hit a big score, I’ll take care of you,’ you pay people back when you are supposed to pay it back.
LG: What prompted you to write the book Moneymaker? Did you feel compelled to write about it or did you have outside sources telling you you should write it?
Chris: I had outside sources telling me I needed to write a book, it would be good for my career and things like that. There was a ghost writer that approached me and helped me and at the end of the day, we ended up doing it.
It was an OK experience, I’m not a big reader, it’s not one of my things that I enjoy doing so proof reading it was sort of a miserable thing. But for the most part, I just dictated it over the phone. I really didn’t know how much truth I wanted to be known, I didn’t know if I wanted to go into the sports gambling, like how big of a degen I was back in the day and I finally started doing it, like, if I don’t that then I’m not really telling anything because it’s not really a story about me anymore. But unfortunately, that’s just how my life was pre 2003. If I don’t put that stuff in there, I’m not really telling you much about myself before 2003 because that’s really all I did.
But when I put it out there, I’m like, I don’t know how well it’s going to be received, I don’t know how people will look at it, but, you know, it’s who I was, that’s who I am.
LG: One of the things that I’ve find kind of interesting is I’ve seen you a few times, like back stage in a poker shoot, when I went with Tony G…the company I work for is his company and I saw you back stage at one point, about three years ago when they were getting ready to tape a show.
At the time that I saw you, I think Joe Cada had just won the World Series and it’s kind of amazed me that you’ve always been out of the limelight. I don’t mean that in a negative way.
In all the poker articles I’ve read and news on players, I’ve never come across any bad press on you and sometimes when people just instantly step into fame, a whole new side of their personality shows.
It’s kind of interesting that you’ve really managed to present a clean side to your life as it is involved with poker which I think is a great thing. Do you have a hard time with that? Do you have to talk to yourself when you play poker and take a beat or are you trying to maintain an image or is that just you in general, is that your personality?
Chris: It’s in my personality, it’s who I am. I don’t think you can be who you’re not. I try to do the right thing with people, I try to be nice. I’m being told I have to go, time to get off the phone. But I think that’s just who I am, and I do get frustrated at the table just like everybody else, I have my blowups, I have my thing.
LG: One other quick question, you’re still married to Christina and how many kids do you have?
Chris: Three kids; still married.
LG: Are you surprised that Obama has completely ignored all the online poker noise that’s going on or would you expect that of his presidency?
Chris: Well you know he’s obviously very busy but I thought he would pay a little more attention to it. He seems to be more, of all the presidents – except maybe for Clinton – he seems to be more into the sports, he’s picking his bracket on ESPN, and I know he does play poker so yeah, it does surprise me that he has avoided the topic like he has and I’m sure it’s probably his advisors telling him to do so. But, you know, it’s definitely a little bit shocking that he’s just sort of turned a blind eye to it.
LG: Yeah, I’ve kind of been irritated over it. Thank you very much, Chris, I really appreciate it.
Chris: Thank you very much. Good talking to you, Linda. Bye.
I do hope that every reader enjoyed Chris Moneymaker’s insight as much as I do! Moneymaker has always been good for the game!