Some call it the most important moment in poker history. Rewind back to 2003. Poker is showing signs of life again after years of muddling along in relative obscurity. Thanks to Poker Hall of Famer Henry Orenstein’s invention of the hole card camera and something new to poker called the internet, people began playing and seeing poker in an entirely new way.
So when the 33rd Annual World Series of Poker took place that year, there was an influx of fresh participants who descended on Las Vegas to experience live tournament poker for the first time.
One of those novice newcomers to the game was a 27-year-old accountant from Tennessee. Chris Moneymaker was about to partake in his first live poker tournament, thanks to winning his $10,000 entry fee after qualifying for $39 on his home computer.
Moneymaker was one of a then-record 839 players who entered the WSOP Main Event chasing the WSOP gold bracelet and the $2.5 million first place prize. And that’s when an incredible thing happened. Moneymaker found himself making it to the final two (after busting out Phil Ivey to make the final table). He would be taking on one of the legends of the game – high-stakes icon Sammy Farha – for poker’s world championship.
Everyone knows how the story turned out. It was like a fairy tale, for everyone except Farha. Yet even Farha admitted later he was among those who benefited most from the tidal wave of publicity Moneymaker’s victory brought to the game. Indeed, Moneymaker pulled off one of the most improbable victories in poker history. But it really wasn’t until the television episodes on ESPN showed just how the little known accountant with the ‘Ah shucks’ demeanor claimed the crown. With a heavy dose of bluffing, the aptly-named amateur proved to everyone that playing the opponent is every bit as important as playing the cards you are dealt.
Moneymaker and the confluence of events in the year of his victory lit a spark that is still going strong to this day. Registration at the WSOP Main Event more than tripled the year following Moneymaker’s improbable victory. What was then a record-setting first place prize of $2.5 million has mushroomed into a near eight-figure payday for the champion.
Alas, some moments are worth re-living. Some moments deserve a redux. Some moments are so indelibly affixed to the consciousness of every poker player that many wonder – what would happen if the match were to be replayed? And as such, the World Series of Poker thought it was a good time to look back and ask the magical question – What If?
What if Moneymaker did not beat Farha on that day?
Consider yet another possibility. What if in 1989, the unstoppable Johnny Chan, coming off back-to-back victories in the WSOP Main event had successfully pulled off the three-peat instead of seeing history unfold in a different way as Phil Hellmuth, Jr., became the youngest Main Event champion ever? How would Chan’s legacy be different? What would have happened to Hellmuth had he never won the Main Event, taking second-place instead that year? Again, we all ask and wonder – What if?
The World Series of Poker, with its 42-year history, has experienced many magical moments throughout the millions of hands that have been dealt and the more than $1.2 billion in prize money that has been awarded. But we recognize that many people have become fans of the game during the explosion that has occurred since those two fateful days in 2003 and 1989.
The inaugural WSOP Rematches will relive history by bringing these players together live at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino during the 42nd Annual World Series of Poker to replay the heads-up duels to see what the outcome would be today.
“Winning the WSOP Main Event was a life altering moment,” said Moneymaker. “Even though I’m agreeing to run it again against Sammy, I have been assured they can’t take away my title if my bluffs don’t work as well this time.”
The special one-of-a-kind rematches will work as follows:
• 2003 WSOP Main Event: Chris Moneymaker vs. Sammy Farha – Best 2-out-of-3 format.
o First match: Exact starting chips they had when they started heads up play in 2003.
(Moneymaker: 5,490,000; Farha: 2,900,000)
o Second match: Reverse starting stacks.
o *Third Match: Even starting stacks. (*if necessary)
• 1989 WSOP Main Event: Johnny Chan vs. Phil Hellmuth – One match.
o Match to feature even starting stacks
• Fan Choice – One match.
o Match to feature even starting stacks
o Winning matchup from fan vote will be invited to participate. If for whatever reason, participants in initial matchup are unavailable, we will move on to second pairing, etc.
o Match will feature one of the following four pairings:
- 1988 WSOP Main Event: Johnny Chan vs. Erik Seidel
- 2004 WSOP Main Event: Greg Raymer vs. David Williams
- 2006 WSOP Main Event: Jamie Gold vs. Paul Wasicka
- 2010 WSOP Main Event: Jonathan Duhamel vs. John Racener
In order to determine who will participate in Matchup #3, fans will be able to vote on the World Series of Poker’s Official Facebook Fan Page beginning on May 2, 2011. To become a WSOP Facebook Fan and vote on a WSOP Rematch, please visit:
All the matches will be filmed on Thursday, June 2 at the Rio on the ESPN set in the Amazon Room during the WSOP. The event will be open to the public, and seating is available on a first come, first serve basis.
ESPN will televise a two-hour special, featuring back-to-back episodes on Tuesday, July 26 consisting of all three rematches. As part of the special, ESPN will include footage from the original matchups and offer interviews with the relevant participants discussing their original matches.