2003 World Series of Poker

Tue, 03 Jun 2008 02:29

2003 World Series of Poker

A summary of 2003 world series of poker.

The year 2003 proved to be quite memorable for the World Series of Poker on several counts. First, it was the year when the worldwide web, or the Internet, became heavily involved in the poker scene. The web, during this particular year, started becoming the home of what was then a relatively new concept -- poker rooms, or places in the Internet where people can get to play poker or any casino game by simply logging on.

The concept had been in operation a few years before, but 2003 was the year when the general public became fully aware of its existence. From then on, more and more players came to see the Net as a good source of casino games, most especially poker.

Second, as the number of players visiting poker rooms began to grow, the reputation of poker as a card game significantly improved. Prior to this, a lot of people saw poker as a highly dubious game, where players are always out to beat their opponents through under-handed means. However, as poker rooms began to grow in numbers, online casino operators soon came to the realization that if they are to survive in a business that is growing tremendously, they need to offer games that are credible, fair, and honest. Hence, the vast improvement in the image of poker as a game.

Third, as competition among poker rooms became stiffer by the minute, online casino owners found it extremely necessary to come up with several promotions and come-ons to entice players to come to their side of the Internet fence. This became the basis for the creation of big-time Internet poker tournaments where huge cash prizes are at stake.

The cash prizes involved though were not enough to attract a significant number of poker players. After all, there was the WSOP whose annual staging has become a highly anticipated event among poker players, not only because of the generous pot money that was at stake in the championship round, but also because of the prestige that the ultimate winner eventually gets to enjoy. It should be noted that at around this time, the WSOP has already built a name as a highly credible and a highly prestigious poker tournament.

There came a time when some poker geniuses came up with a plan that involved hosting a major Internet poker event where the grand prize involved a seat in the WSOP. The plan was hatched and instantly became a success, eventually coming to be known as a satellite tournament. This became a widespread phenomenon as most poker rooms found it to be a very profitable venture. Not only do they get the needed visitors to their sites, poker rooms also get to be associated with the WSOP, a tie-up that, no matter how unofficial it may be, is highly prestigious in itself.

Additionally, satellite tournaments became the primary vehicle for virtually unknown poker players to have the opportunity to get a shot at the WSOP title. Before, players literally had to shed buckets of sweat as well as tons of practice games just to be able to get into a major poker event, much more at the WSOP. With the emergence of satellite tournaments though, poker players, regardless of their standing in the business, have more or less equal chances of  entering the WSOP.

This was exactly the case of the grand champion of the WSOP when the tournament made its annual staging in 2003 at its regular venue, Binion's Horseshoe. An amateur player from Spring Hill, Tennessee, rewrote WSOP history when he reached the final event of the tournament and went on to grab the $2.5M cash prize as well as the highly coveted WSOP bracelet.

It was a virtual Cinderella fairy tale for Chris Moneymaker, who literally rose from poker obscurity to finally give life and meaning to his last name. His $2.5 million take-home pay easily overshadowed the $2 million prize catch of Robert Varkonyi, the WSOP title-holder the previous year.        

Prior to his appearance at the WSOP, Moneymaker played only on the Net and had never had the chance to play in live games. Yet, in the final round of the tournament, he was unusually calm and focused on the game, with his reflective glasses and black cap serving as effective shields against prying eyes.

An accountant by profession, Moneymaker was only 27 when he decided to try his poker luck at one satellite game in 2003, shelling out $40 in the process. The event was hosted by PokerStars, one extremely popular Internet poker room, and a WSOP seat was the top reward that awaited the lucky winner. Needless to say, Moneymaker was victorious at the PokerStars-sponsored tournament, leading to his participation in the WSOP that very same year.

Moneymaker proved to be a dominant figure for a great part of the tournament, emerging as chip leader when he finally reached the championship round against his main rival, Lebanese Ihsan 'Sam'  Farha. This was after he knocked off Dan Harrington, the 1995 WSOP champion.

A total of 839 players were able to reach the main round of the WSOP that year, a certified record in 2003, easily topping the 631 record that was set in the preceding year. At the championship table, nine players sat down, and Moneymaker was able to outwit them all, including former champion Harrington, and Farha, who was likewise a former winner, having won first place in the WSOP Pot-Limit Omaha in 1996.  

The Chris Moneymaker triumph was largely unexpected. No one really gave the Tennessee native much of a chance especially when ranged against the more seasoned WSOP veterans who took part in the 2003 tournament. The likes of Phil Hellmuth, Jr., Howard Lederer, and Phil Ivey, all multi-titled WSOP champions, would have eaten Moneymaker alive on the poker table. Yet, the best titles that they could come up with in the 2003 edition were 27th, 19th, and tenth place finishes. It was a tournament arrayed with former champions and game veterans, but the title was destined to fall on the hands of an amateur.

Even Farha, the man Moneymaker eventually conquered at the championship table, was a no push-over, as he was crowned the 1996 champion of the WSOP Pot Limit Omaha, a feat that he subsequently repeated ten years later.

Several other players who are considered to be relatively newcomers in Internet poker tournaments were also able to show off their poker talents that year at the WSOP, capturing several titles in the preliminary round of the tournament. These included Alfredo 'Toto'  Leonidas who won first prize in the $1,500 Seven-Card Stud and took home $98,760, and Prahlad Friedman, who walked away with $109,400 in hand after winning in the $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo Split event.

Still, none of them could compare with the feat that Moneymaker was able to achieve that year. A feat that will forever be recorded in WSOP history books as truly one-of-a-kind and which has made WSOP the official leader in Internet poker tournaments.

Indeed, 2003 proved to be a very eventful year for the WSOP. More than that, however, it was the year that signaled the start of a new philosophy in the Internet poker world -- that it is now entirely possible for a completely unknown amateur to become WSOP champion solely through talent and determination.