Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chris Moneymaker & The HPO Media Invitational

As I mentioned in this post here, I played poker with Chris Moneymaker recently. And as I said in that post, it was pretty much the coolest day in my brief poker “career.”

I suppose it would have been cool if I had had a chance to play with any Main Event bracelet winner.  But it was especially cool that it was Chris.  The obvious reason is due to Chris’s importance in the popularity of poker.  His Main Event win is rightly credited with starting the poker boom early in the previous decade.

The other reason is that Chris is simply one hell of a nice guy.  There’s no airs about him, nothing phony about him.  He’s just a down-to-earth, regular guy.

And another cool thing about the day…..I didn’t have to risk a single penny play poker with him.

The Hollywood Poker Open took place at M Resort the weekend of June 27-29.  Of course, M Resort closed its poker room last year.  But the parent company, Penn Gaming, runs the HPO and has tournaments all over the country during the year, with the main event held at their only Vegas property, the M Resort.  Our friend, Memphis MOJO, won a seat to the main event this year (see here).

This year, HPO’s ambassador was Chris Moneymaker.

A few months back, I received a call from Madeline Caldwell, who was in charge of publicity for the event.  Madeline, by the way, works for a company called “TB&C”.  I’m not kidding.  You can find their website here.  Perhaps they should hire a certain poker blogger as their ambassador?

Madeline asked me if I thought the poker media would be interested in a special invitational tournament for the press, with the prize being a free entry into their main event, a $2,500 value.

I don’t think I’ve ever answered a question “yes” and faster.  She also wanted to know if I thought the press would be able to accept such a prize, and I assured her that I could think of no conflict.  She mentioned that we would all be able to meet Moneymaker, and then asked if I would personally be interested in attending and playing in such an event.

“Absolutely!”  I said that before she finished the question.

A few months later, I received an official email invitation, and so, the day before the HPO main event started, I traveled down to M to meet Chris and my fellow journalists and to play a tournament for the right to get a seat at the big tournament to start the next day.

I met Madeline, and a bunch of my fellow poker writers.  If you check the twitter feed at @Hwpokeropen, you can see pics of everyone who was there.

And there, holding court as it were, was Chris Moneymaker.  He was in the middle of telling some great stories when I managed to introduce myself to him.

I was wearing my Ante Up shirt, and so I pointed that I wrote for Ante Up, and then added, “I also work for PokerAtlas, and I have my own little poker blog.”

Chris said, “I love PokerAtlas.  It was the first thing I looked at when I got into town to find out about Vegas poker.”

I loved hearing that.  I was sure to tweet that out before I left the M.

Then he proceeded to ask me how PokerAtlas gets all that information about the tournaments and the cash games and such.  I said that this was my job, and he pressed further about the details.  Do the rooms constantly send you updates?  He seemed genuinely interested in how I do my job, so I told him.

Here is a guy who has won millions playing poker, and he was asking me how the job of getting that information listed.  Wow.

Then he went back to telling us stories. Great, great poker stories.

Chris is sort of like the fastest gun in the west.  Whenever anyone recognizes him, they feel compelled to challenge him to a poker game, to try to prove that they’re better than him.

These are almost always rank amateurs—but rich, rank amateurs. One guy wanted to play him heads up for $25,000.  Chris accepted the challenge.  Chris immediately realized that whenever the other guy had a good hand, he’d bet big and say, “let’s gamble.”  And Chris would fold.

The guy was very willing to bluff at Chris, and made it pretty obvious when he didn’t have the goods.  He wouldn’t say “let’s gamble” when he was bluffing.  I think that’s known as a “tell.”

Finally, after losing $16-17K to Chris he said to him, “This is no fair.  You only play when you have a good hand.”  The guy asked if he could stop before losing the entire $25K.  Chris of course let him off the hook.

Another story involved being challenged to a game by Jack Binion soon after Chris had won his bracelet.  That didn’t end well for Jack, and he recruited his son and another player to play against Chris.  But Chris ended up winning over $100K.

When Chris won the main event, Binion’s was on the verge of bankruptcy.  People warned him that he should take his prize money in cash.  He was told there was only a 20% chance the check would clear.  But Chris took the check, “Think of all the bad publicity they’d get if the check bounced,” he told the doubters.

And Chris was told, “They’re bankrupt.  What do they care about bad publicity?

But he took the check and of course it did clear.

So we played a little turbo tournament.  There were exactly 10 of us, one table.  Chris played.  It wasn’t clear to me what would have happened if he had won, since he was already going to play in it as the event’s ambassador.  I guess the runner-up would have gotten the seat. 

But Chris didn’t win, proving that poker is not a game of skill only.  But hey, everyone reading this already knew that.

I didn’t last long.  I was totally, totally card dead.  I didn’t win a hand.  I didn’t bother writing any hands done because it was so bad.  I tried to make a few moves, but was always called, and then had to back off.  Example: first into a pot I raised with Queen-10 off.  The human encyclopedia of poker, @Kevmath, shoved all in. He had me covered.  I wasn’t ready to bust out with such a mediocre hand (or the evil hand, as Coach calls it).  I folded and he showed pocket 7’s.  Hmm….I suppose I should have taken the coin flip, now that I think of it.

A few orbits later, I had just a few big blinds left when @danmichalski raised in front of me.  I was looking for even one broadway card to move in with, before the big blind came to me.  Queen-Jack was plenty good at this point.  Dan called my shove (it wasn’t much more than his raise) and so did one other player, so we didn’t flip the cards over.  The flop was K-10-10, giving me the open ender.  When an Ace hit the turn, Dan bet and got the other player to fold.  I was liking my hand, the nut straight.  But Dan had the dreaded pocket Kings for a flopped boat!  I was drawing dead and was out.

But I had had a great time and stuck around.  For one thing, I wanted to ask Chris the solution to the poker brain teaser he had given us early in the tournament.  As it happened, I was able to ask after he busted out (I believe his two pair ran into a better two pair).  He gave us all the answer, and I knew I would use it here. 

I was still around the M and visited back to see the end of the tournament, which was heads up between my fellow Ante Up Ambassador @PokerKatt49 and Cardplayer’s @JRodriguezCP Julio won.  Oh well, it helps that he is a nice guy.  All the players were:  @MarkHokeShow,      @HDBadBoyHR,   @divisionofpoker, and @jonsfen.  Sorry to those I didn’t get to single out. But you can find them all on twitter and find their material from there. (Edited to add: Jon Sofen's take on the event can be found here.)

Thanks again to Chris, and to Madeline for setting up a great, fun event.  A truly awesome day for me in the poker world.


  1. You must have been card dead if the evil hand looked good...

    1. Yes, but it was more a case of their being a good situation to raise--first in, looked like I could maybe steal the blinds, or possible get a single caller and take it down with a c-bet.

  2. Sounds like a fun event, even if you were card dead.

    1. Yeah, absolutely a total blast. And since the buy-in was zero, it didn't hurt as much busting out!

  3. i thought u werent supposed to "only play when u have a good hand" when playing HU? i thought thats why i dont do as well when HU?

    why did it work for Chris then?

    1. Well, Tony, in this case Chris was so much better than his opponent, there was no reason for him to risk anything by bluffing. I suspect he did make some steals when his opponent made it obvious he was bluffing but he didn't need to do anything fancy. This player wasn't even a poker player....he was barely knowledgeable about poker.

    2. dont think STUpid UNGER.just donk.

  4. Sounds like you had a great time Rob. Definitely better when I played with Jamie Gold when the ran the test event for the now dead room in the Trop. I wont go into details for fear of defamation on someone else's blog, but lets say he's a bit of a plank.

    Happy "don't pay your taxes to the Brits" day everyone !

    1. Thanks, Ben, I'll be thinking of you when we celebrate our Independence!

      You remind me that Chris was the second Main Event winner I've played with. I too played with Jamie Gold one time at the Trop. I think it was when this blog was in it's infancy and for some reason, I never wrote it up.

      Actually, Jamie was a nice enough guy but technically we didn't
      "meet" since I never introduced myself to him.

  5. still no boobies?????? LOL.have a great 4th ,sir.

    1. Thanks, you too. Celebrate it with a bang.

    2. i see what u did there ,sir. well done

  6. this is in reference to the last post. i googled soccer hot chicks then went to and PRESTO.HOT CHICKS. EVEN SOME PICS OF UNDER BOOBIES.btw P3 not going thru with his carpal tunnel lawsuit against the VP/VBJ machines( so no finder fee 4 me) and yr chick life has beem a living hell. LOL.p.s. no FUCK LA today.they (angels) r playing the astros.

    1. Thanks for the link. I'll refer to it next time I do a soccer post. That'll be in about 10-20 years.

  7. Lets see, free poker tourney and a story to boot. Sounds like a great day for you Rob. You only needed a nearby slut parade to make it perfect.

    1. Have you seen the waitresses at the M? :)

  8. Thanks for playing and covering the event

    1. Thanks very much, Bruce. I had a blast. You and your team put in a GREAT event, and you should feel very proud.

      Thanks for commenting and the retweet!