The votes are in. Chris Moneymaker, the best-named poker champion ever and one of the best ambassadors the game has ever had, has been selected for the Poker Hall of Fame.

We all know how Moneymaker has never been one to seek the spotlight. But there was no escaping it after the Tennessee accountant’s (still) inspiring 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event victory. And there’s no escaping it now, either, after having earned one of the game’s other most prestigious honors.

In fact, Moneymaker’s ongoing efforts to shine that light elsewhere — and on the game itself — is surely one of the reasons why voters thought enough of him to select him.

“I’m very honored… very happy,” says Moneymaker upon receiving the news, who then immediately began to think of how others would enjoy learning about his induction. “It’s great for my kids — it’ll be a cool thing for them to see when they grow up.”

There are many others, too, who are going to be glad to hear about the honor being given to Chris Moneymaker, someone so many players cite when talking about their own introduction to the game.

That outpouring of support was in full evidence just last week as Moneymaker made it to Day 4 and the money in this year’s Main Event. “It was really incredible,” says Moneymaker. “I had so many fans and supporters… that was amazing.”

Such an easy guy to root for. We’ve felt that way since watching those WSOP episodes way back in 2003.

“You Did This”

Just before this year’s Main Event got started, Moneymaker received more attention — and some trophies — after being honored at a “First Fifty Honors” celebration put on by the WSOP to mark its 50th annual running and to recognize the series’ storied history.

One of the awards given to him was for “Most Impressive WSOP Main Event Win.” How long after winning back in 2003 did it take for Moneymaker himself to realize how “impressive” or “historic” or “influential” his victory really was?

“I remember going back to Binion’s the next year,” he recalls. “I remember trying to get into a sit-n-go because that’s what I liked to play back then, and the wait list was like four hours long.”

“Everybody kept saying, ‘This is your fault. You did this.'”

The Main Event field tripled that year, then doubled up again the year after that. By 2006 there were 8,773 players taking part, establishing a record that was almost eclipsed this year.

“I realized this game was on an upward trend, and me being in the right place at the right time just really kicked it up higher,” he reflects. “It went from being just a fun game to something really popular.”

The Hellmuth Effect

Not that Moneymaker necessarily looks forward to it, but like all Hall of Famers he’s now going to have to give a speech. Who will he thank? His family and the fans, he says. But there’s someone else, too, he wants to acknowledge. Someone who couldn’t be more unlike Moneymaker when it comes to all that spotlight stuff.

“I’ll probably end up mentioning Phil Hellmuth more than anybody else,” Moneymaker grins. “I know he’ll love that.”

To explain he tells a story of being at that 2003 WSOP before he’d won the Main. Hellmuth had just won one of the last preliminary events, his second win that summer and ninth of his career to that point.

“I was just some random new guy at the World Series of Poker,” Moneymaker explains. “What they did at Binion’s was when someone won a bracelet they’d bring them downstairs to the poker room and announce them… they’d say ‘hey, this is your champion’ — and on this day it was Hellmuth.”

“He’ll never remember this, but I went up to him and we had a 15-minute conversation,” says Moneymaker. “It was so cool being able to talk to him and pick his brain like that… it made a pretty lasting impression on me. Once I won, I always remembered that. I wanted to give back to the fans and be that open and accessible, too. So Phil’s going to get a little bit of credit for how I approach the game and the fans.”

Hall of Fame Worthy

Now that Moneymaker is in the Poker Hall of Fame, he’s going to have to pay a little more attention to it than he has in the past. That’s because like other inductees, he now has a vote going forward. What is his idea of a “Poker Hall of Famer”?

“Obviously there are two categories, the player and the builder,” he says. “When it comes to builders, I think of someone like Matt Savage who was there when I won and who has been around ever since making innovations and helping to improve the game.”

“As far as players go, I also think back to those who were around when I first started, and who played before me. Not many of them are still around, and a lot of those that are are probably already in the Hall of Fame. Those are players who’ve really ‘stood the test of time,’ and some just don’t get the credit because they weren’t on TV.”

Kudos to Moneymaker from PokerStars Blog, who considers him more than worthy of the honor. Heck, there may never have been such a thing as a PokerStars Blog without him — something that can also be said about many other aspects of the game as it exists today.

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