Since 2015 PokerCentral have been producing short documentaries on some of the most celebrated poker players in the world for their series “Pokerography”. However, unless you are willing to pay a monthly subscription to PokerGo it’s unlikely you’ll have seen any of them. Some good news then that three of the best mini-docs have been uploaded to YouTube which you can watch for free, namely those of legendary WSOP Main Event Champions Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, and Chris Moneymaker.
The documentaries, which are all a little under 22 minutes long, tell the life stories of three of pokers most recognisable and game-changing WSOP Main Event winners.
What’s not to love about the Johnny Chan story? Chan came to the USA as a child with his parents from Hong Kong and by the time he was 16 he was winning so much in the local poker games that he couldn’t get a seat at the table. Relocating to Las Vegas while still in his mid-teens Chan was winning tens of thousands of dollars a night in cash games as the ‘Orient Express’ steamrolled his opponents.
Chan was the last player to win back-to-back WSOP Main Events as he won it in both 1987 and 1988, and was only denied a third straight Main Event bracelet after losing heads-up to Phil Hellmuth, who became the youngest ever Main Event champion at the time aged 24.
In the doc, Chan talks about his move to the states, his time working in his parents kitchen at the family restaurant, and his realisation that he had no ambition to work a 9-5 paying $30,000 a year when he could win that in a night (as a teenager he took $200 into a casino and ran it up to $30,000 before losing it all over the next couple of days).
Chan also talks about his iconic guest starring role in the seminal poker movie “Rounders”, and relives the moment he beat Phil Laak for his (at the time) record breaking 10th WSOP bracelet in 2005.
Probably the best known poker player in the world, Phil Hellmuth has been bawling at the tables since the late 80’s, first coming to prominence after beating Johnny Chan heads-up for the 1989 WSOP Main Event at the age of 24.
Almost three decades on and there’s still no escaping the “Poker Brat” who now sits clear at the top of the all time WSOP bracelet winner counts with 14 titles won between 1989 and 2015 and a staggering 131 WSOP cashesbetween 1988 and 2018.
In his documentary Hellmuth recalls his struggles as a youth with ADHD, underperforming at school while his 4 younger brothers and sisters got straight A’s and pressure put on him by his PhD father. Hellmuth put all his energy into beating his siblings and board and strategy games, throwing a tantrum if ever he lost – something he continues to do to this day.
Phil ended up dropping out of University in his junior year in 1988 to become a poker professional after winning $20,000 playing in local cash games. A little over a year later he was crowned World Champion, and with 14 WSOP bracelets and over $22m in live tourney winnings, he never looked back.
While not anywhere near as accomplished a pro as either Chan or Hellmuth, Chris Moneymaker has arguably had more influence on shaping the world of poker as we know it today than any other single player after his win at the 2003 WSOP Main Event kick-started the “Poker Boom”.
Pre-2003 the WSOP Main Event was always won by a poker pro, and old school player. Moneymaker, having qualified for the $10,000 entry event for less than $40 at PokerStars became an overnight sensation as he upset the odds to beat grizzled old-school pro Sammy Farha heads-up for the $2.5m prize money and coveted WSOP Main Event gold bracelet. The fact that his name was “Moneymaker”, well, you couldn’t make it up.
The year Moneymaker won the event had attracted a record 839 players. Following his win the next year saw 2,576, the next 5,619, and in 2006 a staggering 8,773 players registered for the Main Event. Known in poker circles as “The Moneymaker Effect”, the story of the classic everyman overcoming the odds to win millions of dollars inspired generations of new players to take up poker. A legend was born.
Chris’s documentary tells the story of how a broke 27 year old accountant from Tenessee logged into PokerStars one night after work and jumped into a $39 tournament after seeing there was one seat left to fill. At the time he didn’t realise it was a satellite to the WSOP otherwise, he says, he would never have entered it. The satellite paid 3 places with $10k entries to the Main Event whilst fourth place paid $8,000 in cash. Moneymaker was desperately trying to finish fourth as he had never played live poker and knew he didn’t stand a chance against the best pros in the world. He was also thousands in debt on credit cards he wanted to pay off with the $8k. However, he ended up winning the tourney and selling half his action to his dad and his best friend and taking a week off work to go to Las Vegas. We all know what happened next…