Friday, March 29, 2013

Getting lucky

[Author's note: Most of my posts have been about poker. This one isn't, at least not directly, despite the title. I'll return to poker with my next post.]

5,174 days ago, my life changed. Looking back, I can't say I saw it coming.

On January 28, 1999, I was playing cribbage in an online cribbage league on Yahoo and something called Case's Ladder. I had scratched my way to the top of the rankings among the 50,000-odd players. Rankings were based on the rank of the person you played against - if you were #200 and played #100 and won, your new rank was 150. I was around #10, and the top 20 players were required to host games so lower-ranked players had a shot.

My daughter Bree and I used to play online cribbage regularly. We had played cribbage since she was a kid, and had played a lot more in the years since her mother and I separated and she lived with me. When she left for college in the fall (at University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia), we just picked up our games online. 

On January 28, 1999, she was hanging out and watching me play, and playing a few games herself, when a player with the screen name 'meretseger214' challenged me to a match, which I accepted. I made some flip comment about serving cocktails, and offering some of the hors d'oeuvres that were over in that corner over there. Oh, charming me. But apparently it worked.

'meretseger214' promptly skunked me. For those who don't play cribbage, that means "kicked my ass." I probably made some graceful comment, although I may also have suggested how lucky she got. Bree, always there to defend me, challenged 'meretseger214' to a game. Bree skunked this upstart challenger, making me feel roughly 1% better.

Over the next few weeks, I learned that 'meretseger214' was in fact a player named Sharon. We played often, and were roughly evenly matched. We decided to start playing as a team in 4-person cribbage tournaments, and discovered we were a nearly unbeatable team. At one point, we had strung together 24 consecutive team wins, an incredible number given that, like poker, cribbage involves some degree of luck.

Sharon and I started chatting regularly online. I invited her to meet me in New York to see a play, and got this response (slightly paraphrased, as I don't remember the exact words): "You might just be some Internet Pervert!" I think I heard that very capitalization.

The problem is that I wasn't just some Internet Pervert. I was an Internet Pervert that had a lot in common with this woman, and really liked her. But I decided to let it rest for a while.

Not long after the Pervert Incident, Sharon learned that Bree lived less than 10 miles from her. For some reason, Sharon had been under the impression that Bree went to Penn State (several hours away). They decided to get together for sushi.

Brief interlude: Bree had not been a fan of the women I had dated since her mother and I separated. There was some parity here; I never liked one guy she had dated in her entire life, but then that's my job. But Sharon was different. Bree called me shortly after their dinner, and said, "I'm not sure if you're interested in this woman or not, but I really like her." 

Wow, a ringing endorsement! I still had no idea what Sharon looked like, but I was reasonably sure she didn't have horns or extra limbs, as I suspected Bree would have given me a heads-up on either. So, undaunted from the Pervert Incident, I redoubled my efforts to get Sharon to meet me somewhere.

I tried the NY play ploy again, which failed again but with less resolve on her part. I suspected that, having met my daughter, she concluded that my Internet Pervert score was lower than she had originally estimated. 

5,104 days ago, I was in Long Branch, New Jersey, attending a conference. As I had on several previous trips east, I told Sharon where I was going to be. I don't know what made this time different, but Sharon showed up in Long Branch. We went out for a drink, spent hours talking, even played a little cribbage.

5,103 days ago, we went out for dinner for the first time, at a restaurant next door to the hotel. I spilled a drink on her. Undaunted, after cleaning up the mess, I got up, walked around the table to her side, held her face in my hands and kissed her. I said something about "getting that out of the way." Dan, ever the romantic.

The waitress came to take our order. After she did so, she stood for a moment, looked at each of us and said, "It's really easy to spot the people who've been together for a long time. You have this shorthand. You seem really happy." There were a few moments of silence after she left, followed by semi-hysterical laughter.

After dinner, I decided to impress Sharon with my extensive knowledge of dessert wines at the restaurant's jazz bar. I had a reasonable excuse for extending dinner - rain was coming down in buckets, and even the 100 yards to the hotel would mean getting drenched. We worked our way through their entire dessert wine-by-the-glass menu. It wasn't until many months later that I learned that Sharon is disgusted by dessert wines (also by most things sweet). Apparently she liked me.

4,803 days ago, Sharon moved to Los Angeles to move in with me.

3,856 days ago, Sharon and I went to Las Vegas for a free weekend graciously provided to us by The Venetian. My best friend Randy joined us. We were really struggling back then, but hey, a free vacation is a free vacation. I carefully hid the engagement ring in my computer bag. I booked a gondola ride, which cost $50 for both of us. Sharon was - let's say, not amused. $50 was a lot of money for us. Have a look at the following picture, and note the three circled items: (1) Unamused look, (2) shit-eating grin and (3) engagement ring.

She said yes, by the way.

3,653 days ago, 10 years to the day, I married the love of my life. On that day, as part of our vows, I said we were embarking on the 'journey of a lifetime.' We honestly had no idea what that meant at the time, how true it really was. Since that day, we've traveled over 500,000 miles, made innumerable friends, lived in another country - and not a day goes by when I don't shake my head in wonder at my luck. 

I love you, Sharon. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Team PokerStars: Poaching Victor Ramdin

May 2006
By May 2006, the battle for supremacy in online poker had narrowed to three competitors: PartyPoker, Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. Collectively we accounted for more than 80% of the market, and competition was fierce. While I don't recall the exact numbers (if you do, please pitch in!), at this point the score was something like:

PartyPoker:     45%
PokerStars:     20%
Full Tilt Poker: 15%

Note that these numbers represented huge progress for both PokerStars and Full Tilt. A little history: in January 2003, the 900 pound gorilla in online poker was Paradise Poker, with something like 80% market share. Once PartyPoker's first WPT event aired, along with their TV spots (the topic of a future post), they rocketed to the top of the heap, with PokerStars and UltimateBet fighting it out for second place. Paradise pretty much vaporized, and by the end of that year they were around 6th place (the topic of another future post).

The companies had taken diverse roads to reach this point. After the Armadillo Tim fiasco, I expected PokerStars to be reluctant to make deals with other poker players, but I was pleasantly surprised. We hired Tom McEvoy, the 1983 World Series of Poker Main Event champion, who immediately became a popular and charismatic figure on the site. And after Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event in 2003 and we signed him, I pressed forward with a plan to create Team PokerStars. This was to be a group of top pros, recognized names who would travel the world, playing in the biggest tournaments and making friends for the company.

Full Tilt Poker followed a similar strategy, although theirs was admittedly more organic. FTP was formed around a core of highly recognizable names, including Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Phil Ivey, Andy Bloch and others. It was clear from their first appearance on the scene in mid-2004 that they were a smart, well-financed and serious competitor.

PartyPoker eschewed the whole notion of celebrity poker players, with the singular exception of Mike Sexton. PartyPoker hired Mike, a 1989 WSOP bracelet winner in Stud High/Low, as a consultant prior to launching their site, and then as a spokesperson. PartyPoker was one of two online sites (along with UltimateBet, which later went down in flames after a cheating scandal) that were part of the inaugural year of the World Poker Tour. The WPT hired Mike as one of their two anchors, along with Vince van Patten. The combination of PartyPoker on the Travel Channel, Mike Sexton as the face of both PartyPoker and the WPT, and PartyPoker launching TV ads proved a bombastic combination, rocketing PartyPoker to the top of the online poker market in a matter of just four months. 

Fast-forward a few years to May 2006. We had solidified Team PokerStars as a team of marquee pros, signing Greg Raymer in 2004 (who also won his seat on PokerStars) and Joe Hachem in 2005. We signed a number of somewhat less well-known but still outstanding players, as well as a few celebrities. My favorite among them was Wil Wheaton, star of Stand By Me and Star Trek: The Next Generation - also the topic of a future post. 

We had engaged in heated but reasonably friendly competition with Full Tilt in attracting these players. The poker boom was at its very peak at this juncture, and the numbers these players could command was up there in some quite rarefied air. It was at this point that my friend and coworker, Lee Jones, and I found ourselves in London on business. We were both living on the Isle of Man in May 2006, and these trips happened frequently - PokerStars had offices in London and we regularly had (or found) reason to be there.

Lee and I decided to go to the Grosvenor Victoria Casino (locally known as "The Vic") to play some poker. The Vic is a typically British casino, a membership club on multiple floors with a small but vibrant poker room. We were both seated in a pot limit Texas Hold 'em game, but really wanted to play Pot Limit Omaha, so we asked the floorman if he would start a game. We found a few other players, and just as the game was about to start, Victor Ramdin walked in.

I vaguely knew Victor. We had met a few times, the first time when he made the final table in the Showdown at the Sands tournament in 2003 (a player we sponsored, John Myung, won that event). Victor was the prototypical Team PokerStars player: smart, great player, well spoken and charismatic. Unfortunately, he had signed a deal the previous year with Full Tilt.

Victor asked what we were doing in London. I asked him the same question, and was surprised to learn that he was in transit, only in London for one night. He was taking 13 children from his native Guyana to India for heart surgery, which he was financing entirely with his poker winnings. I already liked the guy, and now I admired him, as well.

We played and chatted. Victor led off with a horrific bad beat story. The previous month, he had gone very deep in the World Poker Tour Championship, which had an astronomical $14.6 million prize pool that year. Starting with over 600 players, Victor made it down to the final two tables (18 players) when disaster struck. I don't recall the exact details of the beat - perhaps Victor will chime in here - but as he told the story, "This incredible donkey, a beautiful blond woman, made an amazingly dumb play with another player already all in. I don't think she could have played the hand any worse than she did, but she managed to hit a miracle card and knocked us both out." Victor finished 11th in that event.

I mulled this over silently, trying not to laugh. I knew the incredible donkey. In fact, I had just signed her to Team PokerStars: it was Vanessa Rousso. She went on to finish 7th that year.

Victor went on with the story as I tried to decide whether to tell him. I chose not to, at least not immediately. Instead, I asked, "What are you doing on Full Tilt's team, anyway? You're a much better fit with PokerStars, and you know we know how to promote our players' brands."

This sparked a lengthy discussion among the three of us. We talked about how PokerStars could help with his charitable work in Guyana, where he sponsored an annual medical outreach (much more on this in a future post). He seemed interested, but wasn't ready to make a commitment. We agreed that we would get together at the WSOP, which was starting very late that year (the first event was the end of June).

On July 5, 2006, Victor called me, and we agreed to meet in the Starbuck's at the Rio, which had become a sort of road office for me. We chatted only for a few minutes. I made him an offer. He thought about it for a minute, stuck out his hand and said "Deal." I happened to have a contract with me, which we both signed.

We announced the deal with Victor a few days later, and I then discovered that I had touched off a massive shitstorm between PokerStars and Full Tilt. Ray Bitar, FTP's CEO, called PokerStars' CEO to complain that I had broken an unspoken agreement between the two companies not to poach one another's players. I didn't know anything of this agreement, which is why unspoken agreements aren't a particularly good idea. PokerStars' CEO called me, read me the riot act in a friendly way, congratulated me on signing Victor and we hung up.

All in all, I considered it a job well done.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The girl with the $16,000,000 purse

July 28, 2006
PokerStars had been on a serious roll by the time the 2006 World Series of Poker came around. We were still #2 behind PartyPoker, but where they were five times our size in early 2005, by mid-2006 we had cut that to 2.5 times. And our impact on the WSOP went from "noticeable" in 2003 (37 players out of 839, or 4.4%) to "dramatic" in 2006 (1,624 out of 8,773, or 18.5%). In fact, the players PokerStars sent in 2006 almost doubled the size of the entire field just three years earlier.

If you do some simple math, you'll work out that this meant a total of $16,240,000 that went from PokerStars to the Rio that year. Just the tournament entry fees alone that the Rio harvested from that huge number were somewhere in the $1.3 million range. Given that, plus the huge exposure PokerStars gave to the WSOP by promoting it for 5 months, plus the impact on cash games, rooms, restaurants and everything else, and you should come to the conclusion that Harrah's (now Caesar's Entertainment, owners of the Rio) loved PokerStars. How could they not? PokerStars was their single biggest revenue source.

Except that it's not true. And not only is it not true, but Harrah's made life for PokerStars as miserable as they possibly could, both before and during the WSOP.

I won't belabor their reasons much - perhaps someone from Harrah's/Caesar's (I'm calling them Harrah's from here forward, since that's who they were back then) will pitch in here at some point and explain. But there was no doubt that Harrah's had no appreciation for what PokerStars brought to the table. I'll tell you two stories that exemplify this.

By May 2006 it was pretty clear that we were going to have an even more massive presence than the 1,116 players we brought to the WSOP in 2005. I went to Las Vegas in mid-May to work out details of some of our presence, along with our Director of Events, who is also my wife, Sharon. 

I met with a Harrah's executive to discuss the logistics of moving that much money from the Isle of Man to the Rio. I won't use this guy's real name - we'll call him Harvey. The first thing Harvey said to me when I walked into his office was, "Let me be very clear about something. We don't need you."

That seemed an excessively aggressive opening. I didn't say anything.

"You guys..." he continued, waving his hands to indicate some ethereal PokerStars employees, including me, "...make your fortunes on the back of the WSOP. It's not up to us to make it easy for you."

Now, this wasn't the first time we had a run-in with this particular guy. I had prepared for it, having discussed with senior management at PokerStars exactly how far it was reasonable to go.

"I don't want to start the WSOP by fighting with you about this," I said. "If you'd prefer, we can still just give $10,000 to each of the players who won. I'm sure most of them will still come and play in the Main Event." I wasn't sure. In fact, I would have booked bets on the actual number being below 30%, reducing the number of players PokerStars would send to around 500.

Harvey knew, and he knew that I knew. "I'm not suggesting that. But I want to make sure you know that we're not doing you any favors. Here's the way this is going to work: first, we won't accept any money from PokerStars. If you want to enter players, we'll allow it, but the funds have to come either from you personally or from the players. We won't accept a wire from any company associated with PokerStars. And we won't accept cashier's checks."

This didn't sound like much fun, but it wasn't a showstopper.

"Regarding registrations, we'll allow you to register your players, but we can't have you holding up our registration lines." Yes, Harvey, we know what a pain it is to take our $16,240,000. Sorry about that. "So we'll give you a slot between 2:00am and 6:00am every day. You can register your players then."

Again, not that big of a deal. The person in charge of all of this was Sharon, and she was just getting warmed up at 2:00am most days.

"One last thing - as you know, we don't have a real casino cage down in the WSOP poker area. If you want to register players the way I described, you'll have to figure out how to get funds from the main cage [which is in the casino, roughly 1/3 of a mile away] to the WSOP registration desk."

This sounded OK, too. I just hadn't thought it through.

Sharon and I set up shop in our house. Sharon hired two of our friends, Shaena and Steve, to help her process all of the player paperwork, along with a lot of other stuff that needed to be done. And we talked to the top guys at PokerStars and told them they needed to wire $16 million into Sharon's cage account at the Rio. And they did.

In early June, Sharon showed up at the casino cage to do a test run with the first 50 players. And that was when we finally figured out how difficult this was actually going to be. Sharon asked for a private area, produced identification and told the cage that she needed $500,000 to register players for the Main Event. Apparently this isn't a unique situation for the cage; unflustered, the clerk filled out a form, had Sharon sign it, went off and then returned with a rack of $5,000 chips. 

Sharon, who by this time was used to dealing with large quantities of cash, picked up the rack of 'flags' (the nickname coming from the red/white/blue edge) and dumped them into her (fortunately oversized) purse. 

Sharon's friend Shaena, who would serve as our accountant over the next month, grabbed Sharon's arm. "You have a half-million dollars in your purse," she whispered. Sharon said, "Uh-huh."

Silence. Then, a tiny bit louder, enunciating each word, "You-have-a-half-million-dollars-in-your-purse."

Sharon grinned, then looked at the clerk. "Can we borrow some security to walk us down there?" she asked.

The clerk picked up a phone, requested two security guards, and a few minutes later Sharon, Shaena and their two beefy companions made the 600 yard trek from the cage to the WSOP registration area. This would be the first of many such trips, in which Sharon got to carry anywhere from $100,000 to $2,400,000 in her purse.

The second situation that made it clear to us how Harrah's really felt happened at 11:50am on July 28, 2006. You may wonder why I remember the time so specifically. Easy - it's because at 11:50am on July 28, I got a call from Harvey informing me that the WSOP was going to suspend any player wearing gear that had any logo ending in .com.

I've mentioned one of the best guys in poker, Rich Korbin, in several other posts here. One of the many things Rich did for PokerStars was organizing the amazing swag bags that all players at the WSOP, PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and other live events received. He completely outdid himself in 2006. Players got a huge rolling bag filled with apparel, various fun and entertaining stuff, and even a one ounce commemorative silver ingot. The very best thing in the bag was a jersey - some baseball, some hockey, some football, some soccer - with "PokerStars 06" stitched on - not embroidered, but material-stitched. They were amazing. I'd guess that 80% or more of our players chose that item to wear on their first day of play.

So now, we had 10 minutes to figure out how we were going to either get rid of the .com logos or get the players to wear something else. We briefly considered buying a huge pile of WSOP shirts and handing them out, but sizes would be a problem. I huddled with Harvey and a few slightly more reasonable Harrah's people and they agreed to hold off taking any action until 1:30pm.

I sent someone to a nearby office supply store for a dozen rolls of duct tape and a few utility knives. We then fanned out, going to each table, finding the PokerStars players and taping off the .com part of the very prominent logo on their shirts and, in some cases, their hats.

Crisis averted, for that day. Since there were four starting days for the WSOP that year, we had to do the same thing every day. If you go back and watch any of the video from the 2006 WSOP, you'll see lots of little silver squares on players' caps and shirts - that's why. I should note that this happened with all of the online sites, not just PokerStars, so Full Tilt, UltimateBet, PartyPoker and lots of other sites were in the same predicament; ours was just more obvious because we had so many more players than anyone else.

Rich saved the day for us one more time that year - on very short notice he had gear made for a few players who went deep, featuring only the name PokerStars without the .com. 

For the record, the years since the US started cracking down on online poker have underlined the impact that online poker had on the WSOP. In 2007, the first WSOP after the Unlawful Internet Gaming Employment Act (UIGEA) passed, attendance at the WSOP dropped by 30%. And despite a brief resurgence in 2010, there isn't much doubt that, as online poker goes, so goes the WSOP.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How the Moneymaker Effect almost didn't happen

May 23, 2003 (continued)
As I've mentioned a few times, this blog is in pretty much random order, based on when I remember things. I've tried to start each post with a date (if it has time significance), and perhaps someday I'll actually organize it chronologically. Don't hold your breath.

At any rate, this picks up immediately after Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker in dramatic fashion at poker's most momentous final table. It was not, by far, the biggest final table money-wise - first place paid a very respectable $2.5 million, but that number pales in comparison with the WSOP's peak in 2006, the year Jamie Gold won $12 million. It wasn't the most star-studded table - while there were a few names that poker players knew back then (Dan Harrington, David Grey, David Singer), there were many years with more luminaries (my nominee: 2001, with Carlos Mortensen, Dewey Tomko, Phil Gordon, Phil Hellmuth and Mike Matusow, followed by 1996, with Huck Seed, John Bonetti and Men Nguyen, which featured a famous 3-handed flameout by Bonetti). But this was the final table that changed poker forever.

As I watched Chris hugging family and friends, I knew the implications for PokerStars were big, but I had no idea how big they might be. The WSOP was broadcast on ESPN back then, but hole-card cameras were pretty new, and ESPN frankly didn't do a very good job of promoting this new technology. As I mentioned in another post, the three things that fueled the poker boom were hole card cams, online poker and Chris Moneymaker, and here I was, watching from the sidelines as all three converged. I had no clue.

Security cleared the crowd out from the roped-off final table area, and Chris sat down for some publicity photos behind a giant pile of money and a bracelet. Becky Behnen, the nominal head of Binion's at the time, posed with Chris and various ESPN and other celebrities. I sat on the floor in front of the final table, still sporting my press badge as though I were really press, and took dozens of pictures. Then security pushed everyone back a little, someone brought out a few microphones and an impromptu press conference started.

Press conferences like this rarely produce any interesting results. Here we had a dazzled and dazed new champion, who really didn't grasp what had happened yet, answering one inane question after another. I watched with some fascination as Chris handled himself admirably; had it been me, fielding questions like "What are you going to buy?" and "Are you going to play again next year?", a reporter might have walked away with a pen in his eyeball.

Then came the one question that, along with the answer, stuck with me all these years. A reporter actually asked this question: "Have you ever won this kind of money before?" 

This question was so stunningly inane that there was, in fact, a long moment of silence. Chris looked at the reporter, and I thought it a good thing that there were no pens near at hand. But he in fact looked thoughtful, grasping for an answer that would somehow make the question appear less stupid than it actually was.

Finally, he picked up one of the five inch thick bundles of cash, representing $50,000, and said, "I've never made this much money (shaking the bundle) in a year before."

A shiver of dread went through me then, and I didn't know why. I'd find out a few days later.

May 25, 2003
Two days had passed since Chris won the 2003 WSOP. I'd talked to him only once on the phone, about 3 hours after his win, and had a lot of discussions with senior management at PokerStars since. I'd left him a few messages with no response. The one thing that was clear was that we needed to cement our relationship with this guy.

We did something that was controversial when we first started running WSOP satellites - we required players to agree to wear PokerStars gear during the Main Event, and further required that they sign a one-year endorsement deal if they made the final table. Like most online contracts, no one read ours. I was pretty sure that Chris would be OK with it, though - he obviously loved poker, and our intent was to put him out there in PokerStars regalia as much as we could.

On the Sunday after his win (two days later), Sharon and I had a busy day planned. We had been in Las Vegas for over a month, and were anxious to get home. It was Memorial Day weekend, and we thought it best to drive home on Sunday rather than fighting holiday traffic the next day. We packed up, checked out of the Golden Nugget and drove to a restaurant in Spring Valley, where a reception was being held for our friend Peter Costa and his new wife, Leah. We intended to just drop in and say hello and then get on the road.

Just a few minutes after we arrived, my phone rang. I hoped it was Chris, but it was my boss at PokerStars, wanting to work out some final details. I was forced to tell him that I hadn't been able to reach Chris, which didn't go over particularly well. I was confident, though, that he'd get back to me, and if needed I was willing to come back to Vegas to finalize things.

We wished Peter and Leah well and got on the road for the 300 mile, dead-boring drive to Los Angeles. The only bright spots for me on this drive are Baker, home of the World's Largest Thermometer and, more importantly, Alien Fresh Jerky, and Barstow, where there used to be some very good factory outlets (now they're mostly just plain old retail stores). We stocked up on Alien Fresh Jerky without having heard from Chris. I left another message.

We got to Barstow mid-afternoon on Sunday. It had been warm in Vegas and Baker, but when I opened the car door in Barstow a blast of 110 degree air singed my eyebrows. We bolted for the door of the Outlet Center. I tried Chris again; still no answer.

I stopped at my favorite bookstore, a Barstow mainstay that sells only remainder books (you know, the leftovers that Borders used to sell for $5). I moved on to a remainder CD store when my phone rang. I didn't recognize the number. I answered and heard Chris' voice, and let out a breath that I may have been holding for a few days.

"I saw you've been trying to reach me. I'm back in Nashville."

"OK, I guess things got crazy for you here," I said. "Must be nice to be home."

"Oh, I'm not home," he said. "I'm at work." Chris was an accountant for a small restaurant chain in Nashville. 

I thought about this for a minute. This guy had just won roughly 50 years of junior accountant salary, and he was back at work two days later, on a holiday weekend.

"OK, that's impressive. Listen, you're going to be getting a lot of calls from the press. The Today Show has already called me, along with a lot of other media. I want to talk a little about how to handle scheduling, and how to answer some of the questions you're going to hear."

There was a long silence. "You there?" I asked. 

More silence. Then, "I'm not sure I want to do this."

I had no idea, but I was about to say something incredibly stupid. "Chris, you're about to be a media sensation. Everyone wants to know about you."

Much longer silence. Then, "I know. I don't think I want to be famous."

As long as I was being stupid, I saw no reason to stop here. "I don't think you have a lot of choice here, Chris. The media is going to find you. It's really just a matter of how you handle it."

When he didn't respond to this, I said, "I'm not sure how important this is to you, but we'd really like to have you as a spokesman for PokerStars. It means getting to play a lot of poker, a lot of tournaments. The money you won is great, but this could be a career."

This seemed to make a little dent in Chris' resolve. "I need to talk to my family about this." I was OK with this - from the little I had learned about Chris' father, I was pretty sure he'd be happy about having his son become a poker celebrity.

Chris made me sweat for five days. During that time, he had to change his home phone number, but the press largely left him alone other than phone calls. On Friday, a week after his win, Chris called me to tell me two things: (1) he wanted to keep his day job, and (2) he was willing to be our spokesman, provided we could keep his family in low profile. I was fine with both of these requirements, neither of which I had much influence over. 

There's no way any of us could have anticipated what would happen over the following few months. Chris believed he could be our spokesperson and still retain some anonymity, and I believed that as well, at least to some degree. None of us believed that Chris would be swamped in airports days after the ESPN broadcast of his final table - it had never happened before. But Chris was a singular sensation - the right guy, at the right time, with the right name.

The Moneymaker Effect had started.