Prior to winning the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event in 2003, Christopher Bryan Moneymaker was an unknown, 27-year-old accountant from Nashville, Tennessee; so unknown, in fact, that WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla had to verify that the ‘Moneymaker’ written on his reporting slip was not a hoax. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Moneymaker graduated from the University of Tennessee but, having embarked upon a career in accountancy, played online poker as little more than a hobby.
However, in 2003, ‘Money800’, as Moneymaker was known online, won a single-table $86 buy-in Internet ‘satellite’ tournament on PokerStars. In so doing, he won a seat into a $650 buy-in WSOP ‘mega satellite’ tournament, in which the first three finishers were awarded a seat at the WSOP Main Event at Binion’s Horseshoe – now Binion’s Gambling Hall & Hotel – in Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. Moneymaker won that contest too, and duly embarked on a trip to Las Vegas for his first ever live poker tournament. Remarkably, Moneymaker made it to the final table, beating seasoned professional Ihsan ‘Sammy’ Farha in a heads-up hand dubbed ‘the bluff of the century’ by commentator Norman Chad en route, and eventually carried off the $2,500,000 first prize money.
Victory for a hitherto unknown amateur in the WSOP Main Event, who thereby gained the unoffical title of ‘World Champion’, at the first time of asking sparked a boom in the popularity of poker, specifically Texas Hold’em, which became known as the ‘Moneymaker Effect’. The number of entrants to the WSOP Main Event increased three-fold, from 839 in 2003 to 2,576 in 2004 and the winning prize money doubled, from $2,500,000 to $5,000,000.
Louis Colavecchio, a.k.a. ‘The Coin’, was born in North Providence, Rhode Island in 1942. The son of an Italian immigré father, he graduated from Providence College in 1964 and embarked on a career as a jeweller. However, having inherited tool-and-die making skills from his father, Colavecchio later applied his penchant for metallurgy to manufacturing high-quality counterfeit slot machine tokens – virtually indistinguishable from the originals – which he used to defraud casinos in Connecticut, Atlantic City and Las Vegas.
Colavecchio calls himself the ‘World’s Greatest Counterfeiter’ and, to be fair, his deception only came to light during an annual audit of slot machine tokens at Caesars Atlantic City. Having discovered a surplus of $10 slot machine tokens, staff informed the Division of Gaming Enforcement and, following an investigation, Colavecchio was arrested. He served 27 months of a 7-year sentence handed down for manufacturing counterfeit slot machine tokens but, following his release in 2006, was arrested again for a similar offence just a few months later. In 2015, he received a 7-year suspended sentence for possession of marijuana and, while serving that sentence, in 2018 he was arrested again for possessing counterfeiting equipment and $24,000 in counterfeit $100 bills.