To poker players and enthusiasts, the story of Chris Moneymaker is the stuff of legend. Sixteen years ago, he entered a world-class professional tournament, having qualified via an online satellite game from a certain emerging poker brand. He would not only go on to win the Main Event of the tournament and a multimillion-dollar prize, but his unexpected triumph would also help to kickstart the online poker revolution. It was a remarkable feat that no amateur player since has accomplished. However, that would change at the start of 2019.
Just as Chris Moneymaker entered the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournament as an unknown, Ramón Colillas set off for the PokerStars PSPC Championships without a major tournament under his belt in January of this year. And just like Moneymaker did before him, Colillas emerged from the tournament as the PSPC Champion, beating the world’s top professional poker players and winning the life-changing sum of $5.1 million in the process.
The Road to Victory
The 30-year-old Barcelona native’s road to the PSPC in the Bahamas started with a dream to win the much-coveted PokerStars Platinum Pass. These passes, which were tournament packages valued at $30,000, would give a holder entry into the $25,000 buy-in Players Championship event at the annual PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in 2019. There were only 320 in existence, and to win one, Colillas would have to face much more experienced players than himself.
Nevertheless, the former-footballer-turned-engineer-turned-personal-trainer made the decision to join a Spanish poker tour sponsored by PokerStars, the Campeonato de España de Poker (CEP), which kicked off in March 2018. Remarkably, he won the first tournament, which took place in his hometown of Barcelona, but later found himself slipping down to the 19th position. When he entered the final tournament in Peralada, he was in third place on the leader board, but with a total of 293 entrants in this event, nothing was a given. The pressure was on for Colillas to make it to the final table, and “everyone began to three-bet” him, but he focused on winning the pass and “just kept folding for about three hours,” barely getting into the money “with only five big blinds.” His strategy worked, and soon, he navigated his way through a field of 1039 competitors to make it to the final table of the PSPC — a tournament that had set a brand-new record.
To say Colillas’ triumph was beginner’s luck would do him a disservice, but fortune was indeed on his side, as he enjoyed a smooth tournament that culminated in a tense head-to-head with WSOP bracelet winner Julien Martini. Colillas found himself leading in the chips after Martini flopped a flush, and it wouldn’t be long before he would snatch the victory.
Coming Full Circle
In many ways, Colillas’ win in the Bahamas has brought the Moneymaker legacy full circle. Colillas may have won his Platinum Pass in live tournaments, but he is a keen online poker player and had his start playing poker online. After retraining as a personal trainer and opening up a gym, he continued to put the hours in playing poker online. Incredibly, prior to his PSPC journey, he only played a handful of casual-stakes, live tournaments, even though he enjoyed the atmosphere and challenge of facing off against other players. Colillas, knowing he had some mileage to cover, spent hours researching and studying tells in the lead-up to the championships, including reading a book “five times before the PSPC.”
Chris Moneymaker in Action
The fact that the Barcelona native was able to enter the Players Championships with a Platinum Pass is also indicative of the fruition of the “Moneymaker effect” that Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 win had on the online poker industry. The year 2018 was the 15-year anniversary of that memorable WSOP tournament, and in celebration, PokerStars ran an anniversary tour across the States that awarded several Platinum Passes to entrants on the tour. Colillas may have won his pass in his home country, but had it not been for Moneymaker, those passes may not have existed at all. Online poker is now a professional discipline in its own right, up there with esports in that regard, as well as being a multibillion-dollar global industry. It’s hard to imagine that it would have developed quite so quickly had it not been for pioneers like Chris Moneymaker proving how far playing this challenging game online can take a player.
Image Source: PokerStars.com / Used with permission