Home News 16 Years on from Chris Moneymaker, iGaming produces another Champion

16 Years on from Chris Moneymaker, iGaming produces another Champion


Philosophers and Quantum Physicists all commonly say that everything’s connected. Life is often showing us many instances where this is the case, but it’s especially true of recent events in the online poker sector of the iGaming industry.

16 years ago, an unknown amateur player qualified for the Main Event of the World Series of Poker by playing an online satellite tournament. After a strangely coincidental turn of events, in January of this year an online poker enthusiast played a series of live games to win his entry into a top-level poker championship. Both of these players, Chris Moneymaker and Ramon Colillas, won their respective events and both of them have iGaming to thank for the chance to compete.

Colillas’ poker journey

Ramon Colillas, PokerStars’ latest ambassador and the winner of the 2019 Players Championships, had predominantly been an online poker player. He started out playing poker games online after graduating from university whilst wondering what to do with his future. Eventually he would retrain as a personal trainer and opened up his own gym, but he kept on continuing to play online, enjoying some significant wins and generating a pretty decent side-income.

In 2018, he set himself the task of winning one of the 320 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Platinum Passes that were being distributed by the brand to winners of specific poker tours (including a Moneymaker anniversary tour across the states). These passes would give the holder entry into the prestigious PSPC event that was to take place in the Bahamas as part of the 2019 PCA, but they were by no means an easy thing to win. To get his hands on one, Colillas would have to play a series of live poker games across his native Spain, and face some pretty tough and experienced tournament players in the process. As it turns out, he was successful and became the first player from Barcelona to win his way into the competition.

Winning the platinum pass through a series of low buy-in events enabled Colillas to both enter this coveted event and become the 2019 PSPC Champion. However, would he have had the same success in these live tournaments if he hadn’t had the opportunity to develop his game for so many years playing online?

The Online Poker boom

The years after Chris Moneymaker’s astounding win at the 2003 WSOP changed online poker forever. Even though it had been enjoyed by many players around the world, online poker was never quite taken as seriously as its live counterpart. That was until players started to see just what was possible through playing online.

Moneymaker was not just the first amateur to win big at the WSOP, he was the first to enter the Main Event by playing an online satellite. Prior to his entry, players would have to fork out thousands of dollars for a seat at a Main Event game in a global tournament. But after he won, platforms like PokerStars starting launching incredibly low buy-in satellites (we’re talking as little as $2), that more and more live players started to take advantage of. Three years after Moneymaker’s win, the platform sent 1593 players to the WSOP via its online satellite games, showing some pretty exponential growth in such a short time frame.

Once players began playing poker online, they quickly realized that it wasn’t just a cost-effective way to gain entry to live tournaments, it was also a legitimate discipline in its own right. Suddenly, players had access to all manner of games and all manner of opportunities to develop their game, even if their nearest casino was three hundred miles away. Logging into an online poker platform was as simple as logging into social media platforms like MySpace and Twitter, so online gaming became an activity that people started to do in their leisure time, just like the freshly graduated Colillas did over a decade ago.

Diversity in champion players

Muskan Sethi is one of the new breed of champion poker players

Colillas may be the most recent poker champion with his roots in online gaming, but he’s not the first and certainly not the last. As the online poker industry grew over the years, platforms started launching their own online championships and tournaments, offering the type of money that you’d previously only be able to win if you made it to Las Vegas. Things like the Spring Championships Of Online Poker (SCOOP) and even online tournaments from the WSOP are now a common occurrence in the professional calendar, attracting top players like Daniel Negreanu and Liv Boeree.

As a result, the field of international poker players is becoming more and more diverse. It’s well known that poker was a discipline dominated by male players throughout the nineties, particularly from the “white middle-class” category. However, online poker has given the world its first Indian female poker champion. Muskan Sethi started playing poker online because she enjoyed the anonymity it gave her and within a few years she’d become so proficient that she was able to launch an international poker career. She was even honoured by the president of India in 2018 for her achievements in the discipline, something she may never have been able to accomplish if she wasn’t able to play poker online.

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Darrell is a blogger who likes to keep up with the latest from the tech and finance world. He is a headphone and mobile reviewer and one of the original baker's dozen editorial staff that founded the site. He is into photography, VR, AR, crypto, video games, science and other neat things.