Some might debate whether or not poker is on par with sports such as basketball, baseball, and football, but it's undeniable that it's a sport that millions of people watch and play each and every year. While there's no Final Four or Super Bowl of poker, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) has created some lasting memories in recent years, many of them made more memorable by the fact they were televised on ESPN.
Seeing someone win a huge hand at one of the best poker tournaments doesn't have the wow factor of some of the best slam dunks in NBA
history, but it's a case of comparing apples to oranges; what poker lacks in physical prowess it makes up for in the sheer drama of millions of dollars in money riding on the turn of a single card. There's also nowhere to hide for the winners and losers of big poker hands, as they must sit there at the table and take their medicine, good or bad, for the entire world to see.
The WSOP (which is the de facto world championships of US poker) has given us many of the great moments in poker history, with many coming at the final table of the WSOP Main Event. Sporting a $10,000 buy-in, the winner of the Main Event in recent years has taken home around $9 million, making it poker's richest prize. No win was bigger than Chris Moneymaker's victory in the 2003 WSOP Main Event, as the amateur player turned a satellite entry at online poker site PokerStars into a ticket to the Main Event, where he outlasted a field of 839 players to win $2.5 million.
His rags-to-riches story fueled a poker boom in the US that brought millions of new players to the game, each looking to replicate his success. While other moments have come close (21 year olds Joe Cada and Peter Eastgate winning the Main Event in 2008 and 2009; Jamie Gold's 2006 win worth a record $12 million) none have been as big as Moneymaker's win, with ESPN on hand to capture the moment that led to millions of new players flocking to the game of poker.