Poker legend Chris Moneymaker talks his new documentary (and gives EW a couple of tips)

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You screened the film at the start of last year. Then “April 15″ happened and you had to add new material. For the benefit of people unfamiliar with the subject, could you explain what happened last spring?
CM: For poker players, it’s like [an unforgettable historic event]. You know where you were when you got the news, you know what you were doing. It’s a monumental thing. On April 15, the Department of Justice essentially killed online poker in the United States. They took away all the websites you can play on, the big websites, and basically shut down the whole industry.
DT: This week last year was when we had our first press screening with an end-of-July date to release. But, before that, we had been hearing that something was going to happen. So we were sort of going slow. And then we were like “Fine, we just have to move forward with the movie.” But what we thought was going to happen was that it was going to become legal.
CM: So that’s why you were going slow for six years? That answers a lot!
DT: [Laughs] There were definitely some moments when we were trying to convince ourselves we didn’t need to [change the movie]. But ultimately, again, if you think of poker like a character, this is the most dramatic chapter of the story, and I almost felt it would be irresponsible to put out a movie about poker post-April 15, Black Friday, and not deal with it. The film benefited in some specific ways. What was at stake before in the movie was, “Is it a fad?” In other words, “Is poker just going to go away and people do something else.” But once Black Friday happened, what was at stake was all these guys’ livelihoods. And some of the themes that were in there before about personal freedom became much stronger because now there had been an attack on personal freedom.

So this is what I really want to know: What is the most common mistake amateur players like myself make?
They don’t have a fold button. They can’t fold their hand. You see this more than anything else. Someone will have two kings and they’ll raise pre-flop and an ace will come (in the first three communal cards). So if you have two kings and you raise and you get three callers and the flop comes ace-whatever-whatever and you bet and someone calls, then 90 percent of the time they’ve got an ace. If someone bets, you’ve just got to fold your two kings. The problem is that an amateur sees those two kings and gets really excited about the hand and won’t fold.

Okay, here’s my big move. When I get dealt a seven and a two off-suit, I always go all in. It’s the worst hand you can get, so obviously I lose a lot. But often I’ll bluff people out and then show them the seven and two and they get really pissed off — and sometimes I will beat people and then they go berserk. They just go f—ing crazy. And from that point on, they have no idea what kind of hand I’ve got when I go all-in.
CM: You do it because it’s the worst hand in poker?

CM: Can you write down your name and number?

Because I want to follow you wherever you play. Because I can just retire! That is the worst strategy I’ve ever heard! The problem is that if you show someone who plays for a living your seven-deuce, I’m going to look at you when you show me your hand and I’m going to remember what your facial expression was, how you looked at your hand, and when you show me your hand, it’s going to reaffirm exactly what your facial expression looks like when you have a bad hand. Also, I’m not going to get steamed at you. I’m going to think you’re an idiot and laugh at you and just be waiting for you to try something like that again when I have a real hand.

Fair enough. Chris, the documentary makes clear that your win at the 2003 World Series of Poker inspired a lot of people to think that they could become professional poker players. At the post-screening Q&A last night I got the sense that you are slightly uneasy about that.
CM: I encourage you to do it! [Laughs] It’s not that I discourage people, because you should follow your heart. But I want people to understand that poker’s not all glamorous, it’s not all being on TV and making tons of money. It’s a hard life. It’s a lot of travel. It’s a lot of weird hours. If you’re a poker player and you show up at a casino at 8 a.m., you’re going to be by yourself or with some people that are rocks and just don’t give you any action. If you want to make money and have action, you need to work from like, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Those are the hours. That just doesn’t fit with a lot of people’s schedules. And that’s just the start of it. You’ve got to realize what you are getting into.

Both Chris Moneymaker and Douglas Tirola will be answering questions at tonight’s 7 p.m. screening of All-In at New York’s Cinema Village. Subsequent screenings over the weekend will be attended by Tirola and a revolving cast of other All-In interviewees, including Rounders screenwriter Brian Koppelman, Rounders consultant Johnny Marinacci, and Ingrid Weber.

You can watch the trailer for All In: The Poker Movie below.

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