Chris Moneymaker and Gene Calden kick off the final WSOP Main Event flight

Gene Calden, Jack Effell, Chris Moneymaker
Terrance Reid
Posted on: July 06, 2023 08:41 PDT

There are myriad reasons why this World Series of Poker Main Event is a special one.

This is the 20th anniversary of Chris Moneymaker's historic win that kicked off the "Moneymaker Era." This is also officially the biggest World Series of Poker Main Event in history as the 8,773 record was broken shortly into Day 1d. However, that's not the only record broken this year.

Gene Calden gives a thumbs up Gene Calden gives a thumbs up

Gene Calden, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is the oldest player to ever participate in the Main Event at 100 years old. He sits down on this final starting flight along with Chris Moneymaker. The two shared a special moment on the biggest stage of the most prestigious poker tournament.

Two legends get the day started

The "Shuffle Up and Deal" to kick off the Main Event is always a special moment. It's reserved for important members of the community to recognize their contributions and accomplishments. Moneymaker was clearly the choice to have the honors this year.

Vice President of the World Series of Poker Jack Effel introduced Moneymaker to the crowd just before play started. "I'm willing to bet many of you played your first tournament after watching this man win the Main Event in 2003," said Effel, before handing the microphone over for Moneymaker's big moment.

That's what made it so touching when he chose to share the stage with Calden the centenarian.

Effel, Calden, and Moneymaker Effel, Calden, and Moneymaker

Chris spoke about his historic run two decades ago and how things have changed since then.

"What people don't understand these days is that poker was dying 20 years ago," said Moneymaker. "Poker rooms were closing. You couldn't find a tournament anywhere anytime like you can now. I love this game and I'm so happy to be a part of it."

Sitting nearby was a patient Gene Calden; lights, cameras, and crowds surrounded the three. Players sat across the Paris and Horseshoe venues to hear Moneymaker pass the microphone to the newest WSOP record holder.

"I'd like to introduce you all to Gene Calden," said Moneymaker. Gene beat me up at the Moneymaker Tour and knocked me out of a few tournaments. When we registered him at the cage, the computer was registering him as zero years old, they said he was too young to play," the crowd laughed. I'm going to let Gene do the honors of starting us off today," and Moneymaker turned the floor of anxious ears over to Calden.

A smile graced the face of the man who was about to play the Main Event for the first time at the age of 100. With his daughter nearby to be a part of the iconic moment, with thousands hanging on his every word, and with an eagerness of which the most youthful would be envious, Calden said those words we all love to hear.

Gene Calden shuffle up and deal Gene Calden shuffle up and deal

"Alright, everybody, shuffle up and deal!" said Calden.

Once cards were in the air, both Moneymaker and Calden headed to their respective seats to join the action.

Calden can't get enough poker

If you've played poker in the Fort Lauderdale area, you're likely already familiar with Calden. We were introduced to him during the inaugural Moneymaker Tour stop at the Palm Beach Kennel Club.

Calden played multiple events and even won the Moneymaker Mulligan Event #5 for $5,160. He held his own on the feature table during the Main Event. The grind wasn't new for the local legend.

When Calden would bust from whichever event he was playing, he would immediately hop into the $2/$5 game downstairs at the cash tables. The man truly loves the game. I can personally say that I donated some dollars to the Gene Calden wallet while I was there.

"We got in late the other night," said Calden's daughter Sue. "The next morning, he woke up and wanted to immediately get into a cash game. He truly loves it."

We wish the best of luck to both Calden and Moneymaker as they seek to navigate this massive Day 1d field in search of a Main Event bag!