Holed up in his digs, snacking on pizza and fizzy drink, Chris Moorman’s Friday nights were a solitary affair… but, boy, were they profitable.
While his mates were out on the town, Chris was playing online poker.
He had learned Texas Hold ’Em at uni and earned £50,000 while still a 21-year-old student.
A year down the line – and with his mum thinking he was stacking shelves – the winnings were mounting. And mounting.
In six months Chris amassed £100,000. Ten years on and he is the world’s top online poker player with a £13million fortune.
He once even left a casino with a million euros in his rucksack.
Not bad, considering he never finished his economics degree.
The Essex lad is now 32, has a base in Las Vegas, a gorgeous wife he met at the poker tables – and a passion for luxury holidays.
Chris was raised in Basildon by NHS worker mum Sonya and credit controller dad Simon.
He went to the University of Essex, then lived in Brighton with pals. And he chuckles as he tells how he kept his gambling secret, saying: “Mum would have gone mad. I was starting to win online but covered my tracks by saying I had a job in a supermarket.”
And when he finally came clean, Sonya feared for him.
Chris explains: “She had only seen poker in the movies and was worried someone was going to shoot me or something. She’d cut out job ads and include notes saying, ‘For when you’ve grown out of this phase’.”
But Chris never did. He won more than a million in prize pots at Cannes in 2011 and LA in 2014. But he has also lost £50,000 in just one day.
He goes on: “Winnings gradually increased over the years. It would have been nice to have a huge win early on but at the same time it kept me more level-headed.
“When I came second at Cannes, it was a bit surreal to win so much. There was another tournament in Italy, so I got a taxi over the border with €1million in my backpack. That was scary.
"The money was easy to carry because euros come in 500 notes. I wouldn’t do it again but, luckily, I got away with it.”
Chris played poker seven days a week in the early days. Meeting Katie – then a poker agent – helped achieve some balance in his life. They enjoyed a dream wedding in Los Angeles in 2015.
His prize pot to date includes more than £10million from online and £3million at live events.
But it took a while to master face-to-face poker. He says: “I didn’t make my first final table for four years, even though I was ranked No1 online.
“I was giving away information with my face, I didn’t feel 100 per cent comfortable. But I built my confidence and have been pretty consistent since 2011.”
Despite his wealth, Chris says he leads a relatively modest lifestyle. He doesn’t drive and isn’t interested in designer clothes.
While based in Vegas with Katie, 35, he spends most of the time on the road – often renting pads on Airbnb. Holidays are his main passion.
He adds: “I once chartered a helicopter with a fellow poker player and our girlfriends to Catalina Island, off California, where we rented an 80-person catamaran just for four of us.
“Then there was cage diving with great white sharks in South Africa, paragliding off a mountain in New Zealand, scuba diving in the Maldives and watching Andy Murray in the Australian Open tennis final.”
Chris is proud of his UK roots and – despite tough memories of being bullied at school – regularly returns home to Essex.
He is mainly pals with his fellow players, who hail from around the globe.
In June, Chris won the World Series Of Poker Gold Bracelet at Las Vegas’s Rio Hotel And Casino. He won 500,000 dollars – around £375,000.
And he grins: “I felt on top of the world. I’d been trying to win it for 11 years so it was a great feeling. I’d worked so hard to get there and all my friends were watching, cheering me on.”
Chris, 888poker’s British ambassador, will head home this week to play the 888Live Festival London at Aspers Casino in East London. The prize pot totals £650,000.
He is also launching his autobiography Moorman: The Inside Story Of The Most Successful Online Poker Player Of All Time at the event.
Chris tells how his passion for poker even rubbed off on dad Simon and paid big dividends back in 2009.
The poker nut arranged for Simon to play an event with him in Manchester – and his dad scooped £88,000. “I’d been professional for a couple of years so he’d started getting into it too,” says Chris.
“I bought him into the tournament for his birthday present.
“There were 500 players, a lot of professionals, and he won the whole thing.
“I’d done 40 or 50 of these events at the time and hadn’t won anything in them, so he was giving me a bit of stick!”