Updated on 09/17/2011 11:34AM

Moneymaker wins poker title. Really.

Dave Tuley
Chris Moneymaker parlayed a $40 entry in an online poker tournament into a $2.5 million windfall by winning the Championship Event at the World Series of Poker early Saturday morning at Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS - Don't bother calling Hollywood. Not even Ripley would believe this story.

Chris Moneymaker (that's his real name!) started playing poker three years ago after seeing the movie "Rounders." Working two jobs to make ends meet, the 27-year-old accountant entered a $40 satellite tournament online and earned a spot in the most prestigious tournament on the planet, the $10,000 buy-in Championship Event of the World Series of Poker at Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas. Playing in his first "live" tournament (all his previous experience was online), he worked his way through a record field of 839 entrants, knocking off former champions along the way. At the final table, he made every right move and walked away with the $2.5 million first prize early Saturday morning.

"I bluffed a lot in this tournament and somehow I got away with it," Moneymaker said. "If I can win it, anybody can win it."

Moneymaker played like a pro. His lack of experience rarely showed.

"It worked to my advantage," he said. "They probably underestimated me."

His final opponent was Ihsan "Sam" Farha, originally from Lebanon and now a resident of Houston. Farha won the Pot-Limit Omaha tournament at the WSOP in 1996 and has been seen on the "World Poker Tour" events on The Travel Channel.

But it was Farha, scrambling to make up for a misplayed hand, who made the rookie mistake in the final showdown.

In the next-to-last big hand of the tournament, Moneymaker went all in and Farha didn't call his bluff. That gave Moneymaker a $6.5 million to $1.9 million advantage in chips.

In the final hand, Moneymaker drew a five of diamonds and four of spades and bet $100,000, a modest bet at that juncture. The flop (the first three community cards dealt in Texas No-Limit Hold'em) came with the jack of spades, five of hearts and four of clubs. Farha, holding jack-10, went all-in, betting that his two jacks would stand up. Moneymaker, with two pair (fives and fours) called.

The crowd in the upstairs Benny's Bullpen room at Binion's rose in anticipation of the tournament coming to a conclusion. The eight of diamonds didn't help either player. Farha needed a jack or a 10 to pull out the hand, but then the five of clubs gave Moneymaker a full house and the championship.

"I'm disappointed in how I played the last two hands," Farha said. "I should have called his bluff. I played one hand too late."

Moneymaker's victory came at 1:30 a.m. Saturday. It ended a long day that started with play at 2:30 p.m. after the game went until 3 a.m. the night before. Total tournament playing time, which began at noon Monday, lasted a record 47 hours, 45 minutes, 2 seconds - and it was the first time the championship was decided beyond Friday evening.

Farha won the $1.3 million second prize. Dan Harrington of Santa Monica, Calif., the 1995 champion and only former champ to make the final table, finished third for winnings of $650,000. Jason Lester, a Wall Street options trader and investor, won $440,000 for fourth place and Tomer Benvenitsi, a Las Vegas resident who earned his WSOP berth in a $125 satellite event at Binion's took fifth-place money of $320,000.

Benvenitsi could have been the rags-to-riches story, but instead it was Moneymaker, who said he didn't really want the free $10,000 entry.

"I would much rather have gotten $8,000 in cash to pay off my credit card bills, but I couldn't sell my seat, so I decided to go for it," Moneymaker.

And it had a Hollywood ending.