WSOP main event champion Jamie Gold revealed. “I’ve heard others describe me as the first player to tell people the truth”

Everyone has an opinion on last year’s WSOP main event winner, but does anyone really know Jamie Gold?

We reveal the man behind the myth in a revealing and searingly honest interview

You all know the Jamie Gold story. But in case you’ve been hiding in a cave playing hi-lo with Osama for the past year, it goes something like this: brash TV agent learns poker from Johnny Chan, wins $12 million at the WSOP and then welches on a winnings deal with pal Crispin Leyser.

Next, legal papers fly and Bodog, his sponsor, drop him like a marked deck. Gold is an outcast, a misfit: the man who had it all, but threw it all away in a fit of arrogance. Today he’s finished, a lonely millionaire adrift on a sea of derision and contempt. It’s a nice story, isn’t it? It would make a great movie. Just a shame it’s not true.

‘I’ve certainly been attacked in an extraordinary fashion,’ explains the 37-year old Gold. ‘I mean, it’s gotten really out of hand. I guess I must be doing what my detractors would like to be doing – that’s the only motivation I can think of for the abuse in certain cases.

‘Of course I had a situation with Crispin. It wasn’t easy. But there have been huge inaccuracies. It’s sad. I have to be careful what I say because there is a gag order from a judge. All I can say is that we’re both really happy and satisfied now. ‘Frankly there never should have been an issue in the first place. I always kept my word to him, and the minute we both sat down, it was sorted out. And there was never a legal case. ‘I regret that it was damaging to poker. It’s really sad that people tried to make a problem where there was no problem.’

First Act

Rewind three years and Jamie Gold is a hard-nosed exec putting the finishing touches to a show his television studio is pitching to the networks. For the record, it’s called The Hottest Mom in America. But after the apple-pie soft porn comes the real work – Jamie leaves the office and heads out to play poker until three in the morning.

‘Those times were tough because I was so dedicated to both the poker and the daytime job,’ explains Gold. ‘I needed to make sure I was the best poker player I could be and at the same time make sure our venture was successful. The two things coexisted for quite a while.’

‘During the main event of the World Series I was actually trying to handle our business on the phone! That made things difficult – let’s just say that I’m not going to do that this year. Actually it was kind of amazing I didn’t make more mistakes.’ One of the TV projects he was working on was a poker show with Johnny Chan and Chris Moneymaker. And Gold started to seek advice from the two-time main event winner on his game. The image of him hugging Chan at the end of the WSOP has become iconic, but how influential was Johnny Chan exactly?

‘The big thing that Johnny brought to my game was confidence. About six months before the WSOP I was pretty sure I could not compete at that level. We got really close at the WSOP. On the third day, he came and stood behind me – pretty much for the rest of the tournament – and that inspired me. Every day he would challenge me to double my chips, even though I was the chip leader!’

Second Act

Jamie’s secret weapon at the main event was his table chat. It was a one-off psychological blitz, which, combined with a little help from Lady Luck, was to prove spectacularly successful, even if it breached WSOP etiquette.

‘Yeah, I’ve heard others describe me as the first player to tell people the truth,’ explains Gold. ‘And no one believed me! It would never work again for me, of course. And I apologised for some of it because I genuinely didn’t know the full etiquette.

‘Now I have to constantly change my style because everyone is after me. When I play tournaments now, everyone is after me, and that obviously lowers my odds of winning. Things have definitely changed since the WSOP win.’ One of those things, of course, was the loss of top sponsor Bodog. Who, so the story goes, dropped him because of all the bad publicity.

‘No,’ points out Gold. ‘I want to put that straight. Bodog [stopped advertising] in America and Canada. The only reason they continued working with the other two players they had is that they didn’t have much of a financial commitment to them. They had a huge one to me and I was supposed to do as much advertising and TV as possible in America. They paid me a lot of money – but it was no longer possible to do the job.’

The other rumour is that he has been avoiding the poker table like the plague – that he’s not really stepped up to the ‘poker ambassador’ role that is expected from the WSOP main event winner.

‘Anyone who says I’ve failed this year, or says I’m not an ambassador for poker, just doesn’t understand what I’m doing and how it is for all WSOP winners. I heard from Chris Moneymaker, Joe Hachem and Greg Raymer that you don’t play poker the first year after you win, you just travel doing appearances and charity work. And they are right!

‘I’ve done everything from throwing out the first pitch of the Dodgers game to seven different TV shows. I’ve worked for four charities. I’m doing Poker After Dark on NBC, Heads- Up Poker Championship on NBC, High Stakes Poker on Games Network – and I’m on ESPN and ABC. I’m on about eight channels at once. I haven’t had a minute to breathe.

‘I’ve never turned down an interview, I couldn’t be more generous with my time and money. If people don’t understand that, that’s their problem! I go to sleep at night, every night, feeling good about what I’ve done. I have nothing to prove to anybody except being a good human being.’

Third Act

So much for his supposed withdrawal from the scene. And in response to accusations that he is ‘the most hated man in poker’, Gold has the following to say: ‘Almost everybody is a friend!’ he laughs. ‘I would say that about 45 of the top 50 pros are friends. I go to my local casinos, I have home games – I play with some of the best players in the world at home. There’s maybe one or two I never liked before I started playing. But these are mean-spirited, negative people.

‘The one thing I’m really keen to do is to get back to the table and get on with playing. I’m coming to Europe at the end of the year for the WSOP Europe and I’ll do a tour after that. More than anything, I’m keen to prove myself. I know that to be a really great player it’s what I do next that counts.’

So, as we get ready to crown a new poker king, what will be the legacy Jamie Gold leaves to the poker world? ‘If people want to judge me fairly, they have to look at me as a poker player over the next five years. I know I’ve got a long way to go. I rate Ferguson, Negreanu, Brunson, Chan. To get to that level will take time. Real poker fans will understand that.’ Now does that sound like a poker player you should be hating? Didn’t think so…

PokerPlayer magazine is a great place to get monthly in-depth interviews like this with the top stars

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