Jamie Gold is beyond doubt one of the most controversial personalities of the professional poker world. Critiques have often pointed out the fact that Gold was an amateur when he took down that historic WSOP Main Event first prize – which remains the biggest single prize won by anyone in the history of the game, and he remained one after it.
Live poker accomplishments failed to come after the win, and in the few tourneys he did take part in, he busted out very early. Bodog, the site which managed to offer Gold an endorsement contract right after his win, “fired” him soon after, citing the fact that it was shifting its marketing focus from the North American to the European market. The fact though that it kept other US pros around probably meant that getting rid of the US contingent of professional players might not have been its primary goal after all.
Born in 1969, in Kansas City, Missouri, Jamie’s original name was Usher. After his mother divorced his father though and married Dr. Robert Gold, she had her and her son’s name changed by court order. Jamie attended Paramus high-school in Paramus, NJ, earned a degree at the State University of New York, and studied entertainment law at UCLA.
Gold started his career as a talent agent at the age of 16 as intern and since then – despite some sources trying to play down his abilities as an agent - he has indeed worked with celebrities like James Gandolfini and Lucy Liu.
Jamie Gold claims to have learned poker from his grandfather who was indeed a champion gin rummy player. Before his historic Big Dance win, he’s had a few notable results in live games in California. His biggest tournament win was a $54k first prize which he took down at the Bicycle Casino in L.A. in 2005.
In the 2006 WSOP Main Event, Gold was a true black sheep. Many professional players later accused him of playing recklessly and getting lucky, although his style of play and the strategy he adopted was quite obvious. He looked to force his opponents to risk their entire stacks time after time. He sniffed out a strong hand and folded while getting the better of almost every perfect hand situation that arose. Of course, he often completed lucky draws and ended up with the Q,Q against his opponents’ J,J but does that really make him a lesser poker player?
His table talk was another subject for controversy. During the Main Event, he exhibited a tendency for giving his opponents clues about his pocket hands. This is contrary to WSOP rules, although no punitive measure was ever taken against Gold on account of his practices.
The first prize he won in the Main Event was a whooping $12 million, but soon after Gold took it down, problems arose regarding the prize-money too. Crispin Leyser, an associate of Gold’s claimed Gold had promised him half of his winnings, had he made it into the money in the Big Dance. The whole controversy took an ugly turn and ended up before a judge. For the time of the trial, the money got locked away, and thus Gold missed out on huge additional revenue in potential interests.
Eventually, Gold agreed to pay Leyser his share, and the dispute was settled.
Nowadays, Jamie Gold works as a talent agent while - for better or for worse- continuing to play high stakes poker too.