Jamie Gold Looks Back on the 2006 WSOP
In 2006, Jamie Gold became the biggest ever winner in WSOP Main Event history when he scooped $12 million for taking down the tournament everyone wants to win but so few do. Gold did so in dramatic style and can remember the whole experience like it was yesterday.
"I remember being both confident and nervous."
“I remember being both confident and nervous. I’d won a string of smaller events in California before the World Series of Poker, but it was my first WSOP Main Event.”
Gold had no Main Event experience but had played plenty of live poker practice, having sat down in tournaments featuring WSOP Main Event champions like Johnny Chan and Chris Ferguson. He was never taught poker specifics by any of those legends, but he watched them play a lot at close quarters. He credits that with helping his own game.
“I realized how much I needed to learn about the game. I learned that the educational part of the game was a never-ending process. They inspired me to work harder on my game and I admire and respect all the hard work of players that have accomplished such records in the game.”
Gold freely admits that, like all sensible poker players, he’s still learning and growing as a player. He has moments of play that he gets embarrassed by and he’s worked on making those moments less frequent. But he also told us that he feels his best poker has never been seen by anyone.
“My proudest moments are not often on camera; 99% of all the hands I play will never be seen by anyone. Its most important that I am playing my best and realize every mistake on my own, which I believe I do. It took me over ten years to get to that level of live play.”
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Gold’s style has famously been much-maligned, and it’s no coincidence that started right after he banked $12 million. But he believes some of that criticism was unfair and came as a result of viewers judging without knowing the full story.
“I think people often judge without the facts. The way it was presented [in 2006] was limited by television. It could be interpreted in a positive or negative way, so I understand. There have been ten times the amount of positive reactions as negative, so I’m grateful for that.”
Gold believes we now live in an age where viewers of poker coverage can accept limited information or abridged highlights shaped to fit a narrative.
"I was only interested in flipping once, to try to get rid of Allen Cunningham, who seemed like the toughest opponent for me."
Many of Gold’s victories prior to his Main Event win were ‘not recorded’ according to the man himself and it’s true that reporters were hardly reporting on every $300-$1,000 dollar buy-in tournament at the time. But he shared his victory with those who knew how merited it truly was.
“My friends and family were fully aware and very proud and excited for me, and it was a wonderful time. I’m so fortunate to live a great life with exceptional, kind people around me.”
Jamie Gold will be back at the Rio this year to try to reclaim his crown. The prize money could go up after a steady climb in recent years. It’s unlikely to reach the heights of $12,000,000 however, and that prize money was all the players were talking about during the 2006 WSOP Main Event.
“With almost 9,000 players to get through, it was talked about at the beginning and end of every day. The mass media coverage was incredible then, the excitement around poker was at an all-time high. Everyone playing knew what was going on, it seemed.”
Gold famously eliminated seven of the eight players who made the final with him, and there were times that he looked unbeatable. He was aware of luck and the role it was playing at the time.
“You always know there is the element of luck that can either help you or take you down. I tried to minimize that as much as possible. I was only interested in flipping once, to try to get rid of Allen Cunningham, who seemed like the toughest opponent for me.”
Feeling like he was in the zone, Gold entered what he now calls a ‘flow state of play’ for his skill level at the time. He is adamant that he knew where he was at in just about every hand, and his confidence was through the Rio roof. After he won the tournament, however, he did very little celebrating.
“My dad had days to live, we didn’t know how long [he had], so I tried to spend as much time with him and my family as I could. I didn’t care to address much else.”
"the excitement around poker was at an all-time high. Everyone playing knew what was going on, it seemed."
Thirteen years on, Gold has become a successful businessman in later life, helping to discover artists like James Gandolfini and Jimmy Fallon. Although many people had a hand in their careers, Gold says he knew talent from meeting both men early and clearly loved advising them and inspiring other people to work with them and other artists. He has continued to give advice throughout his post-2006 career.
“I’m now advising companies on how to grow properly and be recognized as superstars in business and I’ve had the time and opportunity to help put on events and raise and donate money [to charity] it feels great and has an impact.”
If Gold wins gold again this summer, expect a feelgood story to be the headline after 50 years of the World Series of Poker.
Lead photo courtesy of flipchip/LasVegasVegas.com via Wikimedia.org.
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