The new sultan of poker was anointed early Friday morning when Malibu, California, resident Jamie Gold, 36, won the World Series of Poker’s championship event. Gold took home $12 million, the largest prize ever awarded in a live poker tournament.
Gold outlasted a record field of 8,773 players who anted up the $10,000 buy-in for the No Limit Texas Hold’em main event, creating an unprecedented prize pool of $82.5 million — the largest for any sporting event in history.
The championship match at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino was the culmination of the 46-event World Series of Poker, which this year generated more than $158 million in total prize money.
Gold, a former Hollywood agent turned television producer, amassed a commanding chip lead during the first eight days of the tournament and sat down at the final table with a whopping $26,650,000 in chips — $8.88 million more than his nearest competitor.
"I just feel very fortunate that things went my way," Gold said. "I was playing the best poker of my life. I was in a zone where I just felt like I could manipulate people."
"We congratulate Jamie Gold on his tremendous accomplishment," said Jeffrey Pollack, commissioner of the World Series of Poker. "He played superb poker over a prolonged period against a record field that included virtually every top professional and thousands of talented amateurs from around the world."
On the final hand of the tournament, Gold’s pair of queens beat Colorado resident Paul Wasicka’s pair of 10s. Wasicka earned $6,102,499 million for his second-place finish.
Michael Binger of Atherton, California, finished third, collecting $4,123,310.
Gold, who had held the lead in the tournament since last Friday, won the first pot at the final table on Thursday and knocked out Dan Nassif shortly thereafter, setting the stage for a dominating performance to close the two-week event. After an exciting 14 hours of play, he knocked out the rest of the field, including top poker pro Allen Cunningham.
After winning poker’s largest ever tournament and its prestigious bracelet, an elated Gold said, "I can’t believe it, I am very happy. It started off tough, but once I felt in control, I realized that if I continued to play my game, I would be very hard to beat."
Rounding out the final table were:
4th place: Allen Cunningham, Las Vegas, Nevada, $3,628,513
5th place: Rhett Butler, Rockville, Maryland, $3,216,182
6th place: Richard Lee, San Antonio, Texas, $2,803,851
7th place: Douglas Kim, Hartsdale, New York, $2,391,520
8th place: Erik Friberg, Stockholm, Sweden, $1,979,189
9th place: Dan Nassif, St. Louis, Missouri, $1,566,858
Originally from Paramus, New Jersey, the 36-year- old former agent has represented a number of A-list celebrities, including James Gandolfini, Felicity Huffman, Lucy Liu and Brandy. Gold quit being an agent six months ago and is now the head of production at Buzznation, a branded entertainment media and production company based in Los Angeles. Gold is currently in development on a branded reality television series.
An avid poker player, Gold grew up in a family of card players, with his mother a longtime poker player and his grandfather a gin rummy champion. Gold plays close to 40 hours a week in Los Angeles-area card rooms and in the 15 months prior to the Main Event had earned just under $100,000 in tournament winnings. Gold has also had the opportunity to learn from one of the game’s most heralded players -- 10-time WSOP bracelet holder Johnny Chan. The two men met while working together on a poker television concept. In exchange for Gold’s assistance, Chan promised to help him refine his game. Both Gold’s mother and Chan were at the WSOP cheering him on.
But even with his poker pedigree and legendary mentor nearby, it is the person who cannot be with Gold in Las Vegas that provided the most strength and motivation for him — his father.
Gold’s father, Dr. Robert Gold, has ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which makes him immobile. According to Gold, the money he has won at the Main Event will go toward making his father as comfortable as possible.
He’s not well and unable to travel," Gold said of his 76-year-old father, "This is all for him."
The 2006 Main Event attracted the largest field of participants ever to enter a live poker tournament. The previous record of 5,619 players was set at the 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event, won by Joseph Hachem of Melbourne, Australia. Hachem pocketed a then-record $7.5 million.
Television coverage of the 2006 World Series of Poker World Championship Main Event begins August 22 on ESPN and continues on Tuesday nights at 8 and 9 p.m. until September 26 when action at the final table is broadcast.