Champ’s jackpot in limbo

Sep 19, 2006 2:59 AM

World Series of Poker champion Jamie Gold and a Los Angeles-based TV development executive have agreed to a court injunction freezing $6 million, or half of the top prize, over a dispute about a deal to split the winnings.

Gold has already received one-half or $6 million of the record-setting prize. A judge is expected to rule whether he gets the other half or will have to wait for the outcome of the suit filed by Bruce Leyser.

Leyser alleges in his lawsuit that Gold, a former Hollywood talent agent, agreed in July to split his winnings in exchange for Leyser helping him find celebrities to play in the main event while wearing the Bodog label of an offshore Internet gambling site.

Bodog paid the $10,000 entry fee for Gold, who beat 8,772 players to win the world’s largest poker tournament, and the $12 million top prize.

Leyser claims he fulfilled his end of the deal — getting Scooby Doo star Matthew Lillard and Punk’d comedian Dax Shepard to wear the brand — but claimed Gold has refused to hand over $6 million.

In the lawsuit, Leyser cites an alleged telephone message in which Gold says he planned to pay half the proceeds "after taxes" and that he intended to form a Nevada corporation to receive the funds.

There was nothing in the lawsuit that claimed Gold actually refused to pay the amount, yet the action was filed before the funds were ever dispersed to Gold.

The lawsuit has raised the issue of promises often made by poker players over the splitting of pots and other deals.

Some high-profile players such as Mike Sexton, who moderates TV’s World Poker Tour show, and high-stakes gambler Alan Boston, have said publicly that they believe a poker player’s promise is his bond, and that it is never violated.

Several professional players said that notion is at best "optimistic" and at worse, "laughable."

"Of course, most poker players are honorable, but to say they would never violate a verbal commitment isn’t realistic," said a Las Vegas player who asked not to be identified. "I could list players — some of them very well-known in the game — who frequently take money from ”˜investors’ who will never see a return on their money."

The player gave the name of one professional who often "sells" pieces of his tournament action in much the way the culprits in "The Producers."

"If you sell 50 percent of your action to 25 different people, you’re expecting if not planning to lose," the player said. "I’ve seen this one player take the money, lose the tournament and take his ”˜profits’ from investors and go play craps."

Another player said anyone who would invest in a player or agree to split a tournament without a simple written document is foolish.

"Get it in writing, even if it’s on the back of a book of matches," he said. "I’m no lawyer, but I think having it written strengthens any player’s so-called ”˜bond.’ He’s less likely to forget his obligation if you have it in black-and-white."