WSOP champ settles dispute

Feb 13, 2007 1:37 AM

Last year’s World Series of Poker champion Jamie Gold has agreed to settle a dispute over half of the tournament’s $12 million grand prize.

In a joint statement released last week, Gold and Los Angeles-based TV producer Bruce Crispin Leyser agreed the matter should be resolved "without litigation."

"Jamie always intended on sharing his winnings with Crispin," the statement says. "Jamie and Crispin are happy to report they have fully settled this matter. They are pleased to be closing this chapter and look forward to continued success."

The statement did not disclose the amount of the settlement, but sources said Gold intends to give $4 million of his winnings to Crispin.

Gold, a former Hollywood agent before he turned poker pro, defeated 8,772 players to win the World Series of Poker tournament last summer in Las Vegas.

Gold already received $6 million, half of his take from winning the world’s largest poker tournament. The rest was frozen by court order after Leyser sued in August, claiming they had agreed to split the winnings.

Leyser claimed that Gold agreed to the split 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.

Leyser even kept what he said was a voicemail Gold left on his phone on the final day of the tournament in which Gold promised to pay Leyser "your half."

At a December court hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Roger L. Hunt rejected a motion by Gold’s lawyers to lift an injunction levied in September on the $6 million still at the tournament host, the Rio casino-hotel, and ordered the frozen funds be moved into an interest-bearing account.

Hunt also indicated Leyser likely would win his claim.

According to some professional poker players, the practice of sharing winnings with backers isn’t a new one and, over the years, has been based on trust between the parties.

"It’s pretty common to promise to share the wealth with someone who helps you, whether that help is in the form of a buy-in or entry fee," said a local poker professional. "Most of the time your backer is a friend so a written agreement isn’t necessary.

"But in light of the Jamie Gold dispute, which caused an action in court, in might be wise for some backer relationships to be reinforced with some kind of written contract or agreement. It would probably save a lot of grief and trouble later."