Gold rush: Bluff nets Gold $12 million WSOP win

Updated: August 11, 2006, 8:36 PM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- When Jamie Gold bluffed, his opponents folded. When he had the best hand, they threw in all their chips.

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With a run of cards, a huge chip stack and an uncanny knack for reading other players, Gold, a talkative former Hollywood talent agent, cajoled his way to victory Friday at the World Series of Poker for the $12 million grand prize.

"I was just lucky sometimes, and sometimes I outplayed people," said Gold, a 36-year-old Malibu, Calif., resident. "I just feel really fortunate. I was playing some great poker. The best poker of my life."

The 12-day marathon that began with a record field of 8,773 players ended with the flourish that Gold made his trademark. With 3.9 million in chips in the pot, Gold declared "all in" and stood beside the pile of cash at the table to convince the last remaining player, Paul Wasicka, it was his for the taking.

"I knew that he was weak, but he had a hand. And then I knew it was my chance," said Gold, whose clients have included Jimmy Fallon and Lucy Liu. "I went all in, and then I just went into my act."

Jamie Gold
AP Photo/Laura RauchJamie Gold bluffed his way to the WSOP championship -- but his reaction to winning $12 million was no act.

Wasicka, a 25-year-old former restaurant manager from Westminster, Colo., had seen it before. Earlier, Gold took down a 3 million pot from him and sixth-place finisher Richard Lee by bluffing while holding only an unsuited two and three.

On the final hand, Wasicka held pocket 10s -- or two 10s as hole cards -- with a board of queen, eight, five. Wasicka said later he thought Gold was drawing to a straight. Instead Gold had a queen and nine, for a better pair, when the turn revealed an ace and the final, or river card was a four.

"He did a really good job tricking me on the last hand," Wasicka said. "I felt like based on the previous half hour he was in a gambling mood. My gut just told me to go for it, and I just went for it and I was wrong."

Still, second-place earned Wasicka $6.1 million.

The nine players at the final table -- four pros, a former talent agent, an insurance broker, an ad salesman, a recent college graduate and a retired businessman -- were guaranteed at least $1.5 million in winnings when they sat down around 2 p.m. Thursday.

Thirteen hours of no-limit Texas Hold 'em later, Gold and Wasicka were the last two players left when huge bundles of cash were deposited on the poker felt. But most of the chips already were on Gold's side of the table.

Gold eliminated six of the previous seven players himself, and his 79 million in chips covered a good corner. With 11.2 million in chips, Wasicka was badly overmatched.

Each player Gold wiped out fell victim to a different game. He caught cards on some and tricked others into betting. Most went away shaking their heads after having been duped.

"I don't know what happened out there," said Swedish pro Erik Friberg, 23. Constant reraises from Gold drove Friberg to bet all-in with pocket jacks when Gold had pocket queens. For good measure, Gold hit another queen on the river, sending the 23-year-old Friberg home in eighth place with $1.97 million.

"I'm feeling disappointed," Friberg said.

Final results and payout
Name Prize
1. Jamie Gold $12,000,000
2. Paul Wasicka $6,102,499
3. Michael Binger $4,123,310
4. Allen Cunningham $3,628,513
5. Rhett Butler $3,216,182
6. Richard Lee $2,803,851
7. Doug Kim $2,391,520
8. Erik Friberg $1,979,189
9. Dan Nassif $1,566,858

Dan Nassif, a 33-year-old newspaper ad sales executive from St. Louis, busted out in the first 20 minutes of final play when he went all-in with an ace and king and a plain-looking board of five, three and two. Gold was holding pocket twos, giving him a killer three-of-a-kind.

Nassif jokingly apologized "to everyone back home who ordered the pay-per-view" after his short final table run to finish ninth. He said he would return to his job, despite going home with $1.56 million.

"It's been a great experience, it's been a wild ride," he said.

Doug Kim, a 22-year-old recent Duke University graduate from Martsdale, N.Y., went out in seventh when he pushed all in with about 4 million in chips holding pocket nines and a flop of three, four, four. But Wasicka had him covered with pocket queens.

"I thought this was as good a spot as any to stick it in there," said Kim, who finished with a $2.39 million payday. "I'm satisfied with my play. I have no regrets."

Gold's third victim of the final table was 55-year-old retired San Antonio businessman Richard Lee, who Gold had been reraising all night.

Just calling the big blind, or limping, with pocket queens, Gold watched as Lee raised to 1.2 million. Gold set the trap by reraising to 4 million and Lee, holding pocket jacks, went all-in for twice that amount, which Gold called instantly. Lee busted out in sixth for a payday of $2.8 million.

A gracious Lee denied the bluff set him up for a fall. "I knew he had some kind of a hand; I just didn't give him credit for that big of a hand."

Later, Rhett Butler, a 45-year-old insurance agent from Rockville, Md., busted out in fifth for a $3.22 million payday when he moved all-in with pocket fours. Gold called with a king and jack and caught a jack on the board for a higher pair.

Even tournament pro Allen Cunningham, 29, of Las Vegas, fell in fourth with pocket 10s as Gold's king and jack made a pair of jacks on the board. The pro earned $3.62 million.

Michael Binger, a 29-year-old from Atherton, Calif., with a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford, was wiped out in third, for $4.12 million. Gold called an all-in bet holding an unsuited three and four and made a straight on the turn.

Even Gold's mentor, poker legend Johnny Chan, was amazed.

"He single-handedly knocked out seven out of eight players. That's pretty impressive," he said. "I've never seen it before. This is the first time in final table history."

Gold said he would share the money with friends and supporters and give the rest to help his father, who has Lou Gehrig's disease.

When the lights went up and play was over, Gold flipped open his cell phone and called home as the cameras rolled.

"Hi Dad, it's Jamie, are you there? I just won."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press