01 July 2007
It may not be a fashionable thing to say these days, but we’ve always found Jamie Gold to be a sweet, charming, if slightly eccentric, young man. Bluff caught up with him the morning before his first World Series event of 2007 to talk about the difficulties of being a controversial World Champion.
Hey Champ, you’ve had a strange old year. Has it been hard to cope with all the mudslinging?
I don’t worry about that. I don’t even pay attention to that. It doesn’t bother me.
We last met the day after the WSOP Main Event and found you in an ecstatic mood. A lot of the controversy that has dogged you over the past year, however, came from what you said in the subsequent interview. People seemed to have read an arrogance into it that wasn’t really there. Do you feel misunderstood?
Oh, definitely. I’ve also been misquoted. People have quoted me as saying that I think I’m the best player in the world – just ridiculous things. I’m barely a good player. I’m getting better every day and I think I will be a great player in about ten years. But I have nothing to prove to anyone except myself. All I ever wanted to do was to win the World Series and I did it on my first time out – and pretty convincingly. It’s just unfortunate that people want to take shots at you whenever you win. So yes, I’m completely misunderstood, but it’s hard for me to put a lot of energy into trying to fix that with people who don’t know me. Everyone in the world that knows me seems to like me and respect me. I have great friends and family and it’s unfortunate that I’m misunderstood, but you can’t please everybody (laughs).
You’re quite thick-skinned, then. It must hurt occasionally…
No, it only bothers my mom, and that’s the only thing that concerns me. She gets upset because she can’t believe that people think things that aren’t true about me. But that’s part of being a public person.
You have said that you regret some of the tactics you employed at the Series…
Yeah… I mean, I want to make sure that I play completely within the rules. I never intend to do anything outside of what’s appropriate. Like if you ever, by mistake, say the f-word. You didn’t mean to do it; you just got caught up in the moment. There are things that happen that most players go through and I want to do things within the rules. That’s my intention going into this year’s Series.
There hadn’t really been a precedent in a poker tournament where someone comes to the table with 70 times the chips as everyone else. That must have made you say some things that you wouldn’t have had you been a medium stack.
Sure, it completely changed my tactics and the reason why I played so many hands and why I bluffed so much was because of my chipstack. I was playing relative to my situation. I like it when people underestimate me and now everyone thinks I continually play bad cards and bluff every hand, but that’s not even close to how I play. People just assume that because that’s how I played in the World Series, but when you have a huge stack, it’s a really smart way to play.
How’s the TV biz?
I’m doing a lot less of it but I’m continuing to be a part of it. I love my business and I don’t plan on giving it up, but 80% of my time is spent as a poker player now. Right after the World Series, I spent three months with my dad until he passed, and then I spent another two months with my mom – she had a tumour that she had to have taken out – so I didn’t really get to play much poker. I did a lot of interviews, I made a lot of appearances, I did a lot of charity work, but I didn’t get to play much poker. So the WSOP is really going to be my six weeks of playing poker every day and I’m really excited to get back into it. I’m planning on doing all of the things that I wanted to do last year this year.
And you’ve had the court case is over hanging over you too. Is it a relief that’s over?
It is, but I always knew the truth, and so did he [Crispin Leyser]. It wasn’t really much of a case – and I understand that the media picked up on it because it was interesting to them – but there was never really a problem there. We both knew exactly what was happening and we knew that the first moment we sat down together in a room it would get settled. It was just a tax issue. It was a really simple thing that got blown out of proportion by people who didn’t really know what was happening.
What kind of opportunities opened up to you as World Champion? There must have been some positive things as well as the negative things.
Except for what was happening with my family, there was nothing else negative. The lawsuit was perceived as a negative thing, but as far as he and I were concerned, we were always going to split the money. That was an automatic, so it’s not like it cost me anything. Other than my father passing – which was actually a good thing because he was in a lot of pain and he wanted to go – I had an amazing year. I got to throw the first pitch at the Dodger game; I got to go to the Sundance Film Festival with ESPN and host all of my idols from sports and movies and teach them all how to play poker; I got to go with Johnny Chan to the Turks and Cacos Islands and I brought my mom; we finished the first seven episodes of our new TV programme – everything seems to be going really, really well and I feel very lucky. But my biggest goal in life was to win the World Series of Poker and I did it.
How many events are you playing this year?
I plan on playing at least five. I’m going to stick with No Limit. In the future, I’m going to start playing some Omaha, some Limit and some 7-card Stud – some of those games that I’m familiar with, but not really good at – I’m going to try to focus on them and get really good at those games. I wouldn’t feel confident playing the H.O.R.S.E tournament at the moment, but I want to put in the time and energy so that I will be soon.
How was it playing on High Stakes Poker?
Oh, I had the greatest time! The first time I played it was a little unfortunate that I was put into a group of people where everyone was playing so tight, and the producers asked me to play as many hands as possible and to be very verbal to make the show exciting. So I was giving a lot of action and it seemed like there were six or seven people just playing against me, so I had something of a tough time. But my second time – in this season coming up – I played really, really well. I focused and I didn’t care about how many hands I was playing, and I won a lot of money. Then I played the next day in the $500,000 buy-in and had some impossible hands to get away from and gave all the money back (laughs). So I basically came out even, but I had an amazing time.
How about the Main Event this year? Is there any preparation for that or do you just sit down and do your thang?
I’m preparing by playing the preliminary events. I want to make sure that if I make any mistakes I make them now. I didn’t feel like I made too many mistakes last year. I got lucky in that my hands held up, but most of the time I went in with the best hand.
Here’s a silly question: What do you think your chances are of taking it down again this year?
Well, I think they’re a lot better than what they’re giving me on the internet. At first they were putting me at 500:1, and now in USA Today they’re putting me at 2,500:1. If anyone wants to take my bet at 2,500:1, I’d love to put down $100,000 – just in case (laughs). I think it’s a long shot – it’s always a long shot… but I don’t believe it’s 2,500:1.