In 2006, Jamie Gold won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event for $12,000,000. Eleven years later, we decided to talk with him to know more about his current life and projects.
Somuchpoker: We saw you playing poker at the Rio this summer during WSOP. What pushed you to come back to WSOP? Do you miss that atmosphere?
Jamie Gold: I try to take a break every summer and play a few events at the WSOP. I love it. It’s very exciting; the atmosphere is intense. The cash games are fun as well. I have some old friends who I only get to see that time of year, so I make sure to be there at least once a year to play.
SMP: It seems like you didn’t really play tournaments; why this choice?
Jamie Gold: I play 5 to 10 tournaments a year when I have the time, sometimes fewer these past couple years, as I’m more focused on work and charitable endeavors.
SMP: What does your every day life look like now? Are you still working as a TV producer? Where are you living now?
Jamie Gold: I donate a good portion of my time to charity and a smaller portion to being an advisor and investor in other companies. My main focus right now is the new media company I’m a partner of. We produce TV, film, animation, video games, mobile games, virtual reality, and augmented reality content.
SMP: You were also launching a casino in Palm Beach. How is that project going now?
Jamie Gold: I was part of the launch, lending my name to the poker room. That went very well until the company ran into technical issues and shut down after 2 years, sadly. I enjoyed the experience though, and I learned a lot.
SMP: You made a comeback between 2015 and 2016 and had a nice 5th place finish at a WSOP event and 2nd place finish at a WSOP circuit event.
You said in an interview that you trained a lot with young pros and that you were back in the poker scene, but it seems you stepped back again after this. Why? Did you change your mind about coming back to poker?
Jamie Gold: I love poker and wish I had more time to dedicate to playing. I’m lucky that when I can focus on it I have had some success, but there are organizations and businesses I’ve made a commitment to, and I must make those my first priority. One of the things I love most about poker is that it’s always there and available when I have free time. I can always look forward to playing sometime in the future. I like the idea of taking vacations to poker destinations and am truly appreciative of the offers I continue to receive to make appearances on TV or to participate in live events. It seems like TV or live poker events are always in need of a fun action player.
SMP: When you won in 2006, you were absolutely unbeatable. You seemed deeply confident in your game, and the gods of poker were also on your side for sure. It must have been a magical feeling.
When you experience something so powerful, is it difficult to find the motivation to come back to playing poker? Do you feel nostalgic?
Jamie Gold: I was very, very lucky yes. I was only focused on poker at that time, and I worked very hard to play my best. I had one goal and was so fortunate to accomplish it my first time trying the Main Event. I still enjoy it; I just have so many other things I also enjoy doing and can bring value to.
SMP: You said at that time that winning $12 million wouldn’t change you and that you wanted to dedicate your time to philanthropy. Have you achieved your goals? What are the main causes you’ve worked on?
Jamie Gold: I spent over 10 years mainly focused on philanthropy, and I’m very proud to say that I’m halfway to achieving my goal of helping to raise and donate $1 billion. I’m at about $490 million so far. I’ve hosted or worked closely on 289 celebrity charity events. The reason I involve celebrity friends in every event is to raise awareness for the causes, and they often are more willing and available than most wealthy people who care enough to help create positive change in the world. Their reach is so wide that it helps immensely.
SMP: You were also quite a controversial WSOP winner; you always have been a real character.
Do you understand some of the criticisms that you faced? How did you handle being suddenly thrust into the spotlight in the poker world?
Jamie Gold: I certainly understand how people got the wrong idea, which came from bad information at the time and which I could have handled better.
SMP: Do you have any regrets regarding the things you did or said at that moment?
Jamie Gold: Yes, I was often misquoted. I don’t regret focusing on my father, as he was dying from a horrible disease—ALS—instead of concerning myself with how some less-than-honorable people were treating me. I absolutely did not take any money from anyone to play in the event. I handled everything honorably, as I always do, but I did not take the time to make appearances or do interviews to defend myself from people trying to take advantage of the situation. My father was the priority.
SMP: What do you think of the new generation of players, who are much more passive and silent at the table than the previous generation?
Jamie Gold: They are so far ahead of where I was as a player in general back then; they are very impressive as players. They’re not particularly enjoyable or fun usually, but they are very good players.
SMP: Are you still thinking of coming back to the circuit? Do you still work on your game with other pros?
Jamie Gold: When I have time in the future, sure.
SMP: It seems you had to handle some legal problems in the past, mainly because of cash game tax issues (if I understood it correctly), and your WSOP bracelet was sold. Can you talk about that and explain it to us?
Jamie Gold: I was playing in the largest private games for many years and paid full taxes on my winnings. The issue came when my losses were not clearly defined, so my assets were frozen until we resolved the issue. My bracelet was sold without my consent, sadly. I would never purposely have sold it.
SMP: Even if you said money wouldn’t change your life, winning something like the Main Event, with all the media attention that comes with it, must still be life changing, and it can be overwhelming. Did it maybe change your vision of life? How has it impacted your life for these past 11 years?
Jamie Gold: People treat you much differently; it is both positive and negative, but the positive well outshines any negative. My life has always been very lucky; even when I was young, there was always a lot of love and kindness around me. I am so thankful and grateful for it all.
SMP: Do people still recognize you a lot? Do you feel you have a responsibility to represent poker as a main event champion?
Jamie Gold: Every day, if I go out in public, yes. It has not stopped, but its so generous and positive. People are very happy to say hello. I enjoy it and try to give people the same energy back. I do my best to honor the gift I have been given.
SMP: For you, who are the best WSOP champion ambassadors?
Jamie Gold: Most of them are really nice, generous, and interesting people. I will not name the few who are not. They know who they are, and the public are, hopefully, smart enough to figure them out for themselves.
SMP: What are the new projects you’re working on today?
Jamie Gold: We are in production on 12 Feature Films, 2 TV shows, 6 video games, several mobile games, and some really exciting virtual reality content. I advise 4 companies at the moment and still enjoy investing strategically.
Interview by Gaelle Jaudon