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Her House of Cards

How did a 26-year-old cocktail waitress end up running a private weekly poker game for some of Hollywood’s highest rollers, including the likes of Leo, Ben, and Tobey? In an adaptation from her new memoir, Molly Bloom, who has since gained notoriety as “the Poker Princess,” recalls her lucky break, at the infamous Viper Room; the millions that crossed her table; and the biggest winners—who could also be the worst losers.

By Molly Bloom

Excerpt:

Ace in the Hole

We were at another insane game, and I was watching Guy persuade another player to fold a winning hand. Guy was a huge gambler, aggressive and ruthless at the table. He ran a circus-themed live-performance company that made a billion dollars a year.

Tobey was losing, so he was back to disapproving of me, my tips, and the game in general. Now he was in for $250,000, down to his last $50,000, and trying to dig his way out. Jamie was once again playing like it was his last day on earth, and Tobey knew his best shot at getting out of the hole was Jamie. Pale and thin, Jamie had won $12 million in the World Series of Poker Main Event, the largest sum in the history of the tournament. Usually, I wouldn’t have considered allowing a World Series champion into the game, but Jamie was no pro; he had simply been running hot and playing fearlessly.

Jamie and Tobey were all in, and I wasn’t sure which one I was rooting for. Jamie had almost lost his bankroll, and once he did, I wouldn’t be able to let him play anymore. I liked Jamie—he was kind and generous. Tobey was the worst tipper, the best player, and the absolute worst loser, but I had to worry about my job security if he lost. I held my breath and watched Diego turn over the cards. Tobey won.

Predictably, Tobey stood up immediately after the hand that made him whole. “Well, that’s it for me.” He came over to me and set his stacks on my clipboard.

“Whew, you’re lucky I won that hand,” he said, crinkling his eyes and using his usual half-kidding/half-serious/you-guess-which tone.

I nodded.

“You have to cut Jamie off, you know.”

“I know,” I said, counting Tobey’s chips.

He held a thousand-dollar chip in his hand. He flipped it over a couple times in his fingers.

“This is yours,” he said, holding it out.

“Thanks, Tobey,” I said, reaching my hand out.

He yanked the chip back at the last second.

“If . . . ” he said. “If you do something to earn these thousand dollars.” His voice was loud enough that some of the guys looked up to see what was happening.

I laughed, trying not to show my nerves.

“What do I want you to do?” he said, as if he were pondering.

The whole table was watching us now.

“I know!” he said. “Get up on that desk and bark like a seal.”

I looked at him. His face was lit up like it was Christmas Eve.

“Bark like a seal who wants a fish,” he said.

I laughed again, stalling, hoping he would play the joke out by himself and leave.

“I’m not kidding. What’s wrong? You’re too rich now? You won’t bark for a thousand dollars? Wowwww . . . you must be really rich.”

My face was burning. The room was silent.

“C’mon,” he said, holding the chip above my head. “BARK.”

“No,” I said quietly.

“No?” he asked.

“Tobey,” I said, “I’m not going to bark like a seal. Keep your chip.”

My face was on fire. I knew he would be angry, especially because he had now engaged the whole audience, and I wasn’t playing his game. I was embarrassed, but I was also angry. After all I had done to accommodate this guy, I was also shocked. I had made sure I ran every detail of every game by him, changed the stakes for him, structured tournaments around him, memorized every ingredient in every vegan dish in town for him. He had won millions and millions of dollars at my table, and I had catered to his every need along the way—and now he seemed to want to humiliate me.

He kept pushing it, his voice growing louder and louder. The other guys were starting to look uncomfortable.

“No,” I said, again, willing him to drop it.

He gave me an icy look, dropped the chip on the table, and tried to laugh it off, but he was visibly angry.

When he left, the room was buzzing.

“What was that?”

“So weird.”

“Glad you didn’t do it, Molly.”

Read this full article at: www.VanityFair.com

High Stakes Heroes : Poker Player Magazine

Love him or hate him, there was no ignoring 2006 WSOP Main Event champ Jamie Gold when he appeared on High Stakes Poker....

High Stakes Poker was enthralling television because you got to see the biggest pros in the world not only go up against each other, but also against rich businessmen, for enormous sums of money. Coming off a $12 million win in the WSOP Main Event in 2006, many poker commentators were unsure which category to place the TV agent Jamie Gold in when he first appeared on High Stakes Poker in 2007’s season three.

After a dazzling debut filled with plenty of table talk, $750k suckouts and a bold attempt to become the ‘world’s best bluffer’, one thing was for sure; Gold was compelling television.

After eventually breaking even over the course of his three High Stakes Poker appearances – helped in no small part by Sammy Farha’s charity (see boxout) – Gold disappeared from view in the poker world. Besides an appearance on 2010’s NBC National Heads-up Championship and a few small cashes in Vegas, Gold kept a low profile in the poker world. PokerPlayer managed to track down the former world champion to find out what he’s been up to, why he’s sailing the coast of Florida and his memories of those classic moments from High Stakes Poker...

PokerPlayer: Did you feel a responsibility to play on High Stakes Poker after winning the WSOP Main Event to ‘prove’ yourself? A lot of people said you only won the Main Event because you ran good.

Jamie Gold: I was just excited to play on the show that I had watched and loved for years. The opportunity to play with some of the best players above my level, that I looked up to was wonderful. I lost $60k the first season, won $440k the next season and on my final day I lost $400k. Breaking even overall after that experience was most fortunate. We were paid a minor fee to appear too.

You seemed to relish being on the big stage and getting TV time while you played the WSOP Main Event. Was that another reason why you were so keen to play on High Stakes Poker?
Having worked in the television and film business I realised what they needed to make the show most interesting, and my style of play was sometimes animated at the time.

Were you happy with how the TV shows portrayed you? Or do you regret any of your actions?
I do regret a few of the moments for sure. I have also learned a lot since that time. It’s also much different than what was seen [on TV] – if you saw the ten hours between WSOP clips then the perception of it would be a lot different. We played thousands of unseen hands, but the few you do see tell a story without the before and after. [That makes them] totally out of context so
you must consider that when assuming ideas about a person. I’m not arrogant. [But] I’ve had moments yes, and they were on film, so I can understand why some may feel that way.

HAND 1: ‘FEELS LIKE ACES’
JAMIE GOLD VS PATRIK ANTONIUS,
HIGH STAKES POKER SEASON FOUR POT SIZE: $743,800

Despite winning $12m at the WSOP, were the stakes in the cash game quite daunting for you?

Not really, I had been playing in high-stakes cash games at my local casinos in California just before I won the Main Event.

Were you familiar with any of the players beforehand?

Yes, many of the players were regulars in the casinos in California where I was living and playing for about eight years before I took my shot at the Main Event. From 1998-2006 I played a minimum of five nights a week. Johnny Chan was my inspiration and convinced me that I had a legitimate shot of winning it in 2006.

How did the players react to you when you walked on the set of High Stakes Poker for the first time?

It was a bit intimidating to walk onto the set, and I knew I was the outsider. They were all very nice to me and I had a great time playing.

Were you playing for 100% of your own action on High Stakes Poker or had you sold any to friends?

In every episode I played on High Stakes Poker it was 100% of my own money.

Did you go in expecting to be able to compete with the other pros and how do you feel like you played?

I knew that all of the players were more experienced than I was and it was absolutely about the experience for me. I was glad to have broken even over the seasons that I played because there were times when I played poorly, however I was also proud of the moments when I played my best. Overall, I was very fortunate to come out even. I knew that I was not a favourite in the game, but there were certainly moments against some of the players where I was confident I was.

You quickly became famous for talking a lot at the table. Why did you continue to do this against such top pros and do you think it was a help or hindrance to your play?
I think it worked both ways for me, at times it was a help and other times it was a hindrance. However, I knew that if it was a quiet table and set, the show would have been extremely boring. For me [I talked a lot due to] a combination of making it an interesting show to watch, having fun, and learning from the best players in the world.

Which players did you particularly enjoy playing against or hanging out with?

Bob Safai, Nick Cassavetes, Phil Laak, Barry Greenstein, and Jennifer Harman were the players I enjoyed spending time with the most outside of the show.

Are you sad that you’re no longer a part of that high-stakes scene when players like Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu and a few others have gone on to even bigger success?
No, not at all! I am doing exactly what I want to be doing with my life. My life is not about trying to win as many tournaments or play in the biggest cash games that I can. I devote my time to various philanthropic causes, businesses, and poker. I try to combine the three whenever I can, but until I retire, I can’t imagine just playing poker and trying to win as many tournaments as possible every year. I don’t fault anyone that does, there is just so much more that I can do to help the world while I still have the time, energy, and resources to do so.

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Sail Away With Me

Jamie Gold was one of the most polarising figures at the height of poker’s popularity in the late 2000s. But he’s been absent from our TV screens – and the circuit – for years. So what is the self-proclaimed ‘best bluffer in poker’ up to now?

Thanks to a deal with Island Breeze, Gold is sailing around the Florida coastline as host of the Jamie Gold Poker Room. Island Breeze is a full Las Vegas-style casino – the only difference being it’s on the water. How did Gold end up swimming so close to the fishes?

JAMIE GOLD:
My business manager brought the deal to me – he also represents a ton of celebrity investors including Rob Lowe and Eddie Griffin. It was the right situation for me as I fully trust and believe in the founders who are running the day-to-day operations – there are many planned casino ships worldwide, but this is the first.

We sail seven days a week and are the only poker room in Florida that can offer free drinks to players!
It seems that most people I meet at the poker tables [on Island Breeze] still remember watching the 2006 WSOP and recognise me from that. I’m honoured to have been in such a fortunate situation with luck on my side – and that so many players are still interested in playing with me certainly helps build our poker room and casino.

[My Main Event win] is very important to me and I know how lucky I am to be one of the few to ever hold the title. It was my goal to win the Main Event and afterwards to give back as much as I possibly could to help my family, friends, and the world through philanthropy which if I hadn’t won such an event I would not have had the same opportunities to give back.
You can find out more about Jamie Gold’s latest venture at www.ibreezecasino.com.

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