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Why Jamie Gold Is Good At Poker, No Really

I’m missing the World Series this year. As I type this it’s just starting – without me – which I’m not remotely bitter about. I’m not there due to a combination of work commitments which would mean I couldn’t be out for long and also a bit of WSOP fatigue having been so many years now. I had a great trip last year but perhaps enjoyed it a little less than previously and feel like a year off will make me super psyched for it next year.

If you listen carefully you can almost hear my rationalisation coming through the page. I swear it’ll be fine missing it. Won’t affect me at all when a string of people I like who are there message me and tell me how much fun they’re having. And I won’t budge an inch when I see results coming through and picture jumping on a plane and being there playing the events.

Okay fine… I’m bummed I’m missing it; happy now? In fact there’s still 4 weeks til the main event and I reserve the right to crumble like a cheap apple crumble and end up out there ponying up the 10k for my annual non-cash.

And so I got to thinking about the main event and asking the question whose performance has been the most impressive? Okay I got to thinking that in a round about process which started with me asking how can I write about Jamie Gold. Then I realised I could make a decent case that his is the most impressive performance of the last 20 years in the main event. Wish me luck….

I’m aware that not much is written about Jamie Gold these days and he may not be your favourite ice cream flavour. For the record I don’t know Jamie and I’m sure he’s a lovely fella but on screen, at the table, he immediately goes into that bit of your brain marked ‘people that would make me want to reach over the baise and slap them if I played them for more than 5 minutes’. The winner’s money dispute after his main event win buried him with most of the public that weren’t already fans after his win. But regardless of what you think about him – I’d argue he owns the best performance in modern WSOPs.

And I can back it up.

No really…watch this…

First of all let me be clear I don’t think Gold is a good poker player. By modern standards he hasn’t played many hands and I doubt he’s studied the game too much. He bluffs way too much and then bizarrely doesn’t balance it at all, hardly ever value betting. And to compound all this he talks incessantly during hands often giving away far more information than he ever gets.

None of this takes away from what he did in the 2006 world series main event. It is still the biggest prize won in the event and he did it in phenomenal style. Seizing the chip lead on day 4 he would never relinquish it ending his run in knocking out 7 or his 8 final table opponents.

Of course he ‘ran hot’ during this tournament – you don’t win a nearly 9000 runner tournament without running hot. However he gave a text book example of how to wield a big stack in a tournament using it to constantly pressure his opponents. To paraphrase his own words he was acutely aware of the money jumps and when they were coming and who at his tables the extra money meant a lot to. Throughout the entire event until it was his he never stopped putting pressure on players. We all know that’s what you’re supposed to do but its one thing to know that – it’s another thing to do it in the biggest event on the planet when you’re an amateur player.

The final problem people have with his play were his …let’s call them…extra-card-icular activities. Gold talked incessantly but went beyond that at times, even on the final table, showing cards and pushing the rules to breaking point and in at least couple of cases beyond. Now rule breaking is bad, if school taught us one thing (and let’s say it did despite the obvious counter evidence) it was that. But in general it’s hard for me to think badly of him for his shenanigans. Angle shooting has always been part of poker and I’m not part of the new bureaucratic breed that would have the game sanitised. If you can use table chat to get information or get under opponents skin within the rules then you should; and Jamie Gold did.

Having said that the fatal combination of relentless aggression and run good when it mattered were much bigger factors in his win than anything else.

The final plank of my case is that when you watch Jamie Gold in that event you’re watching one of the clearest examples ever seen of someone in ‘flow’. The perfect state sportsmen and all of us for that matter, can enter into when we’re totally in command of what we’re doing. He led the biggest main event ever for days and the result was never in doubt despite playing many players who were objectively ‘better’ than him at the game. If you had gone up to him during the event, and there are interviews with him, he would have had total confidence in the outcome. If you don’t consider this remarkable go back through the years and look at how many blow ups there are in the late stages of the WSOP – some from great players – either due to fatigue or to the stage being just too big. Gold played his best when the stakes were at their highest.

So how did I do?

You still hate him right?

Okay fine but before the whole ‘the main event winner is an ambassador of poker’ myth took hold it was about poker and Jamie Gold played an incredible tournament in 2006 and he deserves the credit for it.

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