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Jamie Gold Wins the 2006 WSOP Main Event

11 August 2006

Picking a reason why he was able to win the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event was difficult for 37-year old Jamie Gold.

He did it to make his dying father proud. He did it for the dozens of family and friends who made the trip from California to chant his name. He did it for Johnny Chan, the mentor who believed his pupil could win.

But when it came down to choosing the ultimate reason, Gold told ESPN reporter Norman Chad, "It was the blueberries."

A bowl of blueberries sat beside Gold for the entire tournament. Because he has a fickle stomach, Gold wanted to keep his routine and diet for the more than 80-hours of poker he played to win $12 million and the Main Event Championship Bracelet. Of course he ate other things, but when he needed it, his family brought him loads of his favorite fruit for health and luck.

Regardless of the reason why, Gold led the largest Main Event in WSOP history from Day Three on, never surrendering the chip lead once. At the final table, Gold eliminated seven of his eight opponents. It was so lopsided, Gold went into the heads up portion with a 7-1 chip lead, the largest lead in the WSOP's 37-year history.

His performance was surprising, especially considering he was on the record as saying he really didn't want to win. Earlier this week, Gold told ESPN "Give me the money and give Allen (Cunningham) the bracelet." The money was important to him because he wanted to provide his father with the means to fight his affliction (ALS); however, once the final table began, Gold said he changed his mind about the bracelet.

"At one point it just hit me," Gold said. "I realized, the accomplishment meant a lot to me and from that point on, I knew I had to win it."

Gold came to the final table with a huge chip lead. Cunningham, who was everyone's pick to win the tournament, was a distant, but not insurmountable second. In third was Richard Lee, the Texas unknown who Gold feared the most as the table played out.

On his way to the title, Gold won key pots against each of these competitors, adding chips to his massive stack and using that weapon to kill his short-stacked opponents. He played the large stack perfectly, never putting himself in a position of risk. After the tournament, Gold reminded the crowd that after Day 2, he never had to put his whole tournament on the line.

Early on at the final table, Gold won a massive pot against Cunningham when both players flopped trip Nines. Cunningham, who believed he had the best hand, made value bets on the turn and river, effectively betting for Gold and handing him the table's first important pot.

Lee's demise was a pre-flop trap set by Gold. Lee raised the chip leader's small blind and Gold quickly re-raised the Texan. Thinking the aggressive Gold was trying to steal, Lee went all-in. It took less than a second for Gold to call.

Both men showed their hands and Gold was a huge favorite with pocket Queens versus pocket Jacks. His advantage held and Gold was able to eliminate the second biggest stack at the table's halfway mark.

"I trapped him on that hand," Gold said after the tournament. "I tried to make my re-raise look like a play a made earlier on and it worked. I knew I had him beat. When he went all-in, I knew I had him. That was the way I needed to beat him. I knew early on he was going to be trouble so I had to find a way to get his chips."

Gold also had a plan for Cunningham. Admittedly an inferior player to the four-time gold bracelet winner and arguably the best player in the world, Gold felt he needed to get Cunningham to commit to a pre-flop coin toss to have a chance to beat him.

Gold got his wish when a short-stacked Cunningham went all-in with pocket Tens. Gold called with K-J suited, hit his King on the Flop and celebrated with his smiling mentor. Cunningham, who never really recovered from his loss with the trip Nines, left the Rio without speaking to the media.

Even though Cunningham was his preordained nemesis and Lee was his toughest opponent during final table play, Gold said the only player he couldn't get a read on was the young professional Paul Wasicka.

Wasicka is definetly a player on the rise. He already cashed twice in the 2006 WSOP, just missing the final table in both of those events. He played well at the final table, surviving a couple of all-in moves and eventually maneuvering himself into a disadvantaged, but still respectable second place.

On the final hand, Gold called Wasicka's pre-flop raise and hit top-pair when the flop produced a Queen. Wasicka bet and Gold quickly moved all-in, standing up and basically begging his opponent to call.

After the match, Chan told reporters that he knew his protégé had the pair, in fact, everyone in the media room agreed that Gold had hit the flop.

Wasicka wasn't so sure. He debated for what seemed like an eternity, finally calling and reluctantly showing his pocket Tens. As soon as he called, Gold started celebrating, barely able to flip up his Q-9. Wasicka's hand did not improve and Gold became the newest poker World Champion.

Wasicka didn't leave empty-handed. His second place finish earned him $6.1 million, the third largest pay-out in tournament poker history.

"He is such a great player and so difficult to read," Gold said. "I was trying to talk him into calling because I felt like that was my best shot at beating him."

The anticlimactic finish to the largest tournament in poker history left most of the gathered fans speechless. Gold's supporters had something to chant about, but many paused for a moment to take in the scene. A record field of 8,873 players entered the Main Event and only one was left.

Even Gold seemed stunned, pacing around the table, playing with the bundles of money and struggling to put the Champion's bracelet on his wrist. It was too big, which was fitting considering he couldn't come up with the words to encapsulate this huge moment.

After the cheering stopped and Gold finished hugging all of his supporters, he sat down at the final table and pulled out his cell phone. He made the call that mattered most, leaving a message for his sleeping father that concluded with "I love you dad."

"This is nice," Gold said, motioning towards the $12 million dollars resting on the table. "But my family is so much more important."

Gold joked about how blueberries are brain food and that his favorite fruit was the real reason why he'd won; but in the end, the reason Gold wanted to win was apparent to all the people left in the Amazon Room at 4 a.m. PST.

He wanted to make his father proud.

Mucking McLane
Jamie Gold Wins the 2006 WSOP Main Event is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
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Best of Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane

Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.
Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.