It seems as if Jamie Gold has had a target on his back over the last year. He was the winner of the largest World Series of Poker Main Event in history, when he topped a field of 8,773 players in 2006 for a $12 million top prize. That event created a prize pool of $82.5 million, but series officials have been working over the last couple years to topple that record. That finally happened this year with over $90 million already in the prize pool and entries possibly topping 10,000.
While he may no longer have the distinction of winning the largest event in WSOP history, Gold takes the news in stride. He’s happy to see how far the series has come and the boom that poker is again seeing massive numbers. The re-emergence also comes after battling some health issues, but Gold seems to have put most of those behind him.
“We're going to break the record this year and so there’s some excitement with that, and I have a shot to run deep in the Main Event,” he says. “I'm just so happy to be back. I haven't played live poker in four years because I was in the hospital on and off for two years from really serious COVID. I stopped breathing twice, they thought I died twice. I just can't believe I'm healthy and focused again, so I'm just lucky to be here.”
Gold ultimately finished 1082nd for a cash of $17,500, a nice way to get back in the Main Event action. He spoke with PokerGO last week about getting back to the tables, his work in the movie industry, and more.
The effort to pass Gold’s record has been fun for the part-time poker player. Throughout June, he was part of a WSOP.com online poker contest. Anyone playing an online bracelet event on Sundays and outlasted him could earn an entry into a $50,000 freeroll as part of the “Go for Gold” promotion.
That event took place earlier this week with Jay Farber, who finished runner-up in the 2013 Main Event for $5.2 million, winning for a top prize of $25,000. Gold finished runner-up for $15,000. He’s happy to be back involved with the WSOP and has had fun representing the brand and the series.
“The World Series of Poker wanted to do these kinds of initiatives with me and to make the most of this year for breaking the record,” he says. “They've been so good to me. They've worked so hard to put this on for us, the players, to just come in and have a good time. These tournaments are breaking records every week and poker is experiencing a new boom. It's great.”
Many may remember Gold’s Main Event performance, all played out on the ESPN cameras. He brought a bit of bravado to the tournament and his table talk certainly made for some interesting moments. A Hollywood agent at the time, Gold is still heavily involved in the entertainment industry as a producer.
“I've kept my hands in different aspects of the entertainment business, mainly behind the scenes in production finance,” he says. “I help projects get financed and help them package if they need A-list actors to get a green light on their movie.”
A few of those were ready to get started, but the recent Hollywood writers’ strike has now put those on hold. Beyond Hollywood productions, Gold also invests in tech companies and serves as an adviser to a few others. He’s also representing BBO Poker Tables for a new line of tables, which will see half the profits given away to charity. Fly-Flat.com, specializing in long-haul, international, business and first-class tickets, has also served as a sponsor.
“I feel like it's just been an incredible summer,” he says, “and I am just so lucky to be here.”
New Film Project in the Works
One of Gold’s upcoming projects may even feature Gold on screen playing some poker. He’s involved with a film called Eldorado, a modern western written by director and producer Todd Robinson, known for films like The Last Full Measure (2019), White Squall (1996) and Lonely Hearts (2006). The new film has a few aspects close to his heart.
“There’s a great poker scene in it, which I’m going to be in,” he says. “(Todd) had asked me and I was really excited to do it. I've had a few opportunities to do movies and was never available. And so I felt like I really didn't want to miss this one. I was hoping it wouldn't be during the Main Event, which it's not and so I don't really have to make that choice. Of course I would have to play the Main Event and honor my deal here with the World Series of Poker.
“The film also has elements of the hero having ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), which is what my dad died from. This just happened to be the script that he had written. There was already a poker scene and we had never met until maybe three years ago when we started working on it. This incredible writer had written a script that had poker and ALS elements in it.”
The film may not feature cowboy hats and boots in most scenes, but is set in the American west and has that general kind of feel. This has certainly been a popular genre in recent years with several movies and TV shows like Yellowstone, Hell on Wheels, Longmire, and Outer Range finding success. HBO’s Deadwood even featured plenty of poker and gambling as part of the action, and the western is hot in Hollywood.
“This is kind of a western thriller in the vein of No Country for Old Men or Hell or High Water,” he says of Eldorado. “We’re making offers but now there's a strike. It makes it difficult.”
As with many projects in Hollywood, moving forward has many moving parts. Bringing in A-list actors is a big part of that. If the production can’t attract a recognizable star, Eldorado may not get produced. He’s hoping the high quality of the project will help overcome that obstacle however.
“The script is just so good and the material really drives most decisions from artists,” he says. “So we're very confident that we'll get a great cast.”
Seeing a project come to fruition is rewarding, but can be years in the making. It’s a complicated industry that can see the journey from a story idea to making it on screen take many twists and turns.
“Some projects take 10 years, some projects never see the light of day,” Gold says. “Some projects can get going within a year, which is really fast. Funding is now based on the elements, to the artists that agree to do it. We're funded pending the commitment from the actors. We will not just shoot it with unknown actors. It's too hard to sell these days.
“I love artists and I love the greatest actors, but I understand the business side of it. We're not going to put ourselves in a position to risk $10 million of someone's money without having actors that we know can at least sell the foreign rights to make up for a big part of the budget.”
Gold was hoping he could put together a great story of his own and show that lightning can indeed strike twice, but he was eliminated in 1,082nd place for $17,500 in prize money. His biggest score since March, 2016.