|You would never guess
that history was made on this very spot. All
that remains now is hundreds of metres of
coiled wires and empty water bottles lying
strewn across the floor. But something
momentous did happen. At 4am on 11th August,
Jamie Gold, a 36 year old TV producer who
was given his seat by online poker site
Bodog was crowned 2006 World Series of Poker
Twenty-four hours earlier, Gold and his dozen-strong entourage had strolled down the wide corridors of the Rio towards the Amazon Room for the start of the final table. But the wide eyed confidence which Gold exhibited in front of the legion of fans and media that lined the walls didn't just stem from the bevy of newly acquired minders and bodyguards - it had been there all week.
From the first day he had been an endless source of table chatter, advising his opponents to bet or fold against him, bamboozling them by saying he was bluffing one hand, and hitting a set next. He had run over the rest of the field and was chip leader from day four. 'I'm pretty sure I'll take the final table unless something really odd happens,' Gold said on day four. In the end, he entered the final table with a chip lead of ten million. Who in their right mind would question him now?
At 2.10pm, after former Aerosmith guitarist Jimmy Crespo had played a bizarre rendition of the US National Anthem, an emotional Joe Hatchem kicked off with the words:' Shuffle up and deal.' Straight from the get-go, it was clear Gold was ready to swing his stack like a club if it meant keeping the other eight players away from his chips. Throughout the entire 236 hands that were played, folding or losing to Gold seemed to be the order of the day.
Even Team Full Tilt's Allen Cunningham - the only established pro left in the competition, and who had already picked up one bracelet this year - couldn't find an answer to Gold's momentum. Cunningham just couldn't catch a break - on one hand both he and Gold made trip 9s, but the latter ended up taking the pot with a higher kicker. In the end it came down to Cunningham's pocket 10s against Gold's K - J -but there was only ever going to be one winner. Cunningham was manifestly upset and stormed out of the Amazon Room, shunning the press conference.
Gold knocked out six of the final table players in total before ending up heads-up against the 25 year old pro Paul Wasicka from Colorado. By then he had over $78,975,000 of the total $90 million in play. The span of Gold's chips was now so large that - as the bird's eye camera showed - he was encroaching into the positions of the empty seats next to him.
It might have been 3am, but this was no time to catch some shut eye. A rough count put the crowd at about 500, but if you had closed your eyes, it could easily have been three times that. On one gantry, chants of: 'Gold, Gold, Gold!' rocked the room. On the other side, a swathe of Paul Wasicka's supporters were making themselves heard - even Gold's mentor Johnny Chan looked suitably moved. Somewhere in the middle fired-up Mike Matusow was - much to the dismay of tournament organisers - providing some light relief with a vocabulary that seemed to include only profanities.
The atmosphere was electric, yet was taken up a notch as the cascade of £12 million in replica $100 bills was dumped onto the table - at which point the crowd seemed to edge even closer, until almost within touching distance of the payers. 'Ace, Queen, Deuce', boomed the compere on the first hand. 'Gold bets $500,000, Wasicka folds!' Gold's supporters let out an almighty roar, and just twenty minutes later they were singing in the stands as Gold literally talked Wasicka into calling all his chips with a pair of 10s. Gold had paired his Queen on the board and it was all over. Gold was World Champion.
When people talk about the 2006 WSOP in years to come, they'll forget that a second prize pool of $82 million was generated by the 8,773 players that took part - these numbers will be smashed and re-smashed. Only one thing will remain: Jamie Gold ruled the main event at the WSOP World Series.
Student of the Game
Jamie Gold might now be the talk of the town, but before the main event got under way there was only one name on everybody's lips: Jeff Madsen. The 21 year old student from Santa Barbara first made waves when he reached the final table of his first World Series event, the $2,000 limit Omaha hi/lo event. Then, just 11 days later, he forced his way through an exacting field of 1,578 to win the $2,000 no-limit hold'em event.
Not only did he have over £750,000 in prize money in his pocket, but he was now the youngest ever winner of a WSOP bracelet. His story was all the more remarkable, because he had raised the money for his WSOP buy-ins by persuading his parents to let him tap into his $6,000 college fund and to loan him $3,500, which he insisted he would pay back.
But the level headed Madsen was not done yet. The next event he bought into was the $5,000 short-handed no-limit hold'em, and incredibly he found himself heads-up once more and looking for his second bracelet in his first ever World Series. He was up against on line master Erick 'E-dog' Lindgren, who had twice as many chips. But after little over an hour of aggressive poker, Madsen had reversed the situation. A further 45 minutes of tense play later and the bracelet was his.
If there were still people doubting the young man's prowess, they'd changed their tune after the very next event - seven-card stud. Another final table, another third place finish, another $66,000, taking his total Series tally to $1,467,852. The World Series of Poker 2006 had witnessed the birth of a new star.
Old Dog, New Tricks
If Jeff Madsen had flown the flag for the youth of poker, then there was one man who showed that the veterans of the game weren't yet ready to step aside. In 12 years of playing, William Chen's best live result had been winning a $1,000 no-limit hold'em event in 2000, where he picked up $41,600. He had also come first 26 times in the weekly tournament at his local card room in California. Chen, a software designer with a PhD. in mathematics from the University of California, may not have been a spectacular player, but he was certainly consistent. Straight from the start of the WSOP, it was clear Chen had found a new gear to his game. He made it deep into the money in his first four events, and was brimming with confidence. Chen's strategy revolves around the maths of the game, and playing the numbers was key to excelling in the next event - the $3,000 limit hold'em. After tree days play, Chen held up his bracelet triumphantly. His new best result was now worth $343,618.
Just 11 days later, Chen demonstrated some superb controlled aggression to earn a place in the last six of the $2,500 short-handed no-limit hold'em event. The crowds were now eagerly anticipating a rare double-bracelet tally, and Chen didn't disappoint.
If ever there was an unlikely success story to come out of the World Series, then it was Chen's. Not only did he win an incredible two bracelets, but he also cashed-in a record eight times. In any other year he would have been the player of the tournament - but this was no ordinary year at the World Series of Poker!