It might have one of the best displays of big-stack poker ever seen, but as is customary these days, the skill of the poker World Champion is being questioned. Is he really that good? How lucky can a guy get? And I guess that if you asked a 100 people if Jamie Gold is the best poker player in the world, at least 99 would say no. But in my mind there is no doubt that Gold is a great poker player, well worthy of the $12 million and the World Championship title, and I've compiled some statistics to prove it.
Chip counts from the 2006 WSOP Main Event:
Day 1: 17th - Jamie Gold, $100,125
Day 2: 95th - Jamie Gold, $155,400
Day 3: 33rd - Jamie Gold, $387,000
Day 4: 1st - Jamie Gold, $3,700,000
Day 5: 1st - Jamie Gold, $7,330,000
Day 6: 1st - Jamie Gold, $13,000,000
Day 7: 1st - Jamie Gold, $25,650,000
Day 8: 1st - Jamie Gold, every single chip
Gold was never out of the Top 100 (of 8,773 players). From Day 2 and on, he practically doubled his stack every day; from Day 4 until the end he was the uncontested chip leader in the Main Event.
In addition to this, Gold was in complete control of the final table all the way and never allowed anyone to come close to him. The 37-year-old from Malibu, Calif., knocked out seven of his last eight opponents including Snow White (Allen Cunningham, the idealistic poker pro defending the honor of the game). There was some speculation that Gold's luck was running out when Paul Wasicka doubled up thanks to a miracle ten on the turn, but he just kept playing his game, and never looked back. When the final hand had been played, Gold had this to say about his amazing achievement:
"A few of my friends said "C'mon, there's no way you can lose this". I just didn't want to listen to that, I didn't think about it. All I thought about were the players I was playing with at each table, I never thought about the tournament. Everyday I would think about my table, and I crushed every table I played at except for one that I was on with Danny Negreanu, I could not beat him. He was amazing - I could not beat him."
Jamie Gold may never win anything again, but these weeks at the Rio casino in Las Vegas he was undoubtedly the best poker player in the world. Let's just hope that the success doesn't rise to his head. We don't want to see him producing, and starring in, the story about himself.
Gold is the Champ, but there have been lots of other fantastic stories at the 2006 World Series of Poker. These are a few of my own personal favorites:
Jeff Madsen - Of course this kid is hard to overlook. First, he became the youngest ever player to win a WSOP bracelet, and a couple of days later he won another one. And he reached two more final tables. We're just getting to know him, but Jeff Madsen is going to be around for a long time.
Phil Hellmuth - "The Poker Brat" played and played, and then he played some more, and finally he got his 10th golden bracelet to equal Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan's record. But that wasn't enough - Hellmuth kept playing and in the final tournament of the 2006 World Series of Poker, he reached the final table. However, he couldn't handle the unpredictable play of Maureen Feduniak, and was knocked out in third place.
Chip Reese - Besides the Main Event, the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament was the most talked about this year. And we got what everyone wanted - a star studded final table including Phil Ivey and Doyle Brunson. But it was Chip Reese who prevailed in this marathon test and a lot of people actually think that he is the true world champion of poker.
In general, the seven weeks of the 2006 World Series of Poker was packed with great poker action. I'm already looking forward to next year.