The 2006 World Series of Poker was memorable for a lot of reasons. For one, it was the biggest Main Event ever held with over 8,000 players getting in on the action before the Unlawful Internet Enforcement Act, passed later that year, put the brakes on the poker party. It was also the last year where online poker sites were allowed to satellite players directly into the Main Event so the Rio was a zoo as everyone tried to cash in on the poker craze. In other words, it was a high point for poker that some maintain we’ll never see again. Despite all the exposure at the 2006 WSOP there are a number of stories from that year that people tend to forget. Fortunately it was one of the first years that PokerListings covered the WSOP in full force so we still have a few tidbits to share. The following is a look at 17 underreported stories from the 2006 WSOP:
Full Tilt Poker Offered a $10m Bonus in Main Event
In the salad days of 2006, when online poker sites were still in the process of establishing brands, everyone was desperate to have a World Champion on its roster.
PokerStars had just completed a hat trick of signing Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem in successive years.
Full Tilt, who already had a roster of champions, offered $10 million EXTRA to any player who qualified for the Main Event on FTP and then won the Main Event.
The promotion had some restrictions (it was paid out $1 million per year for 10 years) but if an FTP player won that essentially would have meant a $22 million payday.
According to Mike “The Mouth” Matusow that bonus $10 million deal also extended to team pro Allen Cunningham who made the final table and was considered by many to have the best shot at taking down a rampaging Jamie Gold.
It didn’t work out, as Cunningham finished fourth for $3.6 million, but he did end up becoming a full-fledged member of Team Full Tilt just a few months later.
There Were Honest-to-God Actual Pillow Fights
The 2006 WSOP was a bit of a zoo with every online poker site trying to get as many new players as they could.
How did they do it? Well there was so much free swag given away it was hard not to get hit by an Absolute Poker baseball as you were walking down the halls of the Rio.
Most of the online sites also had special lounges where players could walk in, get a free drink, sign up for an account and maybe even get some of their WSOP buy-in paid for.
Perhaps the pièce de résistance, however, was the Bodog pillow fighting arena. Basically any prospective players (or anyone really) could get a photo of themselves getting beamed by a lingerie-clad model wielding a pillow.
You stay classy, 2006 WSOP!
Jamie Gold’s Win Was Even More Complicated Than You’d Think
Jamie Gold is the biggest winner in the history of the Main Event but he’s also one of the most complicated, controversial and downright frustrating.
Here’s how things looked initially:
Gold, a Hollywood agent, outlasted 8,773 players using an antagonistic style that led some to call him an angle shooter. He won $12 million and that was that.
It turned out Gold had promised half his winnings to Crispin Leyser and, after lawyers got involved, he finally settled with Leyser six months after winning the Main Event.
You could write a book about Jamie Gold so here are the other various oddities about his famous run:
- Gold had a bodyguard with him at all times from the middle stages of the tournament.
- He’s good friends with Johnny Chan and Chan actually railed him at the final table.
- Gold later said Daniel Negreanu was the only player that concerned him at the table during the tournament.
- He was eating blueberries during the hand he won the Main Event.
- Gold was allegedly very difficult to deal with according to his Bodog handlers at the time.
- Before the final table began Gold oddly mused about taking second so he could avoid the fame that came with first place.
- Years later Molly Bloom alleged in her memoir that Jamie Gold nearly lost his entire bankroll from the WSOP in her Hollywood game.
Brandon Cantu Got a Sponsorship Deal for Winning One Tournament
Prior to the 2006 WSOP Brandon Cantu had zero recorded poker winnings.
After winning the 2006 $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event he had $757,839 in winnings and a pro deal with Absolute Poker.
Those were the days.
Cantu would go on to have a successful poker career earning over $4.2 million while wearing Full Tilt, PokerStars and UB patches at certain points in his career but it’s unlikely he would have gotten the same deal had he broken into the industry now.
Media Entities Wage War
CardPlayer had exclusive live coverage rights in 2006 but the WSOP was still in the process of deciding what exactly that entailed for the poker media.
Thanks to poker's rapid growth in the mid-2000s the 2006 WSOP attracted more media than Harrah's knew what to do with and it was common to see reporters overflowing outside the media room to work from the various benches in the hallway of the Rio.
There was frequent blowback from CardPlayer staff who were trying to protect their exclusivity while other media sources were trying to figure out exactly what kind of content was allowed at the WSOP.
Eventually the WSOP settled on a system that allowed other media outlets the chance to do one update per hour, to help protect the rights holders. PokerNews snagged the exclusive live updating rights in 2007 and maintained exclusivity until 2015, when the WSOP decided to go in house with live reporting.
The current set up is light years more intuitive than it's ever been and shows just how media savvy the WSOP has become compared to 2006.
PokerStars Spent $730,000 on Player Bags
We told you there was a lot of swag.
According to marketer Dan Goldman, one of the first PokerStars hires, the company spent over $730,000 on players’ bags alone. Each bag included a PokerStars-branded hockey jersey, baseball and plethora of clothing. The total cost for PokerStars on each bag? $450.
Branding was king as every site tried to get their logo on absolutely everything at the WSOP.
Online Poker Sites Represented 40% of Main Event Prize Pool
There were no restrictions on qualifying players for the Main Event in 2006 and online poker in general was unregulated and open to everyone around the globe.
Just how big an impact did online sites have on the Main Event? Here are some rough numbers, also from the Dan Goldman blog:
“The 2006 WSOP was the year of the most conspicuous marketing excess in online poker. Every online site had a huge presence during the Main Event. PokerStars had a monstrously large presence with 1,624 players, but we were far from alone - collectively, PokerStars, PartyPoker, UltimateBet and Full Tilt Poker were responsible for over 40% of the prize pool that year - a staggering $32 million.”
Bridal Pamela Anderson Showed Up
This was one of those stories that seems too weird to be true now but actually happened.
Pamela Anderson made an appearance at the 2006 WSOP wearing white, a diamond-studded veil and holding a bouquet of roses.
Anderson was actually there to promote PamelaPoker.com, which was an affiliate of DoylesRoom.com.
The reason for her clothing? She had just gotten remarried to Kid Rock and was doing a series of three weddings in Las Vegas. Sadly Kid Rock never showed up at the WSOP.
Anderson’s site closed down later that year after UIGEA passed.
Clonie Gowen Had a Maxim Party
Just how high profile was poker in 2006?
Team Full Tilt Poker Pro Clonie Gowen was featured in Maxim magazine and had a party in the Full Tilt Poker lounge to celebrate.
The party included a very chill Norm Macdonald as well as FTP fixtures like Erick Lindgren and Mike Matusow. Of course it was still a poker party so things didn’t get too crazy.
Don’t believe us? Check out this old school video that Joe Stapleton did for CardPlayer:
Dimitri Nobles Sucked Out So Bad on George Danzer it Took Years to Recover
George Danzer had an incredible WSOP last year with three separate bracelet victories and Player of the Year honors. The thing is, Danzer was well on his way to being a star in 2006 with a very deep run in the Main Event.
Instead he ran into one-hit wonder Dimitri Nobles in a catastrophic hand:
Danzer would later admit that one hand set his career back a couple years but eventually he returned better than ever.
Yes, Jamie Gold Really Was That Dominant
Every poker player can go on the occasional heater but Jamie Gold’s run in 2006 was on a different level.
From Day 4 onwards he was the overwhelming chip leader and just moving his chip stack to a different table became a difficult task.
It helped that Gold loved to bluff but at the same time had a habit of hitting the stone-cold nuts over and over again.
It also helped that every single pro in the tournament was just itching to bust Gold and subsequently made some less-than-optimal plays.
Here are Gold’s chip counts from the 2006 WSOP Main Event:
- Day 1: 17th - Jamie Gold, 100,125 Chips
- Day 2: 95th - Jamie Gold, 155,400 Chips
- Day 3: 33rd - Jamie Gold, 387,000 Chips
- Day 4: 1st - Jamie Gold, 3,700,000 Chips
- Day 5: 1st - Jamie Gold, 7,330,000 Chips
- Day 6: 1st - Jamie Gold, 13,000,000 Chips
- Day 7: 1st - Jamie Gold, 25,650,000 Chips
- Day 8: 1st - Jamie Gold, 90,200,000 Chips (Winner)
There Were Bracelet Events Held AFTER the Main Event
Yes, you could win a WSOP bracelet as a consolation prize for busting the Main Event. Yes, it was weird.
No, they never did it again. On the other hand, this guy won a bracelet so it wasn't all bad.
2006 WSOP HORSE Event Featured Best Final Table Ever
The 2006 WSOP $50,000 HORSE tournament was already a very special event.
It was the biggest buy-in WSOP tournament ever held at the time (safe to say One Drop has changed that) but it also had the legendary Chip Reese deservedly taking the first-place prize.
Regardless of all that people tend to forget just how stacked the final table was. It had a little bit of everything with new school, old school and Jim Bechtel. In fact it remains arguably the best final table ever in terms of sheer star power.
Here’s a look at the table:
- Chip Reese
- Phil Ivey
- Andy Bloch
- Doyle Brunson
- Patrik Antonius
- Dewey Tomko
- TJ Cloutier
- David Singer
- Jim Bechtel
Celebs Tobey Maguire, Charles Barkley and Laura Prepon Played
There was a ton of money floating around the 2006 WSOP and celebrities were much more inclined to play.
While Ray Romano and Brad Garrett remain fixtures at the tournament, in 2006 it also attracted Hank Azaria, Charles Barkley, Dean Cain, James Garner, Joanna Krupa, Lennox Lewis, Tobey Maguire, Mekhi Phifer and Laura Prepon.
In fact recruiting celebrities to play for various poker sites was so lucrative that producer Crispin Leyser was allegedly offered a Main Event seat if he convinced Matthew McConaughey and Matthew Perry to play for Bodog.
Leyser ultimately failed to get McConaughey or Perry but he did deliver Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepard, which apparently helped him get a piece of Jamie Gold’s action in the tournament.
Perhaps the funniest celeb story from 2006, however, was Tobey Maguire refusing to have his photo taken IN THE BIGGEST TELEVISED TOURNAMENT IN THE WORLD.
It didn't really work out as poker reporters happily screwed on their telephoto lenses and sniped from afar.
Negreanu Buys into Rebuy Event 48 Times, Doesn’t Cash
Rebuy tournaments were dumped from the WSOP schedule in 2009 thanks in part to pros like Daniel Negreanu who had no problem firing multiple bullets for a better chance at a bracelet.
It was in 2006, however, that Negreanu hit his peak with a staggering 48 (!) entries in the $1k rebuy tournament. That mean Negreanu spent $48,000 on buy-ins in a $1,000 tournament.
The funny part? He didn’t even cash.
It was actually Phil Hellmuth who went on to win it for $631,863 and his 10th bracelet. Negreanu would have had to make the final table just to break even.
Surprisingly Negreanu was fine with the WSOP getting rid of rebuy events and later told PokerListings there was an "inherent advantage" for pros with deep pockets.
Regardless it probably saved Negreanu a LOT of money.
Phil Hellmuth Quoted Robert Frost After Winning His 10th Bracelet
Everyone knows Phil Hellmuth won his 10th WSOP bracelet in 2006 but did you know he quoted Robert Frost shortly after winning?
This is a real transcript of an interview PokerListings did with Phil Hellmuth after the tournament.
Interviewer: You were calm and composed for this entire final table. When were you sure that the bracelet would be yours?
Phil Hellmuth: I didn't know the thing would be mine until that final six fell on that final hand. Juha played some incredible poker tonight. So did Daryn. Coming into the table today, I was very sure of myself, but I never let it get the better of me. I knew that I had miles to go before I sleep. — That’s a little Robert Frost.
Interviewer: I know.
Surviving Bubble in the Main Event Only Awarded $616
The payouts in the Main Event were flat in 2006. Extremely flat.
The first player to bust in the money in 2006 - one Ryan Badii - got $10,616 for his efforts. So that’s only $616 after his initial investment of $10,000. That remained the same for the first 11 players in the money. Then there was a substantial jump to $14,497.
It was unfortunate for the first players who busted because it was one of the longest play downs to the money ever.