Top 5 least popular WSOP Main Event winners

Jamie Gold
Jamie Gold was the biggest, but is he the least popular?

The World Series of Poker has had some exceptional Main Event winners, but it's the unpopular ones that tend to generate the most discussion.

Most people would cite Michael Binger, Paul Wasicka and Full Tilt Pro Allen Cunningham all gunning for title.

Instead it was monster chip leader and former Hollywood agent Jamie Gold who took home championship honors and the whopping $12 million that came along with it.

Gold wasn't exactly known as the most honorable player during the tournament as many accused him of angle-shooting and taunting other players. But it was what happened less than a month later that seriously damaged his reputation and his bankroll.

In mid-August, Crispin Leyser, who had allegedly partnered with Gold for half the winnings, sued Gold for not paying up.

Gold eventually settled out of court with Leyser, but the damage to his reputation was already done.

There are a lot of shady moves in the poker world, but the cardinal sin in many players' eyes is welching on a debt.

To make matters worse, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement act was passed in the fall of 2006 and the start of Gold's reign as champion seemed to usher in a dark time for poker.

He wasn't exactly the type of character poker players wanted on late night TV and ESPN promoting the game. Gold was almost universally trashed in the poker world with people calling him a "donk," a "chump" and worse.

In September, an article written by Stanley R. Sludikoff seemed to encompass what most poker players were feeling at the time.

"Now we have a new champion, Jamie Gold, who is leaving a bad taste in our collective mouths, by showing us a side of his character that appears to be despicable," wrote Sludikoff.

It didn't help Gold's case that he came directly after Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem, considered by most industry insiders to be huge advocates for the game.

Gold won the biggest tournament in poker history and yet most people in the poker industry seem to prefer to forget about him completely, speaking volumes about his marketability.

Russ Hamilton
The overwhelming worst WSOP winner.

1. Russ Hamilton (1994)

So you've heard it all. Some of the worst WSOP champions in history. In all their boring, controversial and distasteful glory.

But there's one name that rises above the rest.

Only one of those Main Event winners would go on to help run one of the most popular poker rooms on the Internet and allegedly cheat players out of their money.

Russ Hamilton won the 1994 WSOP Main Event and the $1 million that came with the title. Strangely, Hamilton also won his body weight in silver thanks to a promotion run by the World Series.

At the time, many considered Hamilton a great champion as he was a popular Las Vegas insider with plenty of poker experience.

Everything changed in the fall of 2008 when the Kahnawake Gaming Commission claimed it had found evidence that Hamilton was the main person behind the multiple cheating incidents that had occurred at Ultimate Bet.

The reaction from the poker world was both predictable and passionate.

"I gotta think that Russ Hamilton is clearly the worst for poker," said Dan Michalski, founder of the popular blog.

"Who would have thought when he won in 1994 and received a hefty overlay in silver - a celebration of his gluttony - that he would later become the poster boy for just how bad poker can be sometimes."

Hamilton was slagged by almost every media source in the poker world and some players were even less kind.

2006 WSOP Player of the Year Tom Schneider was particularly incensed by Hamilton's bad behavior.

"He has done more to hurt poker than the next 100 worst [players] combined," said Schneider.

"He has tainted poker nearly beyond repair and has ruined and hurt more poker player's lives than anybody else."

According to Schneider the damage went deeper than simply taking a few bucks.

"He made winning players question their abilities, had people borrow money to pay him off and had people questioning their whole existence," he said. "No one is even close."

Hamilton's fall from grace proves that when large amounts of money are being traded back and forth, there's always the risk of corruption.

On the plus side, the situation has reminded poker players around the world to be ever-vigilant and always aware of what's going on in their poker game.

That's the list. Glaring omissions, bad picks and new suggestions are all welcome in the comments below.

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Robert Bisogno 2012-10-28 23:20:58

I would agree with a past poster who said that Phil Helmuth should be near the top of the list. I would't argue with the most dispicable thigs being done being child molesting and cheating, but Helmuth's beligerant antics and how he is protected and does not suffer penalties at tournaments for his behavior, becuase of his connections to the Ceasers Intertainment group makes him very unlikabe.

As for bad play, Jamie Gold gets a bad rap. He acted like a total jerk and deserves to be disliked for the way he taunted other players while the deck ran him over at the 06 final, but he was not a bad player.
He was doing well at series of poker tournaments around LA for the yea or two before his win. Most notably the 05 Stars and Stripes series he had sevral cashes, and the rumor was that during that time he was working on his game very hard with pros such as Johny Chan.
None the less, I didn't know about Slim's molestation charges, so i would have put Gold and then Hamilton then Helmouth as 1 2 3. I'd probably put Slim a step above all of them, in a special sanduski class of his own then the pevious 3.

I agree the cheating is a big deal, and is the most distructive thing someone can do to tear down an endevour based on commpetition. That being said, cheating has been done by many professional players online and off. Maybe not to the extent of Hamilton, but many on a regular basis play teams at the table, and give the cards they folded to friends on online play. There is a sort of buyer beware when in a card game, so I would't put hamilton at the top.


Google 2009-05-14 03:23:00

google google google!

Zyg0tic 2009-05-13 17:57:00

Sailor Roberts random? Just because you clearly don't know much about the history of poker doesn't mean we don't.

He was part of the original Texas Road Gamblers, along with Slim and Doyle. I.E Without Sailor Roberts and his friends, vegas would never have heard of Hold'em, and there would be no such thing as the WSOP.

Sailor Roberts is a poker legend, not some random googled winner.

The best part, the challenge was "Name more than 10 other main event winners where you actually know there name and can talk about their skill or personality"

then you go on to say that the list he made where all "common known". Seems like you're contradicting yourself.

google 2009-05-13 01:45:00

Oooo you can can name the the common known ones and google a random ass one like sailor roberts. Not impressed. This list is still dumb.

let's have less truth 2009-05-12 03:30:00

joe hachem
greg raymer
chris moneymaker
carlos mortenson
chris ferguson
scotty nguyen
stu ungar
doyle brunson
huck seed
dan harrington
phil hellmuth
johnny chan
tom mcevoy
bobby baldwin
sailor roberts
johnny moss

thanks for chipping in.

More Truth 2009-05-12 02:14:00

Name more than 10 other main event winners where you actually know there name and can talk about their skill or personality either than these 5. this is a whack list for so many reasons.

The Truth 2009-05-11 09:33:00

If we're talking worst players it's 1. Jerry Yang, 2. Robert Varkonyi and 3. Jamie Gold. All three are donks that got lucky.

Yang repeatedly got his chips in with the worst of it and prayed OMG JEsus to get saved from his own stupidity. None of these three will ever win a major tournament again for the rest of their lives. And they're all too boring to blow their multimilion $ paydays on coke and hot babes. Boring + unskilled = lame.

As for Joe Hachem the ambassador of poker... wrong. His overblown ego and skidmark on his chin make him a tool.

kerry 2009-05-10 11:45:00


Doug M 2009-05-09 21:58:00

Poor Jamie Gold! He dominated the largest field in history and he gets dumped on all the time. Yes he did get the cards but he made them work.. Seems like alot of jealous people taking shots at the 12 million dollar winner

EXPOSE ONLINECHEATERS 2009-05-09 13:02:00

Notice how all the "Poker Heroes" zip it when it comes to Russ Hamilton & others online rigging; because most of them involved in the online fraud, cheating & false advertising business too. Good job!

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