Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The World Series of Poker Lawsuit

It just occured to me that I haven’t written a word about the ongoing lawsuit over the winnings at this year’s World Series of Poker. Given that it involves both poker and law, that strikes me as oddly unexplainable. For those who are unaware, this year’s World Series of Poker main event champion, Jamie Gold, is locked in a legal battle with Crispin Leyser over half of the $12 million first prize that he won. Why? Because he promised half of what he won to Leyser and then tried to welch on the agreement. Here’s the backstory.

In the couple of weeks leading up to the main event, Bodog.com, a large poker site, promised to pay Gold’s $10,000 buy in to the main event if he could find a couple of celebrities to play in the event while wearing Bodog clothing. Gold, you see, is an agent/producer (yes, that’s like being a demon/succubus) and apparently thinks he has some connections. Despite apparently having been Tony Soprano’s agent at one point, he came up snake eyes, so he asked Leyser, who he had just met, if he could help out. He told Leyser that if he could hunt up a couple of celebrities for him, he’d split whatever he won.

Leyser came through….well, kind of. He got the guy who played Shaggy in the two Scooby Doo movies and some obscure comedian I’ve never heard of, but that was enough for Bodog, who did pay Gold’s entry into the tournament. Gold and Leyser were apparently cool all the way along. Gold was dominating the tournament and Leyser was seeing dollar signs. 3 hours before the start of the final table, Jamie Gold left a message on Leyser’s cell phone. The Las Vegas Sun reports:

I promise you – you can keep this recording on my word – there’s no possible way you’re not going to get half ¦ after taxes,” Leyser claims that Gold said in the telephone message. “So please just be with me. I can’t imagine you’re going to have a problem with it. I just don’t want any stress about any money or any of that (expletive) going on today, or even after the end of the day.”

Later in the recording, Gold allegedly said: “But please just trust me. You’ve trusted me the whole way, you can trust me a little bit more. I promise you there’s no way anybody will go anywhere with your money. It’s your money.”

This much has actually been admitted to by Gold in his response to Leyser’s complaint, though there is some quibbling over the actual wording. Still, apparently Gold assured him in that phone message that there was no way he would not get his half of the money, and he explicitly said “your half of the money.” A Federal judge issued a preliminary injunction forbidding the payout of half of the $12 million prize; that $6 million is still on deposit at the Rio awaiting the outcome of the case.

Now Gold is claiming that there was never any arrangement for half the money but that it was merely a non-enforcable offer of a gift that he has now decided not to follow through on because Leyser went and filed a lawsuit rather than negotiating with him. He is asking the court to lift that injunction and dismiss the case so he can have all of his money. I doubt the court will do that; I think Leyser has a very strong case. If in the phone recording Gold referred to “your money” or “your half”, he’s got a hard time claiming there was no such arrangement.

All of this has only served to make Jamie Gold look even worse than he did on the TV airing of the tournament. He was an obnoxious ass at every opportunity during the event and an even bigger ass afterwards. In interview after interview, he’s been incredibly arrogant. He’s compared his skill at poker to Kobe Bryant’s skill at basketball. He seems completely unaware of the fact that he got extraordinarily lucky time and time again during the tournament, which had far more to do with winning than any skill he displayed.

He’s managed to piss of pretty much the entire poker world for not honoring his agreement to split his winnings. Tournament players are constantly buying and selling pieces of one another in tournaments in order to minimize their risk, and they rarely sign any agreements on it. It’s just an unwritten rule that you honor your deals, you make good on your promises. Failure to do so gets you ostracized and that’s what is now rightly happening to Gold.

On top of that, Gold is now hustling a reality TV show called Hottest Mom in America. Now I like a good MILF as much as the next guy, but Gold is just digging a hole for himself. Basically, he’s your typical sleazeball wannabe Hollywood hanger on who for two weeks had a horseshoe jammed up his ass and managed to strike it rich. Whereupon he promptly lost what little sense of ethics and decency he ever had and promptly made himself into a laughingstock. Frankly, I’m rooting for the day when he shows up on a “whatever happened to” segment on some cable news show and we find out that he died penniless in a rundown bungalow in Southern California, surrounded by empty syringes and Thai hookers.

Comments

  1. #1 Jeff Hebert
    December 7, 2006

    Compare this behavior with that of the 2005 World Series of Poker runner-up, Steven Danneman, winner of $4.25 million (emphasis mine):

    Now he is a millionaire–even after he gave away half his money. In an untelevised moment, while Steve was picking up his winnings, his friend Jerry Ditzell joined him. Jerry, who got nearly as much air time as his poker buddy did, cheering Steve on from the sidelines, matched $5,000 to enable Dannenman to buy in to the main event. With nothing more binding than a handshake sealing the deal, Dannenman showed his word was good when he split his winnings right down the middle, making his buddy a millionaire too.

    Gold’s an embarrassment. We’ve been pretty lucky with the last few WSOP champions — Raymer, Hachem, and Moneymaker were all good ambassadors of the game, but just like in poker, the odds even out eventually. I guess we just have to take our Jamie Gold Bad Beat as a case of being overdue for an ass-hole as champ.

  2. #2 tacitus
    December 7, 2006

    It’s amazing what greed will do to someone. Over three million dollars in the bank after taxes is enough to set most people up for life, and Gold would have been quite happy to settle for that before the final table came around.

    And now he’s screwing himself out of millions more in appearance money and endorsement deals by behaving like an ass, not to mention the lawyer fees that he must be racking up.

    What an idiot.

  3. #3 Kenneth Fair
    December 7, 2006

    In the couple of weeks leading up to the main event, Bodog.com, a large poker site, promised to pay Gold’s $10,000 buy in to the main event if he could find a couple of celebrities to play in the event while wearing Bodog clothing. Gold, you see, is an agent/producer (yes, that’s like being a demon/succubus) and apparently thinks he has some connections. Despite apparently having been Tony Soprano’s agent at one point, he came up snake eyes, so he asked Leyser, who he had just met, if he could help out. He told Leyser that if he could hunt up a couple of celebrities for him, he’d split whatever he won.

    This is Leyser’s allegation of the events that took place, which may or may not be true. Gold disputes this in his response to Leyser’s suit; he claims that Bodog sponsored him without any requirement that he secure celebrities to play in the event. Gold provides his written contract with Bodog that appears to confirm this. Gold further claims that Leyser’s attempts to secure celebrities were to convince Bodog to pay for Leyser’s WSOP seat.

    Gold is correct that the case boils down to whether the “agreement” was a gift or a contract, and if a contract, what exactly the contract entailed. Neither party’s story seems fully consistent to me; the written Bodog contract leans in Gold’s favor, while the voicemail leans in Leyser’s. I’m withholding judgment on the ultimate outcome until I see more evidence, such as testimony from the people at Bodog as to what their deal with Gold actually entailed.

    A couple of further points:

    1. I think that Gold has a good argument for dissolving the temporary injunction. Leyser’s suit ultimately seeks only money damages; money damages are not usually sufficient “irreparable harm” to support an injunction.

    2. The tax issues involved in this transaction are not simple, and did require some negotiation and proper structuring to minimize both liability and audit risk. I’m no tax expert, but Mark Seif’s assertion that $6 million could be distributed to Leyser without risk of tax liability to Gold seems dubious to me at best. An indemnity agreement for Leyser’s half of the tax liability would be a standard request here, and I don’t understand why Leyser refused to provide one. Most of all, filing suit while in the midst of negotiations about the tax issues is a shmuck move. Gold may have acted like an ass, but Leyser did too.

    One note about Steve Dannenmann:

    With nothing more binding than a handshake sealing the deal, Dannenman showed his word was good when he split his winnings right down the middle, making his buddy a millionaire too.

    Oral contracts are, with limited exceptions, valid contracts. The contract between Dannenman and Ditzell is based not on Dannenmann’s handshake, but on the consideration (the $5,000) that Ditzell provided. If Dannenmann had reneged, how hard would it be for Ditzell to show evidence of the $5,000 payment to Dannenmann?

    I agree that Gold acted and has continued to act like an ass, and shown nowhere near that class that Dannenmann and other main event finalists and winners have shown. But that doesn’t mean Leyser’s lawsuit is necessarily valid.

  4. #4 Jeff Hebert
    December 7, 2006

    Kenneth Fair said:

    Oral contracts are, with limited exceptions, valid contracts. The contract between Dannenman and Ditzell is based not on Dannenmann’s handshake, but on the consideration (the $5,000) that Ditzell provided. If Dannenmann had reneged, how hard would it be for Ditzell to show evidence of the $5,000 payment to Dannenmann?

    True, although it would have been easy for Dannenman to have claimed that Ditzell “misunderstood” the contract, or that it was actually only for Ditzell’s buy-in, or any one of a hundred other lame excuses that would have led to a lawsuit and legal entanglements tying up the money for who knows how long. Instead, he honored his word and did what he promised to do. I think that’s pretty cool. People promise lots of things when the odds against you having to actually pay anything are a million to one, but it’s a lot harder to do the right thing with two million smackers in your hand.

  5. #5 Steve Reuland
    December 7, 2006

    From a legal standpoint, this would seem to be a no-brainer. It’s standard contract law.

  6. #6 Bertrand Russel
    December 7, 2006

    Ed:

    Is not “welching” tantamount to “gyping” or “jewing?”

    A discussion of the derogatory origins of welch/welsh can be found here: http://www.wordwizard.com/ch_forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=17998

    Best,

    Bert

  7. #7 Kenneth Fair
    December 8, 2006

    True, although it would have been easy for Dannenman to have claimed that Ditzell “misunderstood” the contract, or that it was actually only for Ditzell’s buy-in, or any one of a hundred other lame excuses that would have led to a lawsuit and legal entanglements tying up the money for who knows how long. Instead, he honored his word and did what he promised to do. I think that’s pretty cool. People promise lots of things when the odds against you having to actually pay anything are a million to one, but it’s a lot harder to do the right thing with two million smackers in your hand.

    No doubt about it; that’s why a written contract is always better. And I agree about Dannenmann: he showed nothing but class, both during the tournament and afterwards.

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