LAS VEGAS -- When Jamie Gold bluffed, his opponents folded. When he had the best hand, they threw in all their chips.
With a run of cards, a huge chip stack, and an uncanny knack for reading other players, Gold, a talkative former Hollywood talent agent, cajoled his way to victory yesterday at the World Series of Poker for the $12 million grand prize.
``I was just lucky sometimes, and sometimes I outplayed people," said Gold, a 36-year-old Malibu, Calif., resident. ``I just feel really fortunate. I was playing some great poker. The best poker of my life."
The 12-day marathon that began with a record field of 8,733 players ended with a flourish. With 3.9 million in chips in the pot, Gold declared ``all in" and stood beside the pile of cash at the table to convince the last remaining player, Paul Wasicka, it was his for the taking.
``I knew that he was weak, but he had a hand. And then I knew it was my chance," said Gold. ``I went all in."
On the final hand, Wasicka, a 25-year-old former restaurant manager from Westminster, Colo., held two 10s as hole cards, with a board of queen, eight, five. Wasicka said later he thought Gold was drawing to a straight. Instead Gold had a queen and nine, for a better pair, when the turn revealed an ace and the river card was a four.
Still, second place earned Wasicka $6.1 million.
The nine players at the final table -- including four pros -- were guaranteed at least $1.5 million in winnings when they sat down Thursday afternoon.
Thirteen hours of no-limit Texas Hold 'em later, Gold and Wasicka were the last players left. But most of the chips already were on Gold's side of the table.
Gold eliminated six of the previous seven players himself, and his 79 million in chips covered a good corner. With 11.2 million in chips, Wasicka was badly overmatched.