By Delinda Lombardo on
In 2006, Jamie Gold won the World Series of Poker, which not only made him an instant ‘celebrity’ but netted him one of the highest payouts in tournament history ($12 Million).
Since then, Gold has paused his high-stakes poker play in efforts to give back and support a variety of organizations, racking up over 104 charity-poker event appearances as an emcee, host or participant and helping raise over $170M for charity… and he’s just getting started.
Look to the Stars was pleased to speak with Gold about his philanthropy, love for poker and how he became one of the most inspiring charity fundraisers in the poker industry, supporting a number of organizations including the ALS Division of the MDA and the Global Creative Forum.
You lost your father to ALS in 2006, since then, you’ve generously supported the ALS Division of the MDA?
Yes and I want to do a lot more for them. What we are in the process of doing now with my new site is pledging ten-percent of all of our profits to charity- and ALS will surely be a recipient of, I’m hoping, a very large amount of money on a yearly basis. We’re also in the process of establishing a new aspect of the site so we can more productive for the causes that need my help the most and those that are more personal to me.
What is the new aspect?
What I’m trying to create is a site where people can play and win money for free and then we provide the donation.
Lots of red-tape?
Yes, but I look forward to the day when online poker is regulated and legalized because there’ll be so much more we can do in terms of donations and special tournaments, where they are set up purely to donate to charity. But for now, I feel like I set up something new and innovative, which I absolutely did not create – it’s a platform created by Zen Entertainment that I’m looking to be part of.
What do you think about mandatory donations from poker play, not just fundraising tournaments?
I don’t think that all poker tournaments should be a mandatory donating vehicle, I think it needs to be a choice. I truly believe in freedom as long as you’re not hurting anybody, and I feel we should always be free to play poker as a gambling endeavor as well as a philanthropic endeavor.
What was the most important aspect of winning the 2006 WSOP?
That my dad got to live long enough to see me accomplish this very important goal in my life, as well as having my mom and friends and family there to share it with. Also being able to take care of so many of my friends and family that were in need afterward, but more importantly, being able to build upon that and be able to help raise money and be involved in causes like the Global Creative Forum – which is where I’ve spent most of my time the last couple of years… to really help effect positive change in the world.
Tell us more about that?
We can all raise as much money as possible but to effect real change, I think its important to do what we’re doing – which is taking this large number of superstars, people who can really get something done when there’s a problem in the world, and then bring together some of the smartest people, the best scientists, and put them together with the wealthiest people we know and really try to create and effect change in the world.
You’ve temporarily shunned the pro-circuit in favor of philanthropy?
I am very confident that poker will always be around. What I do not know is how much weight my name will carry in the future. Right now I have the ability, based on my recognizability, that people will come and support charitable endeavors with me – and I don’t know how long that will last – so I felt like it was real important for me to focus on accomplishing the goals that I have, some of which don’t include me playing poker. Yes, I plan on going back on tour, but me going out there and playing poker isn’t about competing as much as it’s about getting out there to help promote the causes I believe in. Now is the time I can be most productive, when I’m older I may not be as healthy or active but I know poker will always be there for me.
You were the first person to host a poker event that involved the United Nations?
Yes, the Global Creative Forum Fundraiser for the United Nations.
Poker embraces everyone, just like the UN.
What I find beautiful and wonderful about the poker community, that doesn’t exist in all communities – it would be great if it did but it doesn’t – you can be the wealthiest person in the world, a homeless person, any race or religion and you can all be equals and sit down at a poker table together. There is no where else where you could have that kind of group working together like that.
Are there any blind poker players that you know of?
There is, actually, this guy named Hal Lubarsky. He’s an extraordinary guy who is blind and doing well in the WSOP, there was a recent story on him and he is a very well regarded player who is blind.
Yes, I was very much. I’m a huge fan and I’ve always wanted to meet him and I couldn’t believe he said he was a fan of mine.
Do you not think of yourself as a celebrity?
I don’t think about myself other than how I am, so I don’t see myself in that way. When you respect and admire someone so much and they’re interested in meeting you, it’s incredible.
I don’t feel like I’m in any competition to win as many poker tournaments as I can right now, someday I’ll give it a shot at being a much more winning poker player on a yearly basis. But I don’t think that’s the most exciting goal I can have right now… I feel I’m doing as much as I can possible do to try to make the world a better place.
Gold has attended, co-hosted or emceed over 100 charity events including: Big Slick Charity Tournament; Dallas Superbowl charity event for Troops;
Global Creative Forum Fundraiser for United Nations; 4th Annual Monte Carlo Night; Foundation Charity Event at Poker in the Park; Sunflower Children Charity Poker Night at Cannes Film Festival; Children Uniting Nations: Oscars After-Party; Ante Up For Africa; Michael J. Fox Foundation Celebrity Poker Tournament; Montel Williams MS Foundation Pro-Celebrity Poker Challenge; Operation: All-In, Randy Couture Charity Poker Tournament; and many others.
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