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Poker News: August 25, 2006

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HEADLINE: Court order freezes Poker prize money

Jamie Gold's win at the World Series of Poker might be only half as sweet.

A Nevada judge has frozen half of the $12 million US top prize after a Gold acquaintance sued, saying the two men agreed to split the winnings. Bruce Crispin Leyser, a Los Angeles-based TV development executive, alleges in a suit filed Monday in Clark County District Court that Gold, a former Hollywood talent agent, agreed in July to split his winnings in exchange for Leyser helping him find celebrities to play in the main event while wearing the "Bodog" label of an offshore Internet gambling site.

Bodog paid the $10,000 entry fee for Gold, who beat 8,772 players to win the world's largest poker tournament.

Leyser alleges he fulfilled his end of the deal - getting Scooby Doo star Matthew Lillard and Punk'd comedian Dax Shepard to wear the brand - but claimed Gold has refused to hand over $6 million.

Gold said in a statement issued through his lawyers that he was "disappointed" that "a person he has only known since July of this year has elected to file litigation rather than continue the parties' discussions in an effort to find a resolution to this matter."

After winning the tournament, Gold said he would share the money with friends and supporters.

Clark County District Judge Kathy Hardcastle issued a temporary restraining order Monday preventing the Rio hotel-casino, site of the poker tourney, from disbursing $6 million for 15 days. A hearing was set for Sept. 1 to determine whether the freeze would continue.

Leyser said he has evidence to support his claim - an Aug. 10 voicemail left by Gold just hours before play began at the final table.

"I promise you - you can keep this recording on my word - there's no possible way you're not going to get your half ... after taxes," it says, according to the lawsuit. "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."

Leyser's lawyer in Las Vegas, Richard Schonfeld, called the case "exceptionally strong."

"That's how we were able to obtain a temporary restraining order freezing the money," he said.

Harrah's Entertainment Inc., which owns the Rio, declined comment.

"Harrah's does not comment on pending legal matters, particularly those in which it is not directly involved," the company said in a statement.

Bodog said it included Gold on its celebrity roster of players because of his help putting the team together, his relationship with mentor Johnny Chan and his tournament experience, but added, "We are unaware of any side deal he may have made."

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