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Poker News: December 23, 2006

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Copyright © 2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

HEADLINE: Judge keeps poker prize on ice

WSOP winner may have to settle for half of the pot
A judge turned down a motion to lift a freeze on half the World Series of Poker pot and said a TV producer would likely win his claim to the $6 million.

U.S. District Court Judge Roger Hunt turned down the motion by lawyers for main event winner Jamie Gold to lift an injunction set in September on half the $12 million pot won in the annual no-limit Texas Hold 'em tournament.

Hunt said he had concerns Gold would turn over the money to plaintiff Bruce Crispin Leyser if the TV producer were to win his case.

"His actions, in the court's view, do not give the plaintiff much assurance that the money would, in fact, be available in the event of a judgment in his favor," Hunt said. "The likelihood of success weighs on the side of the plaintiff."

The injunction keeps the money in the legal possession of the tournament's host, the Rio hotel-casino, until the case is concluded. Gold has already withdrawn half the winnings, or $6 million, most of which he has placed in an investment account, his lawyers said.

Leyser alleges 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 and the $12 million top prize.

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 Gold has refused to pay Leyser.

Leyser's lawyers hailed the decision.

"We're pleased with this result because it prevents the money from being squandered by someone who admits he didn't keep his promise," lawyer David Chesnoff said.

Gold's lawyers said they were not surprised by the decision.

"Disappointed, yes, but not surprised," Patrick Byrne said. "We recognize our client made the promise. But we believe that when all of the evidence of the case is before a jury that they will see there was no consideration for the agreement."

Byrne argued that Gold promised to share his winnings only after Leyser had gotten celebrities to play, reducing the arrangement to a gift, rather than a binding oral contract.

Leyser has kept a voice mail from Gold on the final day of the tournament in which Gold promises to pay Leyser "your half."

Gold later said in an affidavit that he intended only to make a gift of some of his winnings, but it never amounted to 50 percent, and accused Leyser of harassing him with text and phone messages during the tournament.

Both sides agreed Thursday to have the judge move the frozen funds into an interest-bearing account while the case proceeds.

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