As a child, he said, he and his family played marathon games of Monopoly -- sometimes leaving the table preserved overnight to resume the next day -- because no one wanted to give up. Math always was easy for him, Gold said, though he recalls getting drunk before taking the SAT in high school so he wouldn't get a perfect score and be singled out as a geek.
Gold plans to return to work in Hollywood next week. He is now the production head of Buzznation, a production and marketing company, with plans to produce a seven-episode reality series, the nature of which remains under wraps. But he will return to next year's tournament.
"I'm not saying I'm anywhere near the best," Gold said. But "I want to be the best poker player there's ever been."
Poker players can be a prideful, prickly lot, and among some there was only grudging admiration for Gold's victory. Asked about perceptions of Gold, player Rhett Butler said: "He doesn't get the respect."
Minutes after Gold blasted him off the final table, Butler, a 44-year-old insurance agent from Rockville, Md., said: "He plays a style that's very difficult to read."
No one took particular notice of Gold until the third day of the tournament.
"On Day Three he took the chip lead, and a lot of us were saying, 'Who is Jamie Gold?' " said Nolan Dalla, the tournament's media director and a poker authority.
Dalla said aficionados of the game demand that players hold several champion bracelets before affording them supreme respect. He compared Gold's play to a "roaring freight train" and said his win was the most dominating he had seen since Stu Ungar's in 1997.
Obscure as Gold was to the poker world before the tournament, Dalla said, "every time he walks around now, he's got a bull's-eye right on his chest."
Colin Malone, an actor and comedian whom Gold has managed, described him as an "unbelievably generous" friend who helped him pay the rent when he was strapped. But he had never seen such a crowd surrounding Gold and worried that people would seek to take advantage of his good nature.
"Everybody's brother needs an operation now," Malone said. "There's a lot of people that already have their hands out and are already expecting their piece of the pie."
Malone said Gold's talent for bluffing allowed him to thrive both in the entertainment industry and at the poker table.
"He can easily say things that aren't the entire truth without blinking," Malone said. "Like saying, 'Colin looks like George Clooney' without batting an eye."
Celebrating his victory Friday after more than 13 hours of play, Gold squeezed his wrist into a championship bracelet and held up stacks of hundred-dollar bills. His eyes filled with tears, however, when he spoke about his father's illness.
"He can't win enough to fix that," Malone said. "He'd trade the bracelet for another year with his dad."