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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Poker champion's promise of a gift may not be all that golden

6 November 2006

NEVADA -- Forget about that message on the answering machine.

World Series of Poker champion Jamie Gold says he has no intention of sharing half of his $12 million winnings with a man he met during the recent poker tournament.

Bruce Crispin Leyser, described at times as a television development executive, claims Gold, a Hollywood talent agent, promised him half of his top prize in the famed tournament because of a role he played in Gold's appearance. Leyser even has a voice-mail tape of the promise.

After Gold didn't pay up, Leyser filed a lawsuit in Clark County District Court.

Last week , Gold filed a court brief weighing in with his side of the story: that the agreement was "nothing more than a promise to make a gift."

Leyser's attorney, Richard Schonfeld, said Gold's position is "absurd." That Gold admitted to the deal further affirms that Leyser is entitled to the $6 million, Schonfeld said in an interview. "We're glad they finally took a position," he said. "Even though we were extremely confident in our case, we are more confident now that we will prevail."

At issue is whether the verbal agreement is binding.

Leyser claims Gold had a contract with Internet casino, in which it agreed to pay Gold's $10,000 entry fee if he found celebrities to wear clothing featuring the Bodog logo during the tournament.

According to the suit, Gold asked Leyser to help him find those celebrities and in return, "share" the seat and any potential winnings. Leyser says he held up his end of the bargain by finding two actors to play in the tournament and wear the Bodog logo.

In his brief, Gold claims that Bodog paid for his seat at the tournament because of his success winning previous poker tournaments and that his contract only required that he wear the company's logo and participate in media events.

But Gold said he felt so sorry that Leyser wouldn't be playing in the tournament , since he had neither a sponsor nor the cash to buy a seat, that he agreed to share his winnings with Leyser.

Gold said that as he moved to the front in the tournament, Leyser and his wife began calling and text-messaging him "every hour" and also spread word that Gold owed Leyser half of any winnings.

On the final day of the tournament, after "incessant badgering and continuous phone calls" from Leyser, Gold left Leyser a voice mail message confirming his promise to share half of the winnings "after taxes," Gold acknowledged in his court filing.

Leyser maintains that the voice mail and other facts show an "acknowledged agreement" between the two men. But Gold argues the agreement isn't enforceable because there were no terms or conditions attached. He wants the Rio, the casino hosting the tournament, to release to him the other $6 million.

In his filing, Gold says he didn't intend to give Leyser, who he said had "serious financial problems" and was looking for a job, literally half of the winnings, but rather some money. Gold says he broke his promise because Leyser "unnecessarily" filed suit and tarnished Gold's reputation.

Leyser "acted unreasonably" and didn't take such factors into account such as taxes, Gold said. Instead of continuing good faith negotiations, (Leyser) sued and drew unfavorable media attention to the dispute, Gold said.

In August, Chief District Judge Kathy Hardcastle signed a temporary restraining order freezing the funds based on Leyser's argument that the money, in Gold's hands, might disappear before the matter is resolved. Attorneys expect her to rule before the end of the year.

Poker champion's promise of a gift may not be all that golden is republished from