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WSOP Bracelets: The True Trophies of Poker and How Josh Arieh Recovered His

WSOP Bracelets The True Trophies of Poker and How Josh Arieh Recovered His

“Monumental,” that’s what Josh Arieh called the feeling his World Series of Poker gold bracelets awoke in him when he found the trophies he thought were lost forever.

Arieh, the proud owner of two gold bracelets, showed us, by telling how much these irreplaceable pieces of material mean, that the WSOP’s top prize is still without question the most coveted prize in poker. As of right now Arieh has $6.3 million in live tournament earnings despite hardly playing any tournaments over the last few years.

In the life of a poker player there’s arguably nothing more important than money. Money is the one thing that affords players to lead lifestyles with unlimited freedom, it buys them into their tournaments and cash games, and it can also provide them long term security to start a family or invest in businesses. However, some of the memories made on the felt, the rise to the top and the battle to stay there are often not remembered by the accumulation of wealth. Those memories are measured and relayed to friends and family by showing a trophy and telling the story behind it.

When talking to the majority of poker players you get the sense that they are moving around in time vacuum. Looking back or looking forward does not make a big difference, as their decisions unrelated to poker in both directions aren’t part of a grand plan. Poker players can move around in that vacuum for a very long time, almost forgetting that there’s more to life than check-raising all in or playing long sessions in dim-lit poker rooms.

Arieh, who’s also the 2004 Main Event third place finisher, does not live in that poker vacuum as he’s chosen his family over a career on the road. When reading earlier interviews Arieh speaks of being retired from poker, despite showing up at the WSOP every year to chase after his third bracelet. For Arieh winning that bracelet is not about the money as much as it is about keeping the memories alive of a time where he was one of the best, and most certainly one of the most dedicated poker professionals.

garEYOsKEHc   Josh Arieh takes down the $2,000 Pot Limit Omaha in 2005 after beating Chris Ferguson heads up

Lost and Found

The two relics that remind the Atlanta, Georga native of his tournament poker hay day were lost, but when he recently found these memories it once again reminded him of the good times, and it might’ve even made him realize even more so how precious his family is. Arieh lost his bracelets right around the time he moved into a new house and recently they turned up again.

“Since we moved into our new house in April 2010 I hadn’t seen my WSOP bracelets,” Arieh said.

“I had suspected that either the movers stole them, or the people that did work on the closest. It’s horrible to think and feel that, but I’m usually not someone to misplace things. I always know where everything is, and especially things of value. Numerous times though did we go looking for them but in the end we assumed they were gone,” Arieh said regretfully.

“On Saturday I was playing a home game in Atlanta, something that we do every once in a while, and I blew a huge number. I was quite down about losing that much and when I woke up the next day I still felt the pain.”

“In order to get my mind off things I decided to clean out my closet and send some clothes to goodwill. So while I’m cleaning out my closet I find an old pair of shorts with something in the pocket, and I thought it was a stack of $10,000. When I opened the pocket I found out it was actually a necklace jewelry case and there they were, my two bracelets,” Arieh said with a sigh of relief.

“I had completely written them off to be honest and I was regularly looking on eBay to see if they would show up there. After a while though, I thought that whoever found them didn’t know what to do with it and melted them down for the gold. All of this did not happen though and I’m extremely happy to have them back!”

“It was such a great find because I instantly forgot about my big losing night. Usually when I lose a big number it puts me in a funk for a few days, but this took me right out of it and that was great,” Arieh said.

So while the place where Arieh lost his bracelets was very close to home, not having them for a long time made him realize even more so how important they really are to him. Arieh, someone who’s known as a fierce competitor, showed that winning a poker tournament could mean so much more than the value of the dollars. Arieh explains what makes winning at the WSOP, and getting back his bracelets, back means.

“The World Series of Poker has always been dear to me, they were the first set of tournaments I played in and also the first ones I did well in. I always loved the grind of the World Series of Poker and that’s where most of my results have come,” Arieh said.

In total the Atlanta, Georgia native has 27 WSOP cashes, 7 final tables and he managed to win the 1999 $3,000 Limit Hold'em event for $202,800 and the 2005 $2,000 Pot Limit Omaha tournament for $381,600.

Josh Arieh after winning the 2005 $2,000 Pot Limit Omaha      Josh Arieh after winning his second bracelet in 2005

From The Pool Hall To the Poker Room

“The WSOP is where my heart is, that’s where I perform at my best. When I go to play a WPT I don’t feel like I’m 100% on top of my game, but at the World Series I always feel like it’s bringing out the best in me. The World Series reminds me of the time when I was a kid when I would play pool for hours and hours, day in and day out.”

“All I would do during those times was ‘grind’ at the poolroom and the World Series reminds me of that, so it takes me back to those times, and having something, other than money, to look at that reminds me of the feeling I had during those times and therefor the bracelets are amazing trophies. I have a bunch of other trophies downstairs but they don’t mean anything compared to the bracelets. The feeling that my bracelets take me back to is monumental, and it’s because I always loved my time at the World Series of Poker so much.”

Arieh also recalls that during the rise of poker in the United States tons of different tournament series were handing out bracelets, but it’s not quite the same as the ones given out at Binion’s Horseshoe, and later the Rio.

“I remember back in the early 2000s when every tournament was giving away bracelets. ‘Oh, you won a tournament? Here’s a bracelet!’, was kind of the mentality tournaments had back then. The Bellagio was doing it, the World Poker Open was doing it, but it was different, it wasn’t like the bracelets you would get at the World Series of Poker. For me the bracelets represent a very happy time in my life and that’s because of the experiences I had at the WSOP.”

The Real Value of the WSOP Bracelet

While Arieh feels very strongly about his bracelets it’s not like that for everyone who managed to win one. The winner of the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event, Peter Eastgate, put his bracelet on eBay and another legend of the game, TJ Cloutier, has been known to sell his bracelets too. Arieh however does not fault his colleagues and rivals.

“It’s to each its own, so I don’t fault them, because in the end they’re still just trophies. If they were little plastic trophies they would do exactly the same for me, but they are actually worth money. If the money is more important to you, and if you don’t get that special feeling when you look at your bracelet, then more power to you,” Arieh said.

“The feeling that I got when I saw those bracelets again, and the place it takes me back to, is nowhere close to what the $10,000, or whatever the amount is, can buy I would get for selling these things. They are just awesome VCR videos in my head of great times in my life and they just happen to be worth money. It just doesn’t do to some people what it does to me.”

GB2zKSip4ZgArieh's agressive playing style in action during the 2004 WSOP Main Event

Newfound Motivation

While Arieh does not play nearly as much on the tournament circuit as he used to, he does admit that finding his bracelets has given him some extra motivation to pursue another tournament result

“Getting the bracelets back has lit up a little fire inside me going forward. Two years ago I said that I was retired from poker besides playing some World Series events, but I’m excited to play again this summer. In the same breath that I told my wife that I had found my bracelets I told her that I couldn’t wait to win another one,” Arieh said, as a sign of his newfound motivation.

“Seeing them now reminds me of when I was young, in my late 20s and early 30s, when I had such a desire to win. Back then there was not a person at the table that wanted to win more then I did. I guarantee you that, there just wasn’t anyone who wanted it as bad as I did. Now I don’t feel like that anymore, I do want to win and provide for my family but I don’t enjoy the game as much as the kids nowadays do. It’s very nice that the cash games have been good to me this past year and the travel would just wears on me because I really like being around my kids, who are 11 and 7 now. They are getting into more and more activities and I really love being there for them.”

Family Life

“About seven years ago I really cut down and decided that I could play a ton of tournaments and fame and fortune would be there, but family was more important and I turned into being the local pro instead of a touring one. My kids are growing older now and I know them face-to-face instead of via Facetime, so stopping to play the tournament circuit was one of the best decisions of my life.”

“For the first three years of my middle daughter’s life I tried to be a touring pro and it just didn’t work for me. For some people it might work, and someone like Daniel Negreanu looks extremely happy going from town to town. My family is my rock and I’m going to stay here to watch my kids grow. It does not matter to me at all that it might cost me fortune and fame. I just want to make a little bit of money to support the family and that’s the perfect life since I get to see my kids grow up,” Arieh proudly said.

Pictures courtesy of PokerNews.com

Interview by Remko Rinkema
Remko Rinkema - Igaming.org Interviewer

Remko Rinkema has covered the biggest poker tournaments in the world since 2008, including many WSOP, EPT, Aussie Millions, APPT, MCOP and Unibet Open events. As an in-depth interview and story enthusiast he tries to do things a little differently. Besides the usual writings Rinkema grabs every chance to appear on podcasts, live streams and in the occasional video.

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