I'm not bad boy of poker?, says Josh Arieh - Saturday 12th of March 2005

Poker celebrityJosh Arieh doesn't want to be known as thebad boy of poker. Now he is trying to tackle the misconception that grew during his much-talked about run in this year'sWorld Series of Poker. Arieh's demeanor at the table ? blaring headphones, copious trash talk ? earned him titles like "punk" and "classless." But Arieh insists he isn't a bad guy at heart. He's just a guy who went all out with a calculated strategy to win ? and win he did, pulling down a cool $2.5 million for his third-place finish.

His 2004 World Series of Poker winnings allowed his wife to leave her job and for his whole family, which includes two daughters, to move into a new house ? complete with a basement paradise. "A big theatre, with about four flat screens, a bar and a pool room and a poker room," Josh rattles off, clearly excited about what he dubs his "men's little arcade."

Quite a turnaround for the 29-year-old former law-firm courier from Atlanta, Georgia, who fell into poker less than six years ago when a job opportunity fell through. GamblingGates.com is pleased to dedicate some our pages to Arieh?s interview conducted by LuminoMagazine.com.

"My life has completely changed," Arieh says. "It's kinda like, pre-World Series and post-World Series. I mean it, everything's totally different. All the way from what I'm able to do to the way people look at me and the way people treat me.

"Before the World Series I worked really hard at playing poker. I spent a lot of hours working, trying to improve my game, getting better. Any time anybody would be willing to talk poker, I was there. I wanted to learn, like a sponge, and take everything in that I could.

"Leading up to the World Series, I had come close a lot. I was building up big chips stacks in the big tournaments, and weird things were happening to me," Arieh says. "I would make it to the second day with a lot of chips n a lot of these big tournaments. All that everybody else sees are the results, except the people that are close to me, and they know that I've been on the erge of getting over that hump for a long time. I was extremely lucky to have it happen at the World Series."

The other thing that happened to Arieh at the World Series was less favorable. "I got kind of the shit end of the stick," he says when asked about the controversy that arose surrounding his behavior, especially a hand with Harry Demetriou, where Arieh rubbed in his victory. Arieh later issued a televised apology to Demetriou, saying "That's not like me. I just hope that people that know me explain that I am a compassionate person who cares about others' feelings."

"ESPN told me that I was going to be the villain before the coverage came out," Arieh recounts defensively. "But it got to an extent where it almost got personal. Like, for the last show, I'm sitting there with like 30 of my friends, just watching the show, and this announcer just keeps taking pops at me. It gets to a point where people are asking me 'is there something wrong with this guy?' ?they just automatically think that this guy has a personal vendetta against me."

"Everybody that knows me away from poker; and even people that know me IN poker, know that I have a lot of class, I'm very respectful ? but look, we're playing for five million dollars. I mean, next year when you're playing for five million dollars, you're going to have to beat five thousand people. You don't get in that spot and be Mr. Nice Guy, and the guy that beats your hand, you shake his hand. You just don't do that."

Even as he's trying to make a convincing case for himself, he's still bluntly honest and unapologetic about his overall approach to the game during the World Series of Poker.

"I was playing with players that I felt were inferior and I wanted to 'em know that. I'm not playing poker to make friends."

One thing he won't do anytime soon is stop playing ? and play he does, logging up to 70 hours a week on the Internet at certain times during his professional career.

With his newfound winnings in hand, however, Arieh now has time for other pastimes as well. "I play a lot of golf. I mean, poker's work. That's what it is. Poker's work. And on my free time I love playing golf, and I love spending most of my time with my 2-year-old. It's so much fun."

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