Josh Arieh has traveled a long way from when he was a law firm courier to now be thought of as a solid professional poker player. Along the way he also got the image as a Bad Boy of Poker for his antics at the table during the 2004 WSOP event that ended with him in third place and the winner of a cool $2.5 million. He was called a punk and classless for his activities at the table that included loud headphones and a mountain of trash talk. This behavior was a calculated strategy for this tournament that paid off big time for him.
His winnings allowed his wife to quit her job, move his family into a new house complete with a basement room with four flat screens, a bar, a pool room and a poker room. His excitement at pulling this off is easy to understand.
This is some turnaround from his days with the Atlanta, Georgia law firm. His poker life was an accident when a job deal fell through and he suddenly needed to make money somehow. My life is entirely different now after the big payoff from the WSOP. Everything is pre-World Series and post-World Series. Everything has changed, all the way from what I can do now to the way people treat me.
Before the win I worked very hard on my game and tried to improve it in every way I could. If someone wanted to talk poker I was all ears and like a sponge I took everything of value in an incorporated it into my game. I came close a number of times in tournaments, but something would happen and the big chip stack that I had accumulated would suddenly be gone. I kept getting closer and closer and finally in the WSOP I got extremely lucky and the result was the big win. That getting close all of the time got to be old very quickly and was hard to live with.
Aside from his third place payoff another result of the tournament was he was labeled a punk and a player with no class. He captured the bad press by rubbing in his victory over Harry Demetriou. He later apologized for his behavior on TV, but his image was made by the bad behavior in the WSOP. He claims that the image is wrong and he is not a bad guy. He says that people who know him understand that the image is not him and he is a respectful and compassionate person about other feelings. I was warned by ESPN that I would come off a villain before the coverage came out on TV. When they showed the series final table I was sitting with 30 friends when the announcer kept taking shots at me. The people with me asked is there something between you and this TV guy. My friends who know me well are of the opinion that this TV guy has it in for me.
I do not play poker to make friends and I want to win more than anything in the world when I am playing. When you are playing for that kind of money, winning is all that matters. My actions in that tournament were the result of the fact that I truly thought their play was inferior to my play. However I will still play and when in a big money tournament do not expect me to be Mr. Nice Guy.
With this life changing event I do not have to scramble any more and I have time for other things than poker. I love being with my family and in the end that is what is important to me.