Josh Arieh
Josh Arieh wins gold again, surrounded by three of his favorite people (left to right) Shaun Deeb, Daniel Weinman and fiance Rachel.

The cycle of anyone’s life often includes a few ‘busy’ years, those periods of 12 months that were packed with excitement and change. For Josh Arieh, every year seems to be one of them, not least 2023. A game of golf with the most controversial U.S. President of all time? In the books. A fifth and sixth World Series of Poker bracelet? In the bag. Getting into shape with one best friend for a million-dollar prop bet while another becomes world champion? Uptick. Oh… and then there was Game of Gold.

We sat down with the poker legend and PokerStake’s man in the know to find out how it all went down… and what on Earth is coming next.

Game of Good Vibes

“I think they should rent a mansion and have the players live there during filming.”

Back in 2022, Josh travelled to South Korea to take part in a brand-new poker game – one that would change the face of poker broadcasting. Some 16 players, including some of the best in the world, would be part of a new experiment, a hyper-exciting blend of poker action and reality television. Game of Gold was born, and Josh Arieh was at the center of it, eventually finishing in sixth place, making it to the final table, only to miss out on victory – and the sole $456,000 prize – to his newest best friend and teammate in the process, Maria Ho.

“It was a fun experience – I would love to do it again,” says Josh. “The rumor is that they’re going to raise it to 24 people and see how new people interact with the old cast. I’m hoping that they bring back 12 people back from the old series and bring in 12 new and see what happens. The second season would be insane and way more interesting.”

We’ve speculated on some of those changes and how Season 2 could be even better than Season 1 of Squid Game… sorry, Game of Gold.

Game of Gold can go their own route now,” says Josh, referencing the many nods to the popular Netflix series upon which some of Game of Gold based itself. “They don’t even need that 456 number to align with Squid Game. Game of Gold was so popular – the first episode has close to 500,000 views… and they didn’t even get the best stuff on tape!”

We find this unbelievable, but as details emerge, it’s clearly true. From Team Fedor becoming a four-hour coaching session given by Fedor to both Maria and Josh in Josh’s hotel room to trips out to a vegan restaurant – ‘He got me liking vegan food!’ – the behind-the-scenes drama was as lively as the action that made it to the small screen.

“The green room stuff was the concept the makers pushed from the very beginning,” says Josh. “Every morning at the hotel, everybody would be putting tables together and groups of eight people were eating breakfast together shooting the breeze. I think they should rent a mansion and have the players live there during filming, having cameras on people other than from midnight to 7am. It’s all about the personalities.”

Queens and Kings

“[They] couldn’t just pick all argumentative people, all firecrackers. You need different personalities.”

One of the funniest moments of the whole series was the moment that new teams were chosen after Round 1 was completed and Team Club were sent home. As Team Nikita’s leader Nikita Luther went to choose another player to join her, Josh avoided eye contact, later saying: ‘I think she was the weak link. Her picking anybody would just be a death sentence.’ He managed to get onto the now-legendary Team Fedor instead with Maria Ho.

“They actually cut that, because Ali saw what I was doing,” Josh reveals. “I didn’t want to be on that team, I didn’t want to get picked; right after, Ali called me out!”

From the team of dread to the dream team, Josh was delighted to buddy up with Maria. In Round 1, she had been an ally.

“Maria and I had been around each other and have mutual friends but had never hung out or been in the same place at the same time. We were thrown in the same room, and we had a mutual irritant in Jungle! When Kyna was playing, Jungle wasn’t interacting with us, so it was just me and Maria and I talking.”

Despite that, Josh believes the show’s makers got the casting just right.

“The producer understands though that he couldn’t just pick all argumentative people, all firecrackers. You need different personalities. I’m more of a good supporting actor. I can’t carry it, but I’ll give you a good laugh here or there. I would let Fedor have the role of what comes out of his mouth is right and I’m learning. I’m trying to absorb everything I can.”

The game ended for Josh when Fedor took him out in a cooler, ace-king into aces in the German’s favor.

“It was a big mistake [by me]. It’s a spot that I don’t need to go crazy. I could have called the three-bet. Looking back, why am I trying to play a big pot against Fedor? I picked that seat so I wouldn’t play pots against Fedor. I had a good game plan, but it was poor execution and application of the gameplan I brought.”

Maria would then take out Fedor before going on to win, something that filled Josh with teammate pride.

“Maria earned every bit of that money and I take pride in her journey,” he admits. “I was with her from the very beginning, we were together the whole time, and I definitely helped her along the way. There were times in the show I could have made the decision to be more selfish and devious but I’m very happy with the decisions I made. It’s not like you’re on Survivor, where you can screw someone over and never see them again. Maria, Fedor and I will be friends until our careers are over. We’re like teammates forever. That will never be over, but the money would have gone.”

Josh and Fedor cant watch
Josh and Fedor – along with the eventual winner Maria Ho – formed the most formidable team on Game of Gold.

The Perfect Summer

“I’m going to make mistakes but I’m going to do good things that others aren’t able to do.”

While Game of Gold stayed under wraps for almost an entire year between filming and its broadcast, June and July in Las Vegas saw the World Series of Poker drama played out live to millions of poker fans. Josh went into the series hoping to grab a fifth bracelet and perhaps entry into the Poker Hall of Fame. Instead, he won two bracelets, but missed out on induction to Brian Rast. Then he got to see his friend Daniel Weinman win the Main Event for $12.1 million.

“It was the perfect summer,” he says. “What’s really important to me is to take advantage of opportunities when they come. If I run deep, I know I’m going to make mistakes but I’m going to do good things that others aren’t able to do. I made four or five deep runs and won two of them – it’s pretty good.”

That’s an understatement. Some players go their whole careers without ever winning a WSOP bracelet. To win two in one summer is incredible. We wondered, though, if seeing his friend Daniel Weinman win the World Championship was the highlight of the series.

“No. It was one of the highlights of my life,” he tells us. “Daniel and I have been extremely close. We both live in Atlanta, have the same interests and play video games together every night. We travel to the same poker tournaments, we’re members of the same golf clubs. I consider my best friend guys the I grew up with, but I talked with Daniel every day before the World Series and still talk to him every day. It was a feeling I’ll never experience again.”

Despite their closeness, the two friends were remiss in not doing something they’d done before in the hours before taking part in the $10,000-entry Main Event.

Daniel Weinman
Daniel Weinman (foreground) is supported by Josh Arieh (background) during a monumental summer for ‘Team Lucky’.

“We forgot to swap!” laughs Josh. “He’d gone home, and Shaun talked him into coming back out and playing the Main. We forgot to swap but it didn’t matter. I had love in my heart for him and it was absolutely amazing watching his win. When I’m on a run I get tunnel vision. I don’t realize what’s going on. My fiancée Rachel will tell me stuff, but I’m thinking about what I’ll do on this street, how I’ll set this guy up for later, in-game stuff, I’m not thinking about the big picture. Watching Daniel, I got to really be in the moment and feel all the cool sh*t that was going on. It was awesome.”

Being part of Team Lucky with Daniel, Matt Glantz and Shaun Deeb, Josh clearly has a peer group he truly treasures.

“Earlier in the summer I won my fifth [bracelet] to tie with Shaun. We’re really close with him too, I talk to him every day. The day after, we’re sweating Shaun at the final table and he wins his sixth bracelet. It was so cool all summer and I’m so grateful for the relationships I’ve built with Matt, Shaun and Daniel. In the Bahamas, Matt won $800,000. It was unbelievable. He never plays No Limit; he goes over there and crushes. I was shocked [he didn’t win]! We’re having a great time right now.”

While Josh missed the Poker Hall of Fame this year, he was nothing but congratulatory on the 2023 inductee, Brian Rast.

“Brian definitely deserved to be in,” Josh says. “Most of my success is recent and resurrected after a down period in my career. It would be great to get in, but I understand that the process is not player friendly.”

All the Pieces Fit

“My whole life, I would literally eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it.”

One of the biggest challenges Josh has taken on this year is one he is sharing with Shaun Deeb. Back in May, Deeb agreed a prop bet against Bill Perkins that he could get his body fat percentage down to 17%. Josh has a piece of the action too… at a price.

“We both have to get to 17% body fat. If I get there, it activates 10% of his bet. Shaun’s lost 80 pounds and I’ve lost 40 pounds. I feel great.”

Josh has another reason to get in what he calls ‘the best shape of my life’. In the next year, he both turns 50 and gets married to the love of his life. It’s worth the physical endurance of getting in shape.

“I really enjoy getting up and doing cardio every day,” he says. “I never understood how to eat. My whole life, I would literally eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it. If I was hungry, I would think of what I wanted the most and go eat it. I’ve finally learned that I don’t have to eat a great meal every time. I eat to give myself energy and it’s working. I’m enjoying it – I’m a weirdo for numbers and I’m enjoying counting calories. It makes me enjoy a big meal more when I have it.”

It has often been said that by those who have been remarried in their lives that they look back on the first marriage as being for duty and the second for love. Josh couldn’t agree more.

“I truly live my life with my best friend now. I could never say that before. I was going through the process before. You reach 25, you get married, you have kids. I’m extremely grateful to have done that, because I love my kids dearly, like everybody. But I wasn’t ready to be married, and I wasn’t married to the person I should have been married to.”

Josh looks back on who he was the first time he got married as a bad husband, cringing at his old self. Despite that, he wouldn’t change a thing about how things turned out.

“I had kids and I always wanted to be with my kids. If I could go back in time, I’d have left a long time before, but everything that is in my past has set me up for where my life is today. I’m very grateful and I wouldn’t be here without the mistakes that I’ve made.”

Teeing Off with Donald Trump

“I will say, he really tried to be nice.”

Returning from the World Series in the summer, Josh might not have assumed his life was going to be as dramatic as six crazy weeks in Las Vegas. He got home from the World Series on the Thursday. On Saturday, he was talking on the phone to a friend when he received an eye-widening text message.

It said: ‘Do you want to play golf with Trump on Monday?’

“I jumped on a plane and flew up there. Here’s the truth: Donald Trump and Phil Hellmuth are extremely similar. Whenever he was talking, I was picturing Phil Hellmuth.”

The reaction to Josh playing golf with Donald Trump on X, formerly known as Twitter, was sensational.

“There are people that hated on me because I played golf with him. Others texted me saying they needed to hear about it and it was the coolest thing they’d ever heard of. There’s no highly successful person I wouldn’t accept a golf invite from. Whether I loved or hated them, if you’re successful I want to be around you… and play golf.”

Josh’s attitude is simple: if someone he meets triggers something unique, he’s interested in them. The way he saw it, that definitely applied to the 45th President of the United States of America.

“The guy’s a billionaire and had 70 million voters!” he laughs. “I will say he really tried to be nice… to care. My friend wanted me to show the President my bracelets. I reach in my bag and get my bracelets I won that summer. They all call him ‘Boss’. My friend says ‘Hey Boss, check out what Josh won this summer.’ I hand him the bracelet and he asked what I won, so I told him. Then he asks where I’m from. I tell him I’m from Atlanta and he said ‘Oh man, that’s where that lady is trying to prosecute me for election fraud! For a split second, he actually cared about somebody else, but the word Atlanta triggered him to instantly start thinking about himself again.”

Afterwards, Josh, his friend and Trump were in the clubhouse, dining at the Men’s Grill that formed part of the golf club.

“We had lunch together and one of his grandkids came in and when they saw their grandad, they ran up to him and they smiled and hugged. It was cool to see the human side, the warmth. He’s a human being, not some robot that spouts propaganda. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”

That’s the rub, of the golf green or not. Josh’s desire to be around successful people is clear – as we’re thinking of asking the question using a certain appliable term, he uses it.

“I want to be a sponge and learn at every moment, to absorb any knowledge no matter what it is. I surround with people who care about my success, and I try to be a better person every day. It’s a major component behind my success of the last four or five years. My life is ascending because of the people I surround myself with. I try to be the dumbest person in every room.

Invariably, Josh Arieh fails in that attempt at dumbness. At everything else? He consistently succeeds, including the growth of PokerStake itself, which owes a lot to Josh’s passionate in-tournament promotion of his fellow players on and off the felt. With stars such as poker legend and GGPoker Global Ambassador Daniel Negreanu, 10-time WSOP bracelet winner Erik Seidel and the reigning world champion Daniel Weinman all using PokerStake recently, the next 12 months in the life of Josh Arieh are sure to be as much fun as the last.

He wouldn’t have it any other way.