When you want something bad enough, you’ll keep trying to get it until you succeed; as the adage says, “Try, try again.” Mike Matusow is proof positive that it works. After ten failed attempts to win a Poker After Dark sit-n-go through several seasons of the show, he came back to try it again…and won.
After a broadcast hiatus, Poker After Dark returned to the late-night NBC airwaves on December 29th in preparation for its Season 5 launch. The theme for the week’s worth of episodes was “Close but No Cigar” and featured six players who had come close to winning the WSOP main event but hadn’t yet made it - Andy Black, Lee Watkinson, Dewey Tomko, David Williams, Allen Cunningham, and Mike Matusow.
The Matusow that appeared in this episode was in line with the “new Mike” that had appeared at the 2008 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas - physically fit and thinner with a much more positive attitude about life than most had seen in him before. While he was and still is extremely talkative, a good portion of the negativity is gone from his vocabulary, and he makes an obvious effort to be positive. That was the Matusow that came to the set of Poker After Dark for the 11th time, and he attributes that positive attitude to what became a long-awaited win.
As is the custom on most Poker After Dark shows, each of the six players anted up $20,000 to create a first-place, winner-take-all prize of $120,000. Williams was the first to be eliminated from the sit-n-go, followed by Dewey Tomko in fifth and Allen Cunningham in fourth.
Three-handed action got tense in the fourth episode of the week, and it was a bad beat that would send one of the players out of the game. Watkinson limped in with , and Matusow checked his option with to see the flop come down . Watkinson bet 1,200 on his nut flush draw, and Matusow raised to 2,500 with his top two pair. Watkinson called, and the turn brought a . Watkinson checked the nut flush, and when Matusow bet 5,000, Watkinson raised all-in for 20,850. Matusow called and looked dejected, whispering, “Nice hand…. No way I put him on a flush draw.” The river, however, turned the game around when it brought the for Matusow’s full house.
Matusow spoke of himself in third person as he paced around the table in joy several times, “Mike Matusow, ladies and gentlemen, there he is. Positive thinking. The luck is starting to change, boys and girls.” Watkinson took the bad beat with class and left Black and Matusow to play for the win.
Heads-up action began with Matusow looking solid with 96K versus the 24K of Black. But over the course of more than an hour, Black came back and even took a monstrous chip lead of 22:1 at one point. But then it was Matusow’s turn to take that positive thinking and turn it into slow and steady chip accumulation. He did just that.
Finally, the deciding hand began with Black raising to 7,000 with . Matusow pushed all-in with and received a quick call from Black. The board slowly came , and Matusow claimed his first Poker After Dark title.
In the director’s cut episode that aired on Saturday night, Matusow explained his joy at winning the title, even claiming that it was the second biggest high in his personal poker history, second only to beating Daniel Negreanu in the 2002 WSOP $5K Omaha hi-lo split tournament to win the bracelet in the game he professes to know best.
“I came in today going 0 for 10 and really decided a couple days ago to try and change my outlook,” he said. “I started thinking the power of positive thinking… It really mentally worked well for me. I didn’t play scared today or this week, and that’s why I won.”