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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Mike Matusow

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

It’s sort of surprising that it has taken this long into our “Where Are They Now” series to profile Mike “The Mouth” Matusow.  After all, he easily has one of the most recognizable faces, and voices, in the poker world today, and he’s also pretty good.  But, when you have to write about a player like Matusow you want to make sure you do the story justice.  The reason being that there is always the off chance you might meet him at a poker event and he decides to tell you he doesn’t like the story you did about him, and he has a lot of creative ways he could get his point across.  Truthfully, Matusow has faced his demons, as you will soon read about, but there is nothing that can take away his unfaltering love and passion for the game of poker, which is evident every time you see him on television.

While Matusow wasn’t born talking, those around him must have felt like he was.  Born on April 30, 1968 in Los Angeles, California, Matusow defied authority from a young age, often talking back to teachers and bullies, sometimes to his detriment.  Because of his tendency to get into fights with bullies he didn’t particularly enjoy his school days, and was very happy when he graduated from high school to move on with his life.  With neither plans, nor desire, to head to college, Matusow sought work so he could make money and get out on his own.  His family owned a furniture store, and while going to classes to become a certified auto mechanic, he worked there.  However, he wasn’t able to finish the required work to become a mechanic, which in theory, turned out to be a blessing in disguise, although it didn’t always seem like that.

After failing to become a mechanic, Matusow began working at a casino, where he was given a job as a poker dealer.  Matusow enjoyed dealing, but it didn’t automatically turn him on to the game, at least that kind of poker, anyway.  The kind of poker Matusow spent the most time with was video poker.  The rumor is that Matusow spent so much time playing video poker that he began developing repetitive stress injuries.  Because of that, and the fact he wasn’t making much money, if any, playing video poker, he began playing low limit cash games.  Because of his job as a dealer, he felt that his study of the players he dealt to would help him become a good player.  Overtime he obviously did, but when he started he would lose all his money at poker, which even led him to steal from his mother’s purse for more money.  Matusow became ashamed of this, and even attended Gamblers Anonymous meetings.  Matusow worked through these issues, and found a somewhat healthy balance between gambling and saving for real life expenses.  Rumors are always circulating about Matusow online, suggesting he is broke, but his big house near Vegas and his luxury cars suggest otherwise.

Despite saying numerous times in interviews that he hates tournament poker, he has become one of the better players during his career in that field.  He first noticed a small buy-in tournament where he worked, which he promptly won.  Also during this time, right around 1990, he was taught the game of Hold’em from a regular at his casino.  Matusow took to the game, winning in 51 of 53 sessions for $250,000, a story that has gone down in poker lore.  

Matusow is regarded as one of the best Omaha Hi/Lo cash game players around, and has come into the public eye because of his tournament successes.  Matusow has won three World Series of Poker bracelets, with his most recent win coming in 2008 at the $5,000 No Limit 2-7 Draw w/Rebuys, winning $537,862 for his efforts.  The final table was a star-studded event, featuring Jeff Lisandro (2nd), Barry Greenstein (3rd), and Eric Lindgren (4th).  Matusow says he played some of the best poker of his life there, but his favorite bracelet was the one he won in 2002 in the Omaha Hi/Lo event because he defeated Daniel Negreanu heads-up, who he considers his toughest challenger.  His first bracelet came in 1999 in the $3500 No Limit Event, taking down $265,475 in the process.

It’s hard to feel bad for someone who has won three WSOP Bracelets, and has won a handful of other big tournaments, but Matusow sometimes feels as if he’s the most unlucky player in the world due to the amount of “close but no cigar” finishes he has had.  He has finished in the money 25 times in the WSOP , including making the final table in about a dozen of those (not including the ones he won).  It started in 1997 at his first WSOP when he finished second in an event and has seemingly continued every year since then.  His closest call in the Main Event came in 6th in the 2001 event.  However, as an example of Matusow’s good luck and good skill is when he became the first player in WSOP history to win two one million dollar prizes the same year.  This happened when he finished 9th in the main event in 2005 and later went on to win the Tournament of Champions.  Both of those performances netted him exactly $1,000,000 each.

Unfortunately Matusow has gained notoriety for some other things other than his poker skill.  At times during his career he has suffered total breakdowns at the table, now described as “Matusow Meltdowns” in which he seems to be playing great and at the top of his game, and in a matter of a few hands he has lost all his chips and his composure at the same time.  Matusow has blamed this on his medications, and after winning his bracelet in 2008 has said he seems to have everything under control, and by all accounts has been able to hold himself together over the last couple of years.

Matusow was also sentenced to jail for six months in 2005 when he was found guilty of possession of cocaine.  While it’s true that Matusow had drug issues in the past, it’s still a hot topic in the poker world as if he was still doing drugs at the time of his arrest.  What happened was an undercover cop befriended Matusow over a few months, and asked if Matusow could get some cocaine for him.  Matusow obliged, hence the jail sentence.  Matusow blamed nobody but himself for the trouble he got in.  

When he got out of jail he was in a rut, eating poorly, and saying the most exercise he got per day was turning on his computer.  Ted Forrest, one of the kings of prop bets, bet Matusow he couldn’t lose 60 pounds in a year, getting down to 181.  Matusow weighed in at 179 pounds, taking $100,000 from Forrest.

One of the most anticipated poker autobiographies comes out next week (May 12th) when Mike Matusow’s book “Check Raising the Devil” hits the shelves.  The book is about Matusow’s ups and downs over not just his poker career, but his entire life.  It’s this author’s guess that if Matusow can continue to stay out of trouble he will need to make more room on his wrists for a few more bracelets.  You'll find Mike playing online as a Full Tilt Poker Pro.

*Read Billy Monroe's Blog*

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