Mike Matusow
by Jason Kirk  

Mike Matusow - Source

There are few players on the tournament circuit as colorful as Mike Matusow. Whether he's talking smack while he runs over his table, talking about the size of his cojones on camera, or making the final table of the WSOP Main Event, you never have to look too hard to find the man known as "The Mouth." Professional player Steve Badger says of Mike, "When Mike stops talking, you feel like you should call the paramedics, just like if another person had stopped breathing."Many players don't like him, but most everyone who has ever played against this 2-time bracelet winner has respect for his game: he's often noted as one of the top tournament Omaha players in the world, and his performances in big no-limit hold'em tournaments seem to get better every year.

Mike Matusow moved to Las Vegas with his family from Los Angeles at the age of 10. He says he was never into gambling before a friend showed him video poker one night when he was 18. After winning $85, he found himself "addicted" to the game and even attended a few meetings of Gamblers Anonymous. Then he met a grinder named Steve Samaroff who introduced him to real poker. Mike started with a $200 stake and built that into $10,000 over several years while living cheaply in a local trailer park.

After he tired of the grind Mike became a dealer at the Orleans and Sam's Town in Vegas, after which he had enough money to play in middle-limit games. At this point he could have kept grinding at the middle limits to build his roll and take a shot at the big time - he was winning on a consistent basis - but he found a new addiction in sports gambling. By his own account, he built less than $1,000 into $30,000 several times only to lose it all gambling on football. Ironically for someone who says he once had a high regard for money, Mike has made a hobby of finding ways to give it away over the last decade. Somehow, he also has a penchant for winning it back over and over.

Two things seem to come naturally to Mike Matusow at the poker table: winning and talking. Unfortunately for Mike, before this year's WSOP Main Event the talking was what most people knew him for. ESPN's cameras caught him in a now-infamous exchange with Greg Raymer. Mike says he spotted a tell from Raymer, and he began to needle the soon-to-be champion endlessly. When Raymer later knocked him out Mike walked over the shake hands, Raymer refused. One other notable outburst was when he dropped the F-bomb at this year's WSOP when the floor was called over to make a decision when Mike was accused of throwing cards at the dealer. One F-bomb turned into 4, and he was penalized with 40 minutes forced exile from the table. His response showed another side of his personality: Mike walked around the tournament area for that 40 minutes, chatting amiably with other players and waiting to return to the table.

As big as his mouth may be, Mike Matusow's game speaks volumes. He ranks 49th on the all-time WSOP money list and holds two WSOP bracelets, one for Omaha Hi-Lo in 2002 and the other for No-Limit Hold'em in 1999. Of the three times he's made the money at the WSOP Main Event, the two in 2001 & 2005 were final table finishes. He also took 3rd place in the Aruba WPT event in 2004. With over $2.5 million in lifetime tournament wins, there's no doubt Mike is a great tournament player. If it weren't for the famous "Matusow Meltdown" - when he busts out within a short time span after playing brilliantly - there's no telling how much greater his reputation might be, but Mike is a very emotional man and often he's not in complete control at the most crucial moments of a tournament.

The best description of Mike Matusow might "walking contradiction" - he's a nice guy who can't stop talking trash, a great poker talent with no money management skills, a man who wants nothing more than to win but often can't control himself long enough to follow through. It's no surprise that the TV cameras love him - very few players around today bring as much drama to the game. One thing's for sure, no table featuring Mike Matusow will ever be boring.

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