Interview with Mike Matusowby Steve Marzolf
Mike Matusow, a card-carrying member of team Full Tilt, has been around the pro poker circuit long enough to earn his nickname as "The Mouth" a few times over. Most recently, he took third in the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star Main Event, pulling in just under $370k...and talking some serious smack in the process. But when we caught up with him, he had an ironic message for players out there: "Calm down."
- You almost took it all at Bay 101 - what was that like?
- I've only played three WPTs in two years - one last year and two this year. I went down there and played really hard. I went down there hungry and wanting to win, and I played really well. But I wish I would have caught some cards against the lunatics, the ones who were raising and re-raising every hand.
- Tell us about that three-bet that took you out.
- I mean, he was just raising at every button, and I thought I had a pretty good read on him. I'd been re-raising and shoving on him left and right. I shoved on him with 2-9. He didn't have to call me with K-Q. It was still 25 percent of his stack, even if he's ahead. Most of the time, I'm going to have a pair or an ace there. I didn't really mind the call, cause once it got down to three-handed, they were playing really carefully against me. They knew that if they opened too much, I'd just keep shipping on them. So they started folding a little bit and limping, and it looked like there was going to be no way I could get chips - especially as card-dead as I was. So I didn't mind just shipping on him every time he opened the button. I was looking at his face and how he reacted to his cards. I shipped on him six times before, and he insta-folded all six. So I thought I had a tell on him. Maybe that time I just rushed it.
- You've consistently had good showings at WPT games.
- Yeah. I don't play many. I don't chase the tournament circuit anymore. As far as I'm concerned, it's a losing proposition. It's $750,000 a year to play on the tournament circuit, and you've gotta finish at least second in one tournament to make any money.
- You've been in the game a long time - what are the biggest changes you've seen?
- I mean, these kids play pretty good, but when it's a deep-stack tournament, they've gotta know when to slow down. We were playing 100 big blinds deep, and they're going raise, re-raise, re-raise, trying to outplay each other, playing four-handed. I was just hoping to pick up 8-8 or anything, but I didn't even see a playable hand. I think the best hand I saw was K-10 offsuit. If I'd picked up any hand behind them, I'd have gotten all the chips. It was the greatest spot in the world - I was like in heaven - but then I was looking at 2-7 offsuit for like eight hours.
- What spurs that aggressive play?
- They're all used to playing online where you have to 3-bet and 4-bet all the time to stay alive when the blinds get up there. When you're playing deep-stacked, you're supposed to just play solid and pick your spots. But these guys were ridiculous. They were so hyper-aggressive it was a joke. It fit perfect into my style. I had two playable hands in 154 hands, and I finished 3rd. If I'd won the hand I went out on, then I'd have 30 percent of the chips and who knows what happens?
- Where do you think the game is going long-term?
- I don't know - there's just so many good players. I think if they just want to keep running $100,000 buy-in tournaments, they'll have everybody broke within a year. I'm not a big fan of those tournaments. Then, I was saying the same thing four years ago about the $10,000 buy-in tournaments. Everybody would have gone broke on those too, if they hadn't been satelliting so many people in.
- You've been at this a long time - what are the biggest lessons you've learned?
- Everybody glorifies these people who play heads-up and win millions of dollars, but they're going to lose it, too. Ain't nobody who's better than anybody else playing heads-up poker. Poker's about playing and beating bad players. There's definitely less bad players now - and there's a lot of good players. It's tough to win now; it's a lot harder to make a living. Lucky for me, I don't have to depend on it anymore. I wouldn't be happy if I had to grind and make a living online or even live nowadays. It sure wouldn't be easy.
- Have cash games in Vegas gotten tougher, too?
- The mixed games are still good, but the no-limit games are all dried up, unless you get invited to a house game. Poker has become a showdown contest. That's all it is. It's just because everybody tries to outplay each other. When I came up, it wasn't like that. It was about making correct decisions, playing solid, attacking blinds and weakness...just playing good and solid. Now it's all about three-betting, four-betting, five...Come on man.
- Tell me about your nickname - how often do you hit your opponents with the trash talk?
- Not much anymore. Though I did it down in Bay 101. Because I just got hot and started making hands. When people play bad against me, I talk a lot of shit. I catch some cards, I'll rub it in their face. At the WPT, I had a hand where the guy raises under the gun, and three people call so I call in the big blind with Qd-4d. Flop comes 2-4-Q. I lead out the pot, and the guy who raised under the gun calls. The two who came in behind fold. The turn card is 7d, and I have queens and fours on the flush draw. I bet $4800, he makes it $11,000 so I move all in. He calls and shows me three sevens. And I said, "You gotta be kidding me." Then it's a 3d on the river, and I start screaming: "That'll teach you to play bad against me, motherfucker. You get what you deserve. You're an idiot." Then I start berating him something fierce. I lead out into four people with a Q-4-2 rainbow. What do you think I'm leading out with, complete air? Like two sevens are any good there.
- What have you been playing lately?
- I don't play. I went to Australia and won about a quarter million. Then I went to L.A. and played the cash games there for a couple weeks and won another $250,000 there. Then I went down to Bay 101 and cashed $370k there. So it's been a good year.
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