When we spoke to Mike Matusow in his Las Vegas home at the start of the year, he exhibited all the characteristics that we’ve come to expect from ‘The Mouth’. He was loud, brash, constantly on edge and ready to lock horns with anyone.
Today, at a low-key Full Tilt press event in London, he’s exuding a calmness and tranquillity never seen before. Clean-shaven and sporting a fresh, white shirt he shuns the tempting fried canapés in favour of fresh fruit. It seems he’s carrying on the strict regime which saw him win a $100k weight loss bet with Ted Forrest this summer.
We politely interrupt him while he’s engaged in banter with fellow Team Full Tilt pros Allen Cunningham and John Juanda. He stops mid-story and happily follows us next door for his photoshoot and interview. It may be hard to believe but it seems The Mouth as we knew him may be no more…
I hear you’re now into ‘positive thinking’ in the same way that Phil Hellmuth has been for a while. How has this affected and helped your poker game? Christian Briggs, Nottingham
Simple – if you believe you’re gonna win, you’re gonna win. That’s it. If you truly believe even when you’re losing pot after pot that you’re still going to come back and win, even if you don’t win that day, you will win the next day. When I got my Aces beat by a running straight on TV, before it happened, I was saying, ‘I’m going to lose this pot’. After the hand I ran out and the producer came over and said I was the unluckiest player ever. I said, ‘No, I’m not. I make my own luck and I’ve been wishing bad luck on myself for years’. Then I went out and bought books on the power of positive thinking and realised that if you think positively you really can’t lose.
Are the famous Matusow blow-ups a thing of the past? Tristan Morris, Chelmsford
There’s no such thing as a Mike Matusow blow-up anymore. Even if I lose, I will walk out the door. You won’t see me mad like Phil Hellmuth. I don’t want to be known as that sort of person. I like to have fun and talk a lot at the table. But I can be Mike ‘The Mouth’ and not make a fool of myself when I get knocked out of a tournament.
Is the image generally portrayed of you on TV close to the real you? If not do you encourage it? Ross Johnson, Newcastle
I had any cockiness knocked out of me three years ago when I got humbled. I’m easy going and a lot of fun. I’m not an asshole, I’m a nice guy. I think it’s coming across but it took two years on TV for me to get across that I’m not an asshole.
What would you say is your biggest advantage you have over other pros when playing against them? Carl ‘shortstacked1’ Peirson, Ripon
I had a big win the other day in the Million Dollar Cash Game and I would say my biggest advantage is definitely my patience. I didn’t get involved in ego wars like the other players. You had four players trying to outplay each other every hand whereas I just sat and waited for a big hand to come up. I have great patience when I’m playing ‘tight Mike’. I’m tough to beat. When I’ve been sat there for a while and set myself up with a great table presence I can make some moves because of that image I’ve set myself.
Apparently you said you went deep in the WSOP main event this year without ever really having a hand all week. Was that really true? Esther Davies, Rhyl
I never had a hand. Except on day one where I had Aces against A-K. I drew bad tables and never had cards and I simply used my image to steal blinds and antes just to survive. I only had about 8% of the average chip stack through a lot of the week. And then on day five, I doubled through two bad players early and got myself into the top five in chips. And from there, I really thought I was a shoo-in for the final table. It was a shame that I never won another pot after that.
You did an interview with InsidePoker about a year ago talking about your bad streak online. Is that still happening? Callum, Rochester
That was before I knew I was getting cheated. There’s no such thing as a bad streak when you’re getting cheated. Either you get cheated or you don’t. After it came out that I got cheated out of all that money it’s not so bad. In 2007, I had a little bit of a bad year because I played too high. In 2008, I have had a big year playing online. In 2006, I got cheated out of millions. In 2007, I got cheated out of millions. Before the big games were moved to Full Tilt, I got cheated out of millions at UltimateBet. That’s it.
What do you think of these so-called online stars? Roger Callaway, Devon
Well, Brian Townsend came up thinking that he was the greatest and look at him now – he’s broke. Durrrr came up and he had $10m, now he’s probably down to $1m. I’ve watched them all come and go. Brian’s a great player and he’ll be back. Durrrr’s also a great player but he has a lot to learn. Somebody has to sit down and talk to you at that age and you’re going to have to listen. If you don’t, you simply have to learn the hard way. I didn’t listen when I was their age, I thought I was the greatest. The only player I’ve seen come up and make a lot of money without going broke is Phil Galfond. That’s because he has great game selection and money management and doesn’t want to play with the best players. As long as you do that and simply don’t play in the tough games, you’re going to make tons of money in poker. Egos will break you, cards will make you. If you’re going to have your ego get in the way, you’re fucked.
Mike, we often see you wear a gold chain with a symbol on it, which, I imagine is of special significance to you – would you mind sharing this with us, please? Helen Wilcox, Nottingham
It’s a ‘Chai’ which in Jewish religion means ‘life’.
We’ve heard you say you’re the unluckiest poker player alive (usually after a bad beat). Do you honestly believe it? Robbie, London
Well, I used to and that was why I never won. Now I believe I’m the luckiest player alive and now I never lose. It’s all mental. Phil Hellmuth’s exactly right, he wins because he believes he’s going to win – because he can’t play a fucking stitch so it’s the only way he could win! If you believe you’re going to win, the cards will fall for you. How can you lose if you believe you’re going to win? Even if you lose, you’re still going to come back the next day and feel you’re going to win then. I believe the cards have brains. The cards can hear you thinking, I swear to God.
What are your long-term goals? Dean Letham,Glasgow
I just want to win a WPT event. After that, I don’t care if I ever play. I think if I ever win a WPT event I might never do anything but play the WSOP once a year and enjoy my income, my investments the rest of my life. I want that badly. I’ve got two 2nds, a 3rd, a 4th and a 6th. I feel like I deserve one and I want one.
I’ve heard you have a book coming out. What’s it called and is it a poker strategy book? Khalid Gupta, Staines
The Art of Extraction, comes out in May 2009 and is about how to play the main event. It will really revolutionise the main event and is going to make me very rich. People will finally see how I play and how I think. The book will explore about how to get deep in a seven-day tournament, about the gears I use in every day poker and what my thought process is. It shows how I’m able to hang in there, in the early stages, even without many chips. If you look at the main events I’ve done well in, you’ll see that I’m never in the top ten in chips at the end of day one, or the top thousand of chips even. By day three, I’m in the middle of the board though and then by day five I’m in the top ten. How is that? It’s because it’s an art, and I’ve mastered it.