Mike Matusow is widely known in the poker world, both for his big poker wins and for his loud and boisterous personality. Born in Los Angeles on April 30, 1968, and nicknamed “The Mouth” by his fellow players, Mike grew up working in his family’s furniture store. His first poker experience was playing video poker when he was 18 at Maxim Casino. He then found a job as a poker dealer at The Orleans and Sams Town. He was dealing poker before he was actually a professional player, but he learned to play professional poker by playing with his friends in the early 1990s.
Mike was one of the most entertaining pro poker players to watch because he talked a whole lot of trash to his opponents at every game. He also had a pretty successful career in the World Series of Poker. In 1999, he took home his first World Series of Poker bracelet and a cash of $3,500. In 2002, he won his second bracelet after winning a hand of Omaha Hi-Low Split 8 against his very good friend Daniel Negreanu.
2005 was a good year for Mike, as he played in the World Series of Poker and took 9th place overall, winning $1 million. A few months later he went on to win the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions, earning another $1 million. With those two wins, he became the first poker player ever to win two $1 million prizes within the span of one year.
But his wins didn’t stop there. In 2006, he played in the Tournament of Champions again, this time finishing 3rd overall and winning $250,000. After that, he went on to win two more bracelets, the first of which came in 2008 when he finished 30th overall and won $537,862. He earned his final bracelet in 2013, alongside a win of $266,503.
Overall, Mike Matusow has amassed over $8,605,149 total winnings from casino play alone. The World Series of Poker was by far his most successful means of earning money, with $3,580,862, his four bracelets, and several trophies coming from his various years of play. During his short stint in the World Poker Tour (3 years), he won a total of $1,678,239. (SOURCE 1)
Mike’s play style is aggressive and, at times, reckless. He’s been known on several occasions to go all in with bad cards, sometimes even before the flop in an attempt to bluff the other players into folding. This strategy has at times blown up in his face, but it also awarded him some pretty big pot wins. This video is a compilation of his cocky strategy in action during the World Series of Poker 2008 Main Event.
Mike is an emotional person, and sometimes his feelings get the better of him. He had been known to lose his temper after a bad loss and would be haunted by his mistakes for months. On occasion, he threatened his opponents, sometimes with violence. He does so in this video, where gets angry when he loses with two pair jacks high, not knowing that his opponent had all of the 5s. Everyone else was laughing, but Mike didn’t think it was so funny.
Sadly, Mike has fought addiction problems and mental health issues his entire life, and this has, unfortunately, landed him in trouble on more than one occasion. When he was playing those video poker machines back in his early years, he would steal money from his mother to gamble away. At one point, he wound up going to Gambler’s Anonymous meetings.
Mike wrote an autobiography titled “Check-Raising the Devil” that was published in 2009. In it, he describes how he was incredibly discouraged after his loss at the $2,500 Seven Card Stud High Low at the 2000 World Series of Poker. Even though he finished 7th and won $10,000, he was down in the dumps because he thought he was so close to winning the bracelet. Two of his friends tried to cheer him up by encouraging him to take ecstasy, to which Mike agreed. This put him on a dangerous path which led to more drug use, including meth and cocaine.
After three years of battling his addictions to ecstasy, meth, and cocaine, he prevailed in the summer of 2003 and became clean and sober. Unfortunately, he continued to run with the wrong crowd. He had befriended a person who happened to be an undercover DEA agent who asked Mike to buy him two ounces of cocaine. While Mike insists in his book that he was clean and wanted nothing to with the drug, he wrote that he owed this person a “favor” and proceeded to buy the cocaine for him.
A month later, Mike got a call from a different friend in the drug business who was clearly upset and claimed that Mike’s “friend” was actually a DEA agent. Mike was worried but just couldn’t believe it was true. He found out the truth when police came to his home and arrested him on the morning of September 23, 2003.
The sting, which lasted several months, resulted in Mike being charged with 6 Class A drug-related felonies for selling meth, cocaine, and pills. After initially denying the allegations, Mike eventually admitted to the charges and had to serve half a year in a detention facility after accepting a plea deal. If he hadn’t accepted the deal and the case had gone to trial, Mike was potentially looking at a ten-year prison sentence.
Mike had to report to jail in the fall of 2004, but before he did, he made a good run in the World Series of Poker Main Event. When he was eliminated from the competition, ESPN caught Mike’s highly emotional reaction on camera. In his book, Mike explains that this reaction was more related to his impending jail sentence than his poker loss. Shortly after, Mike went on to win 3rd place in the World Poker Tour event in Aruba, taking home a quarter million dollar prize.
The six-month stint in jail was obviously hard on Mike, but the alternative of 10 years in prison would have been indescribably worse, so you could say that Mike was incredibly lucky to have received such a plea deal. He served his jail time in the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas – mere blocks away from the World Series of Poker events at Binion’s Horseshoe.
Mike has since moved on from professional poker and hosted a poker radio show and podcast called “The Circuit” for a short time. He was also the host of an online video segment called “The Mouthpiece,” which has since gone off the air. While he’s no longer active in the poker circuit, he did make an appearance this year at the 2015 World Series of Poker. Although he didn’t finish very well, his fans are hopeful that it could be a sign of his comeback to professional poker.