Missing the Mouth!
Nov. 7, 2011, Posted by Submission
I miss "The Mouth."
Mike Matusow is not dead of course; far from it. In fact, I'm pretty sure he'll live forever. After all, he's managed to survive poverty, gambling degeneracy, mental illness, a meth addiction, prison, drug dealers, and something even more dangerous, the exchange of bodily fluids with Vegas strippers.
He may be alive and well. But he IS missing in action from the tournament poker scene and I miss him. Poker misses him. Think about it; whenever there's been an exciting tournament in the past fifteen years, Matusow was there to rake in the pot, or at least stir it up a bit.
*There was his reported staking of champion Scotty Nguyen into the 1998 WSOP Main Event.
*The bluff he couldn't call that cost him the chip lead and resulting 6th place finish in the 2001 WSOP Main Event.
*His famous "tiny balls" taunt to Fossilman Greg Raymer during the 2004 WSOP and the emotional breakdown soon thereafter.
*The 2005 fight with Shawn Sheikhan, followed by a WSOP Main Event final table appearance in which he lost most of his stack probably the only way he could; all-in preflop with Kings vs Aces.
*Screaming, "Vindication!" and hauling in a 1/4 million dollar WPT score on the warm sands of Aruba, just a few days before he'd find himself NOT vindicated, having to spend nights on the cold concrete in the Clark County Jail.
*The, "Kiddie game is down the street" bullying taunts to the wide-eyed amateurs seated at his featured WSOP table, and of course the loud "ONE TIME!" he screamed every time he was all-in.
*And perhaps his greatest accomplishment; outlasting a talented, pro-laden field and taking down first place in one of most enjoyable final tables ever, the 2005 WSOP Tournament of Champions.
The Mouth's big-time tournament successes cannot be denied. For most of us amateur wannabes, a deep run in the Main Event at the WSOP would be a dream come true. You could play that tournament the rest of your life and not come close to finishing in the top 30. Matusow did it 3 times in 8 years. Mike Matusow was the first player to win over a million dollars in tournaments two different times in one year. He has three WSOP bracelets and one more that should have been, had he not chopped three-handed (with a huge chip lead) back in the 90's when the bling was less prestigious.
And when he wasn't making final tables, he was being arrested; or being scammed out of millions in the Ultimate Bet scandal, or tackling giant peanuts. Matusow is sort of like a peanut. They're both salty, found in bars, they hide behind a shell, and sometimes you want to take a hammer to them. That’s why he's good for poker. We love to hate him. Matusow is Hellmuth with authenticity. His brand of outrageousness is real, and his role in the poker boom is underappreciated.
After the Moneymaker WSOP win in 2003, millions of new eyeballs tuned into poker. The 2004 WSOP could have flopped. But Matusow took on the role of a louder, more obnoxious Sam Farha, and we got to witness another innocent online-qualifying amateur from the heartland taking on (and beating), a grizzled Vegas pro. The audience wanted that. Poker needed it. It was good for ratings, good for poker, and it helped propel the boom.
Because every player has their role. Greg Raymer is solid. Steady. He's a good, responsible family man, seemingly at peace with himself. We want to be Greg Raymer.
But we want to watch Mike Matusow.
He's mean. Uncouth. Unsportsmanlike.
And so damn fun to watch.
He's a guy who admits to buying drugs, and claims he's innocent. He swears he's reformed, then loses $200k betting on sports while in prison. The strippers, drugs, parties, and gambling. You know that crazy guys weekend you had in Vegas once? The one where you did some things you were ashamed of? In the mid-2000's, that was Matusow's life.
But where is he today? Who knows?
The Mouth says on Twitter that he's crushing the cash games at the Aria. Maybe so. Maybe not. He did net a third place in the Bay 101 Shooting Star WPT event this past spring. Then there was his 17th place in the Epic Poker league's first event for a pay day of $1,500. $1,500. Or, as the old Mike would call it, "two hours at a strip club."
He also won something called the "Florida State Poker championship." Good luck finding that on ESPN.
My online search for the mouth eventually led me to his Twitter account, which he used recently on a slow Wednesday night to complain about the University of Toledo football coach's clock management. I'm not implying he's back to his old ways, but unless you have significant money riding on the point spread, nobody cares about University of Toledo football. I bet Toledo's coach doesn't even care about it.
So, maybe the old Mike is back. If so, that's a welcome development for poker, and I'll join the chorus in welcoming him back.
Come back Mike. You can leave the dames, drugs and degeneracy behind you, but at least bring back "The Mouth." We need you. Poker needs you. Come back Mike.
--- Steve Beauregard