When speaking of poker players who have been just as great at making a name for themselves with their words as they’ve been with their play, Mike Matusow would have to rank right at the top of the list. In fact he has been nicknamed “The Mouth” for his brash talk and questionable antics at the table, which could oftentimes be construed as bullying.
However, it was Matusow who was often the target of bullying when he was a youngster growing up in Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. Born in 1968, Matusow survived the bullies he often encountered as a kid and graduated from high school. Mike never really attempted to go to college like many other poker players, opting instead to try to become an auto mechanic. But this didn’t work out for him and he ended up working for his family in a furniture store.
Besides his former ambitions to be an auto mechanic, Matusow’s other passion revolved around gambling. He got his first taste of it at the age of 18 in Las Vegas’ Maxim Casino when he played video poker so much that he suffered repetitive strains in both his arms and shoulders. Going beyond just the injuries, gambling had developed into a very unhealthy habit for Matusow as he began stealing money from his mom’s purse to partake in it and eventually he wound up in Gamblers Anonymous meetings.
What Mike Matusow didn’t know though is that these struggles he went through were actually a blessing in disguise, as he was basically training himself for a successful future career in poker. Matusow’s game began to really improve when he became a dealer at Sam’s Town Casino, where he used this opportunity to pick up tips from the people who were playing. Add in the fact that a professional poker player by the name of Steve Samaroff took Mike under his wing and you had a very promising career at hand.
After his shifts as a dealer, Matusow began to play games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hi/Lo. Eventually, he shelved the dealer job and decided to try his hand at making it as a pro player on his own. Matusow wasted no time jumping into the big leagues as his first cash was a big one at the 1997 WSOP: playing in a $2,000 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo tournament, Mike managed to finish second only to Scotty Nguyen and bank over $81,000 for the finish.
And while Scotty Nguyen might have beaten Mike Matusow in the 1997 WSOP, he helped Mike tremendously during the 1998 WSOP. This is because Matusow decided to pay one-third of Nguyen’s $10,000 buy-in to the Main Event. The investment paid off big-time as Nguyen took first place and won $1 million, $333,333 of which went to Matusow for paying a third of the buy-in.
Mike Matusow wouldn’t have to rely on Scotty Nguyen for any more big breaks though, as he soon started earning plenty of money due to his own merit. In the 1999 WSOP, he won a $3,500 No-Limit Hold’em event which earned him over $265K and his first gold bracelet. Matusow would get another bracelet in the 2002 WSOP for winning a $5,000 Omaha Hi/Lo Split 8 or Better event and his most recent victory came in the 2008 WSOP where he won the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em 2-7 Draw w/Rebuys tournament. He earned a nice sum of $537,862 for that win.
Despite his 3 WSOP bracelets and numerous high finishes in other tournaments, Mike Matusow’s career hasn’t been without controversy. He did jail time in 2004 and 2005 after being caught with cocaine and has had to struggle with a drug problem over the years. Matusow is also disliked by just as many fans as those who root for him due to his brazen personality that was never more evident when he berated Greg Raymer during the 2004 WSOP Main Event. But his controversial personality has also landed Matusow on numerous TV shows like High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark. Perhaps his best known television appearance was on the WPT Bad Boys of Poker II show where he finished second to Tony G.
These days, Mike Matusow likes to keep busy by playing online poker at places like Full Tilt and PokerStars in addition to his live tournament appearances. To this date, he has earned well over $6.8 million dollars in tournament play.