In case you haven’t figured it out, the personalities of poker intrigue me a lot more than the cards. That’s not to say that I don’t love the game, that poker isn’t a never-ending-question-without-any-true-answer-keeping-us-in-agony-as-we-try-to-discern-the-true-secrets-of-the-puzzle-that-we-each-like-to-think-exist-despite-evidence-to-the-contrary.
There was a time when I was a solid online player. That timewas a four-year period from 2000-2004 in which I played online poker for a living. That was a time when solid was good enough. In the years since, solid was good enough to lose your shirt. When I started into the industry, the plan was for me to write strategy based on those four years experience. I look back now, knowing the people I know and the things I do and find the concept laughable. Back then though, I just felt like there were so many people writing about the strategy of the game and that it was better left to the peeps who’d been doing it for thirty years. That’s why I started carving this little player-profile-and-poker-history niche of mine. That and the fact the personalities were –and still are—absolutely fascinating to me.
I like to describe the collected individuals of poker…or at least, the old poker…as cowboys and gangsters, even though it’s not entirely fair. For a white upper-middle class kid like myself, some of the shenanigans these guys get into escape the realm of possibility. Working with them allows me to live vicariously for a bit each day. During the World Series of Poker, this holds even truer with my position allowing me to stroll between tables and watch the action unfold.
Mike Matusow is one of those characters. The dude is absolutely nuts, absolutely obnoxious and absolutely honest. I’ve interviewed him at least a half-dozen times and he couldn’t guess my name in a hundred tries, but I like him for the simple fact that he doesn’t know anything but the truth. Last year, he and I turned an interview into a shouting match when he, off of his medication and feeling a little bitter and ballistic, went off on Harrah’s about this thing, that thing and the other thing. To tell you how sound his logic was throughout the conversation, he attacked a man in a Mr. Peanut costume about thirty minutes later.
Mike’s been changing of late. He just won his weight loss prop bet with Ted Forrest, in which he had to lose 60lbs in a year. He’d lost six as of January first and the race to the finish line left his body emaciated. I thought maybe that was why he was a little more collected than normal when I interviewed him a few days ago; His body couldn’t handle the lunacy.
Matusow’s been back on the road to strengthening himself since clearing the final weigh-in and I heard him shout from his table some hundred yards away more than once tonight, but the true test came when Jeffrey Pollack entered the room with Harrah’s new owner David Bonderman.
I meet a lot of very, very wealthy people, so shaking hands with real money slots usa wasn’t that big of a deal for me, but as the Commissioner (a guy I’m pleased to call a friend, even if our relationship is a professional one) left the stage leading his new boss on a tour of the goings on, Matusow bellowed out “JEFFREY!” and made a beeline. Talk about your potential disasters; if Matusow confused Bonderman for Mr. Peanut the WSOP could have been retired in five minutes.
Before the realization of the potential this meeting held hit Jeffrey’s face, I was calling out to him, asking if I could listen in. I mean, can you blame me? The richest man in the room meeting a guy who thrives on being broke (I think Matusow is one of the best players in the world when he’s broke, mediocre otherwise); the owner of WSOP meeting the most unabashed of all its detractors.
Jeffrey whipped out a finger, pointed it at me and said “No! You stay right there!” the finger guiding me back to my chair where I sat chastised and laughing my ass off. I’m always happy to co-operate and I really wasn’t going to report on it anyways and the way it happened so quickly left me amused.
They had their talk and it was surprisingly civil. That’s because a) Matusow is on his meds and b) he only had good things to say about how the series was going thus far. That’s how smoothly things have been running; the guy who loves to tear the shit out of Harrah’s could only muster the equivalent of a ‘good job’, even going so far as to tell me afterwards that Jeffrey was “a good man. A great man.” I’m still in shock.
Getting back to my original point, this was a fun moment for me because of the personalities involved and the history of their interactions. Mouth and the Commish have had their differences, but here was a well-run event bringing them together under what would have under any other scenario been a beyond-stressful situation. Its nice to see things going well enough to bring even these polar opposites together. At least, it is for this upper-middle class white kid.