Mike Matusow's nickname is "The Mouth," and he's got a lot to say. About how he played world champion Joe Hachem "like a fiddle," but still lost $75,000 in one hand.
About being a better reader at the poker table than Phil Ivey. About the medicines he's taking to stay focused. And about gathering all the big players in the world and boycotting next year's World Series of Poker because "You can't just get run over forever."
PokerListings.com sat down with "The Mouth" in the Full Tilt Poker lounge after he had been knocked out of the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em event.
Exclusive Interview with Mike Matusow, 2006 WSOP
You suffered some bad beats today?
It's been a rough day, a really rough day. Not because of the tournament, but I got in a side game and took the worst beat I ever took today. Me and Joe Hachem played a big, big pot. I had lost $25,000 to him in a hand 20 minutes earlier where I really played bad and made a misread. But I was still focused and waiting for a situation to come up.
He raised pretty big under the gun, I thought it was a big over-raise, so I called him with two eights. The flop came 4-4-8. He bet $5,000. I went into the tank, and then I called. The turn was a deuce, and he bet $10,000. I flipped my chips off and told everybody to leave me alone because I was in a big pot and had a big decision to make. I just laid the complete Hollywood act on him. I had $20,000 in front of me and I wanted to get $20,000 more. I flat called, and the river comes a queen, and he checked it. I bet $10,000, and he check-raises me all-in for $10,000 more. I call - he's got queens full, and I had lost a $75,000 pot.
I still can't get over it. I lost a pot like that two days ago when a guy got runner-runner hearts to beat my set of threes. So I've lost $150,000 in a couple of days because of miracle cards. Those beats don't happen to people in a lifetime.
What did you say to Joe Hachem after the hand?
There was nothing to say. Everybody knew that I played him like a fiddle. Everybody knew that I was getting the last $20,000 whether the queen came or not. There was no way he was check-folding that hand. I was getting it all, you know. And everybody around the table said that I couldn't have played the hand better. There was no need to raise on the turn. I was a 20-to-1 favorite for $20,000, and you're going to take those odds all day long.
What will you do to get over it?
I'll probably be taking a day off. Hopefully I'm going to wake up tomorrow, and not feel so bad. I'll probably lay out by the pool, get a little sun, invite some girls to come over and get naked, I don't know. I need to relax and get away from poker.
Are you satisfied with your performances so far in the World Series?
I cashed in the first one that I played, and I'm playing great poker. I feel that I'm focused and that it's a long month.
What are your hopes for the rest of the events?
Winning a bracelet is going to be tough, there is going to be so many players. I've got my hopes set on the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, but it's going to be tough to win a bracelet, I don't care who you are. As long as I keep playing the way I'm playing and take days off to stay focused, I'll be ok. I'm not going to let the bad beats I took kill my confidence. It could hurt me a lot, and I'm just going to try to separate myself from the negatives of it. That's always been a problem of mine, but it's something I'm really working on, and I think it will make a difference.
How do you work on becoming more positive and focused?
By taking a couple of days off, as I said. The old me never took days off. I got a bad run and would just get back into it the next day to take some more torture, and all of a sudden you think the world is coming to an end because it's just torture, torture, torture. I'm trying to get balance in my life. Take a day or two off, do different things, not think of poker, and come back with a different frame of mind. And up until the bad beats today, everything has been really positive. I think God is punishing me for having a relapse last night by jumping online and losing $20 grand. Because I'm not supposed to be playing online.
Are you more positive during the games as well?
I was playing really good today, and joking and laughing a lot, and I had confidence. But even with that, I just felt that I wasn't going to win today. I played perfect, but I never thought I was going to win. I was just having a good time - I'm playing good, I'm happy, but I'm not going to win today, and sure enough I didn't.
Do you have to make any strategic adjustments for these big tournaments?
I've really changed my game. People think I'm always bluffing, but I'm playing very, very tight. I'm almost weak-tight, but I'm not weak. I'm never weak - nobody can push me around. I'm playing the tightest poker I've ever played in my life, because everybody wants to outplay Mike Matusow. They see all these big bluffs, and even though I don't bluff that much, TV makes it look like I bluff a lot. So I'm just trying to play tighter than shit, and let them hang themselves. I'm playing aggressive from different angles, and a lot tighter, and I have actually told Phil Hellmuth to do the same thing, because people are always trying to outplay him as well.
You reached the final table in the Main Event last year. What about this year?
Let's be honest, if I make it through to the third day, that's an accomplishment. Realistically, 8,000 to 10,000 people - do you think my hopes are really up for making the final table? I'm really not thinking, Oh God, I hope I make the final table.
Here's what I'm thinking: Day 1 it's a bunch of mine fields, survive. Day 2, it's a bunch of mine field, survive. Day 3, I hope to get a good table where I can move some chips. And if I make it through Day 3, my poker playing skills are getting me the rest of the way. But it still depends on what kind of table I get. If I get Daniel Negreanu, or some other really tough players, to my left that won't let me do anything, it will be very tough. Table draw is everything in these tournaments. If I draw a table that allows me to raise every pot, and nobody's fighting against me, then I'm going to be a power.
How do you rank yourself as a poker player?
I believe I read better than Phil Ivey. I believe that I read better than anybody in the world, and I believe that I have better gears than anybody in the world. My problem is the ability to focus for longer periods of time. That's why I will never be able to do what I did last year at the World Series again. I literarily played the seven best days of poker of my life, and my focus never slipped.
It was amazing, like I was gifted by God. That's what it all comes down to. I take different things to help me focus, and sometimes my medication reacts differently, and I become a little "ih-ih." Those are the days that I give away $25,000 in a pot, and make those big blow ups. Great players don't do that, but that's the only difference. I can only hope that my medication reacts great for seven days.
What do you think of your nickname "The Mouth" and your bad reputation?
I don't really have a bad reputation, I just like to have fun. I'm here to make the sport, or whatever you want to call it, more enjoyable for people who watch it. People aren't going to watch poker if eight people sit around the table absolutely quiet. People are looking for entertainment. They look for an idiot like Phil Hellmuth, or a guy like me to talk shit, or a guy like Daniel Negreanu. Poker is like wrestling, it's entertainment. And I am just the way I am - I don't change because of the cameras, like some people do. I just act like the idiot that I am, and say whatever I want, because I don't give a shit what people think about me.
And you've got a lot on your mind?
Actually, I was talking to some people today about the 9% rake on the World Series. It's ridiculous. They're making $50,000,000 in side money, not to mention what TV pays them. In the old days, they didn't have that so they needed money to pay their employees. But now they're sticking it up our asses. The greed is ridiculous. Nine percent might not sound like much, but they're making $20,000 in rake this year.
I'm going to join the World Poker Association, and we've got to get all the big players together, because come next World Series we'll all have to get together and say, "We're not playing, unless this changes." If you get everybody together, the big, big names of poker, they're going to have to do something. They can't have a World Series without Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow, Daniel Negreanu - they just can't.
Is it realistic to get all the big names together and boycott the next World Series?
I think it is. You can't just get run over forever.