Every sport has a bad boy or two or 10). In poker, Mike "The Mouth" Matusow is one of the originals.
Best known for constantly needling his opponents and for never holding back emotional outbursts, you might think of Matusow as more flash than substance.
But you can't fully discount his talent with the cards.
Matusow had already discovered video poker when he forayed into the real thing as a dealer at Sam's Town Hotel and Gambling Hall in Las Vegas. He used his time at the table to study players and their techniques and before long he was heading into a small tournament to play.
Needless to say, he won it. Since, well ... it's been a long journey from ESPN regular to Full Tilt Poker pro to poker industry cast-off to right-wing conspiracy fan to man on the rebound.
Poker Pro, Poker Personality, Poker Pariah
It's hard to know which came first - Matusow being known for his poker play or for his out-sized personality.
Well known for his "Matusow Meltdowns" or "Matusow Blow-ups," where he misjudges a hand or series of hands and puts himself completely out of the game at critical junctures in play, Matusow has finished in the money in dozens of high profile poker events.
His wins include the 2005 World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions, the 2002 WSOP $5,000 Buy-in Omaha Hi-Lo Split Event, and the 1999 WSOP $3,500 Buy-in No-Limit Hold'em Event.
In total he's made over a dozen WSOP final tables as well as plenty of final tables in other prominent tournaments such as the World Poker Tour (WPT) and Aruba Classic in October 2004, where he placed third and earned $250,000.
Since, it's been a real mix of ups and downs. Matusow has a total of four career WSOP bracelets, his latest in 2013. He was also one of the signature faces of Full Tilt Poker but was left dangling in the wind when things went south after Black Friday.
Losing that kind of steady (and massive) monthly income clearly had a major effect on Matusow and he went into a downward spiral, accompanied by major health problems.
In 2014 Matusow suffered a thoracic spinal contusion (from a chair he was playing poker in collapsing) that left him unable to walk and at risk of paralysis. Both his brain and his body suffered and it wasn't until three years later, successful surgery and a long rehabilitation that he was able to work his way entirely back just to beign able to sit at a poker table all day.
Along the way Matusow says he went broke, lost his house and spent his days "feeling sorry for himself."
His return to the WSOP in 2017 was a success, though. Matusow had 7 cashes for over $250,000 total including three final tables in $10k events and a cash in the $50,000 buy-in Poker Players Championship.
In 2018 he repeated that feat with another 7 cashes including a final table in a $1,500 PLO Hi-Lo event.
Mike Matusow: Check Raising the Devil
Over the years Matusow has been both widely reviled and loved in the poker world, depending on whom you speak to.
Some find his loud-mouthed antics and blow-ups hilarious and endearing, while others actually refuse to engage him in casual conversation at or away from the poker table. Hs repeated claims that he "runs worse than any poker player" have been similarly polarizing.
In recent years his questionable political commentary on Twitter has helped drive a wedge even further between him and the poker community at large.
His knack for causing mischief in the poker world matches his once chaotic private life which, as mentioned, has seen its fair share of ups and downs.
Matusow has battled drug problems and depression for much of his life and even spent six months in jail on drug charges following the broadcast of the 2004 WSOP Main Event on ESPN.
If you'd like to read Matusow's own version of the events that made him one of poker's most notable figures in the 2000s, you can read his autobiography, Check Raising the Devil, which he released in 2012.