Born in Los Angeles, California, in 1968, Mike “The Mouth” Matusow didn’t take long to develop one of his most defining characteristics – his mouth.
Even as a kid growing up, Mike was never afraid of voicing his opinions, even if it meant standing up to the biggest and toughest kids in the neighbourhood. He might have come home battered and bruised at times, but never defeated.
Growing up, Mike pursued a number of interests, and competition was always a common theme. Whether it was working on building race cars, shooting pool, or bowling, where he often rolled games of 290 or more, and once threw a perfect 300, Mike craved the competition.
In the early 1990s, Mike discovered a new arena in which to compete – poker. Mike had already discovered video poker when he began working as a dealer at a local casino. Although he loved the game, he wasn’t winning much, and he used his time at the table to study the players and their techniques. Soon, his game improved and he entered a small local poker tournament, which he promptly won.
Encouraged, Mike quickly became a regular in these small tournaments, winning often enough to boost both his bankroll and his confidence. With some money behind him, Mike decided to move up the ladder. He began playing in cash games around town, specialising in Omaha 8/Better, where he quickly excelled. Even to this day, Mike is widely considered to be one of the best Omaha 8/Better players in the world.
In 1997, Mike entered his first World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournament playing Omaha 8/Better, and finished second to Scotty Nyguen. Two years later, Mike won his first WSOP bracelet playing the $3,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold ’em tournament. In 2001, Mike made his first appearance at the WSOP Main Event final table, finishing the tournament in sixth place. One year later, Mike won his second WSOP bracelet playing the $5,000 buy-in Omaha 8/Better tournament.
With success came access to the Las Vegas high life, and Mike didn’t shy away from a good time. The partying and hard living took a toll on Mike, however, and led to the toughest period in his personal and professional life when, in late 2004, he was sentenced to six months in the Clark County jail on a drug charge.
Separated from his friends and family, Mike vowed to play the best poker of his life upon his release. In July 2005, just three months after his release, Mike proved true to his word, becoming the second person to ever reach the WSOP Main Event final table twice in a starting field of 600 or more players and winning US$1 million for his ninth-place finish.
Inspired by his performance, and wanting to prove that there’s more to his game than just his mouth, Mike scored the biggest victory of his career a few months later when he out-played – and often out-talked – a field of 110 of the world’s best players to win the 2005 Tournament of Champions and another US$1 million.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Mike is continually working on his game and remains one of the most successful – and outspoken – players at any table he joins.