Posted: Sunday July 10, 2005 3:09PM; Updated: Sunday July 10, 2005 3:09PM
While some consider Mike "The Mouth" Matusow obnoxious, there's no denying his poker ability -- 1999 WSOP No-Limit champ.
There were 200 tables of 10 players each when the third and final preliminary stage (Day 1C) of the 36th annual World Series of Poker's main event began Saturday. However, you needn't have roamed all over the Brasilia room at the Rio in Las Vegas to be entertained. You just needed to stay within earshot (the simplest of missions to accomplish) of "Shoes" and "The Mouth", who were seated just a table away from each other.
"Shoes" is Michael Gambony, a 53 year-old former professional pool player who has turned to another type of green-felted table to earn his living.
By the 15th hour of play Saturday (they began at 11 a.m. and ended shortly after 2:30 a.m.) the Scottsdale, Ariz., based rounder has what looks to be the largest chip stack of the remaining 700 or so players. "Shoes" somewhat resembles Al Pacino and, as the evening wears on, his speech and gestures beckon the memory of Pacino's Big Boy Caprice character in the film Dick Tracy.
"I got three ex-wives," Gambony, seated at Table 137, tells his fellow players. He gesticulates wildly, fidgets constantly in his chair, absent-mindedly knocks over a chip stack so tall that it could be a replica of the Kuala Lumpur skyline. "And I got kids with each one. Hell, if I win this tournament I'll grab the $7 million and let them fight it out."
"The Mouth" is Mike Matusow, a former WSOP bracelet winner (1999 No-Limit Hold 'Em event) in his mid-thirties. The Mouth, sporting a black Full-Tilt basketball jersey and shorts, is seated at Table 127, directly kitty-corner to "Shoes". Matusow only demands as much attention as Dennis Rodman once did. Matusow is to coffee housing what Frasier Crane is to coffee houses, and he loves to punctuate a hand with a couplet for the table's benefit: "Poker, poker, it's all skill. If you don't believe me, just ask ... me ..."
Within the first two hours of play, "The Mouth" got more attention than even he wanted. He went head to head with George Kubal, a 75 year-old retired Air Force colonel and WSOP rookie. "The Mouth" had pocket kings; the colonel, pocket 8's. The flop came 7-9-10, giving Kubal eight outs for the open-ended straight. He hit it on the turn, which came a 6. "The Mouth" chucked in his cards, which is when the controversy arose.
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The dealer said that Matusow's cards hit her hand, and called for a floor official to censure "The Mouth". Matusow's fellow players backed him, and nothing came of it. But then, "The Mouth" said that four-letter F-word (and it wasn't "flop").
He turned to a fellow player after the dealer contretemps and said, softly, "This is f___ing bulls___."
Someone heard him. Suddenly, "The Mouth" had incurred a 10-minute swearing penalty. No sooner had that occurred than Matusow transformed into Judd Nelson's John Bender-characterfrom The Breakfast Club. Challenging Principal Vernon in the form of the WSOP official. "Oh, yeah," said Matusow, "well f___ all y'all."
"F___! F___! F___!" Matusow repeated as he walked out of the room. By midnight, however, Matusow, who depending on your perspective, is either an obnoxious a-hole or a passionate, gifted player (both, actually), was sitting behind $60-70,000 worth of chips. Last year, he busted out to eventual champion Greg "The Fossilman" Raymer and went away in tears. "I could play perfect poker for the next 20 years," he said with conviction, "and not get to the final table." On those hands that "The Mouth" was not winning, he was commentating.
Consider the hand they played at Table 127 just after 1 a.m. Pre-flop, one player goes all in and two others follow. "He's got pocket aces, he's got pocket kings and he's got pocket queens," Matusow declares, pointing to three fellow players. Sure enough, he had the hands correct, if not the players who possess each one. A fourth player announces that he just folded pocket kings, which lets the K-K holder (the previously mentioned Air Force colonel) know that he's done.
The flop comes 8-6-3.
The turn? Another 8.
And the river? A queen! "Yes!" says Dave Seidman, 27, of Chicago, who knocks out two players on what began as the third-best hand. And of course "The Mouth" launches into another serenade: "Poker, poker, it's all skill ... start with the worst hand and work uphill"