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My Review Of Mike Matusow's Autobiography


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#1 keith crime

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 07:17 AM

When it comes to televised poker (and I’m a fanatic), I acknowledge one steadfast rule, unless Mike “The Mouth” Matusow is involved it will more than likely be about as entertaining as paint drying. Matusow is without a doubt the Charles Barkley of professional poker. Who else would walk right up to World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack and tell him that he was running the illustrious tournament into the ground? Did Barry Greenstein’s autobiography contain the quote, “Shawn [Sheikhan] could be a real prick back then. What am I saying? Shawn can still be a real prick today.”I just picked up a copy of Mike’s autobiography Check-Raising the Devil at the 2009 World Series and despite the lure of my subsequent trip to Los Angeles zipped through it in about a day and a half. It’s easily the best poker biography since Nollan Dalla’s One of a Kind, which chronicled the legend of the genius, drug casualty that was Stu Unger. Check-Raising the Devil takes you deep into the heart of the man who might have gone the Unger route and in fact fights with his infinitely charismatic self day by day because he knows that no matter how much money he wins that that day may still come. I first encountered Mike in person at the conclusion of the 2006 World Series of Poker. He was making a $10,000 bet on how long the final table would last. Not only did Mike lose when Jamie Gold quickly mopped up the title, but before it was done, he was even chastised by the powers that be for jovially swearing from the crowd during the taping of the telecast.That was my first visit to the Series and I found all the pros there to be extremely friendly and giving. They clearly saw the sponsorship possibilities on the horizon and were doing their best to further the reputation of their game. Mike was different though. He wasn’t there to be seen or to promote. Mike was at the final table because he loved the game. Mike was there because he was a fan. So it comes as no surprise that Mike proudly boasts to being right there in the front of the crowd when Unger won his record third bracelet in 1997. When it comes to poker, there is little doubt that no one is more passionate about the game than Matusow, who has on a number of occasions broken out into tears after being eliminated from big tournaments. Thanks to ESPN, The WSOP, and Norman Chad, we’ve been treated to hours and hours worth of prime Matusow entertainment. Matusow telling eventual winner Greg Raymer, “Stop ****ing with me! I’ve got big cajones. You’ve got little cojones. And I’ll bust your ass.”; informing every table he’s ever sat at that they were woefully out of his class; and of course my all time personal favorite, Matusow’s impression of Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club, after being penalized for inadvertently tossing out an F-bomb, which was of course followed by many more during the penalization process. This behavior would be boorish and detested from anyone else, but the truth is that Matusow is somehow also innocently sweet in a Chris Farley way. He could also be called the John Daly of the World Series of Poker, and he’s loved and protected like a teddy bear by many of the more respected names in the game today. During my second visit to the Series, I got to watch Mike play up close and I wasn’t disappointed. About three seconds into the first event of the 2007 WSOP, Mike went ballistic when he saw how small the numbers were on the playing cards. As Mike carried on his tirade, an amused Daniel Negreanu was heard to say, “I told him three weeks ago that the cards sucked.”I also found out that Mike’s nickname didn’t come from clever ESPN editing. Mike doesn’t talk occasionally at the poker table. He doesn’t talk in spurts. Mike “The Mouth” Matusow is always talking at the poker table. “You guys better not give me chips.” “This Vitamin water stuff is great, I wonder if they would let me endorse it.” “Hell yes, I’d go on Dancing with the Stars!” “If God had my online account, even he’d be broke!”But Check-Raising the Devil is about a lot more than a really entertaining, lovable character, who has made some big poker scores. It’s literally the story of a man at war with himself, doing his desperate best not to succumb to the same temptations that led to Unger’s penniless Cocaine induced death in 1998.Matusow’s book doesn’t bother discussing poker strategy. Instead it focuses on how the game can become a competition to control one’s own worst urges. The bipolar wired Matusow is capable of being the best poker player in the world on some nights. There are times when he believes that he knows exactly what every one of his opponents is holding. On others, Matusow was nothing but an out of control desperate gambler giving his money away, a phenomenon that Norman Chad famously coined as the “Matusow blow up”. Matusow’s need to self medicate came to a head when he first tried Crystal Meth. The drug gave him incredible focus and the ability to play for hours on end without making a mistake - for a while. After an incredible run that saw Matusow win a million dollars online in about five months, the drug’s effect on Matusow wore off and he found himself, once again the sucker at the table only this time one with an expensive habit to feed. Matusow’s description of winning his second WSOP bracelet, while going through Meth withdrawal here, is riveting and one of the greatest stories of individual determination that I’ve ever read. While, at times barely able to stand up, Matusow endured the tournament, so unsure of his ability to carry on that he was carrying a packet of the drug in his shirt pocket at all times. Without a doubt though, the number one reason to read Check-Raising the Devil is Matusow’s retelling of the events that led to his arrest, conviction and subsequent six month prison sentence for drug trafficking. Matusow’s entrapment by an over friendly undercover DEA agent is everything that is wrong with our current treatment of drug users in America today. Matasow’s Judas actually helped and encouraged him in his efforts to get clean, before stepping in and lowering the boom. Shortly after Matusow had kicked his drug problem, the undercover agent started to repeatedly beg Matusow to get him a large quantity of Cocaine. Matusow, who is nothing if not loyal, eventually gave in and complied with the request. He refused to make any money on the deal and strongly told the man, he thought to be his friend, that it was something he’d never again do under any circumstances. When I first heard about the incident, I wondered why Matusow had taken the plea bargain, if indeed he had been so obviously entrapped. Check-Raising the Devil explains the pressures and deep depressions Matusow went through in this period, his fear of wearing a wire for the DEA, and his eventual decision not to risk a ten year jail sentence against an unfeeling judge and a lying determined DEA agent. Like the similarly, absurdly jail serving Tommy Chong, Matusow was set up and blackmailed into a place he was never meant to be. Matusow has made some huge blunders in his life. Before his stay in jail he was offered a piece of Full Tilt Poker by Howard Lederer and instead decided to pass up on being set for life in favor of having a few hundred thousand dollars to lose (and Matusow seems to always be losing when he bets sports) on football while in jail. Nevertheless, he’s done his best to turn his life around and avoid falling prey to the temptations that dragged Stu Unger down. Matusow credits his bipolar and ADHD diagnoses and their subsequent medication treatments with saving his life and seems to finally be on his way to financial stability, but one nevertheless gets the impression from his book that life remains a day to day struggle for the man, as he fights with his prescribed meds with the same fervor he once battled his Crystal Meth addiction. One of the things that makes Matusow compelling is that he seems to fully understand that despite his recent successes, he is by no means out of the woods. Whether Matusow has conquered his demons or not (and one has to believe that nearly everyone, even his opponents, are rooting for him), to say that Matusow has lived a colorful life is a little like saying that Carrot-Top is starting to look a little garish. Aside from the brutal self examination of a man fraught with self sabotaging urges and bouts of depression, Check-Raising the Devil has plenty of tales of ecstasy fueled rides on the wild side of Sin City. This is still the man, who practically went broke because he had a dream that Scotty Nguyen would win the 1998 World Series of Poker (he did), and I’m still laughing at the pride Matusow seems to have as he looks at one of his couches and remembers the night a porn star held court there one wild night. In the end that means that aside from being good for you, Check-Raising the Devil is as entertaining as the man on TV.

#2 CaneBrain

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 07:30 AM

Good review. I will have to read the book.One of the big life lessons you learn in law school is that the justice system is set up against defendants, prosecutors and judges are not white knights but people who need to keep their stats up, and all defense attorneys are not scumbags. I am sad that Mike got railroaded into jail but I get the feeling the experience was probably a net positive for him.
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#3 rcgs59

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 07:45 AM

sounds like an awesome review. From someone who works with bipolar patients I can understand what Mike most likely went threw. There stories are usually very freaky and sometimes just heart breaking. I can't wait to get his book and read it. I seen many patients at there highs and at there very lows, but it's nice to see them at there best when they are happy and stable. I wish him all the best, and hope he stays stable as long as he can.
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#4 Balloon guy

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 07:47 AM

I'll read it.
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#5 GWCGWC

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 08:28 AM

I saw this thread title and who created it then thought to myself, I haven't been linked to Keith crime's blog in a couple months. I should open the thread since I'm mildly curious as to which direction Keith will go in his review. After opening the thread, much to my surprise, it's not a link to his blog! Now I'm left to wonder if it was copy/pasted from his blog or if he actually gave FCP Gen-Pop an exclusive. OP = worth the read

#6 keith crime

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 08:38 AM

View PostGWCGWC, on Friday, June 26th, 2009, 11:28 AM, said:

I saw this thread title and who created it then thought to myself, I haven't been linked to Keith crime's blog in a couple months. I should open the thread since I'm mildly curious as to which direction Keith will go in his review. After opening the thread, much to my surprise, it's not a link to his blog! Now I'm left to wonder if it was copy/pasted from his blog or if he actually gave FCP Gen-Pop an exclusive. OP = worth the read
it's actually an exclusive for now i sent it to a site and haven't heard back and got tired of waiting :club:

#7 myenemy

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 10:17 AM

GReat review. I'll pick it up.

#8 byaaatch

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 10:19 AM

awesome review. Now as much as I hate reading I have to pick up this book.

#9 banksa

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 10:32 AM

yea i am a little more then half way into the book i am liking it alot
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#10 Pivvy2001

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 11:02 AM

View PostCaneBrain, on Friday, June 26th, 2009, 7:30 AM, said:

Good review. I will have to read the book.One of the big life lessons you learn in law school is that the justice system is set up against defendants, prosecutors and judges are not white knights but people who need to keep their stats up, and all defense attorneys are not scumbags. I am sad that Mike got railroaded into jail but I get the feeling the experience was probably a net positive for him.
what law school did you go to, the School of Over Generalization?

#11 rjkdb8

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 11:18 AM

View PostPivvy2001, on Friday, June 26th, 2009, 11:02 AM, said:

what law school did you go to, the School of Over Generalization?
Zing!I have no doubt that the details of Matusow's setup are infuriating. Sadly the uncertainty that surrounds both civil and criminal trials (both jury and bench) represents a profound incentive to make a deal or reach a settlement, even in the absence of wrongdoing.On the other end of the spectrum, I read this a couple of years ago and highly recommend it:http://www.amazon.co...r/dp/0440223822I know that everyone generally agrees that he was guilty, but I don't think most people really appreciate just how brain dead that jury actually was.

#12 Lord_anarchy

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 11:27 AM

mike has been my favorite player for a long time, and i've been meaning to read this book, i just don't have the time to read it
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#13 James D

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 11:33 AM

Solid review... thanks.I can't believe he declined a stake in Full Tilt! Hindsight is a wonderful thing.edit - Oh, and if his brother Scott ever writes a book, let us know... I'm sure that would be the most delusional, yet hilarious read ever.

#14 CaneBrain

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 11:34 AM

View PostPivvy2001, on Friday, June 26th, 2009, 11:02 AM, said:

what law school did you go to, the School of Over Generalization?
sigh. my post was pointing out that most of our generalizations about criminal law are false. I made that post from my desk at my brand new, sick job courtesy of my degree from the University of Over-Generalization School of Law. Did you make yours from your mom's basement or from the computer lab at ITT Tech?
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#15 dna4ever

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 11:38 AM

View PostCaneBrain, on Friday, June 26th, 2009, 2:34 PM, said:

sigh. my post was pointing out that most of our generalizations about criminal law are false. I made that post from my desk at my brand new, sick job courtesy of my degree from the University of Over-Generalization School of Law. Did you make yours from your mom's basement or from the computer lab at ITT Tech?
It's good to know that high paid lawyers are not too uppity to pull out a good ole 'your mom' joke once in awhileand back on topic - nice review, i will be reading this book sometime

#16 aucu

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 11:38 AM

Didn't know if I would bother with this one, will now, thanks.
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#17 Tehtoe

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 11:45 AM

I ordered this from the FTP store for 6.4k ftps, got it today, have yet to start reading it though.

#18 Pivvy2001

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 12:26 PM

View PostCaneBrain, on Friday, June 26th, 2009, 11:34 AM, said:

sigh. my post was pointing out that most of our generalizations about criminal law are false. I made that post from my desk at my brand new, sick job courtesy of my degree from the University of Over-Generalization School of Law. Did you make yours from your mom's basement or from the computer lab at ITT Tech?
I love when people post stupid shit, get called out on it, and then act indignantI know what you were trying to point out, you just did a piss-poor job doing ityou ad hominem reply made you look stupidyour degree from University of Miami is very nice, but not nice enough for you to be on a soapbox about your degree and job (though the legal market is quite lousy right now, so congratulations on landing it)

#19 CaneBrain

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 12:39 PM

View PostPivvy2001, on Friday, June 26th, 2009, 1:26 PM, said:

I love when people post stupid shit, get called out on it, and then act indignantI know what you were trying to point out, you just did a piss-poor job doing ityou ad hominem reply made you look stupidyour degree from University of Miami is very nice, but not nice enough for you to be on a soapbox about your degree and job (though the legal market is quite lousy right now, so congratulations on landing it)
I was just being a dick. I think why I responded is your point was bad. I didn't overgeneralize anything. The criminal legal system is very much set up against the defendant particularly during the grand jury process. That's not a generalization....it's a fact.Not all criminal defense attorneys are scumbags is a generalization but certainly not an over-generalization. The line about prosecutors and judges is maybe a generalization but more just a statement of the reality that they are judged by certain statistics like most people in most jobs and have to answer to a boss more than they answer to a higher legal authority.So, I just disagreed with you. I dont think my post was stupid and I think yours was actually way off base. And I decided to bust your balls about it. I think most people enjoyed an ITT tech joke. my degree is alright but I lucked out with my job offer and I am crowing about it baby. You should see this view of Biscayne Bay. If it makes you feel better, I have to waste my weekend studying for the Bar exam so I keep this job while you go out and have fun with your ITT tech buddies.
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#20 rjkdb8

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 12:47 PM

View PostCaneBrain, on Friday, June 26th, 2009, 12:39 PM, said:

If it makes you feel better, I have to waste my weekend studying for the Bar exam so I keep this job . . .
Ah, the rule of thumb is you don't need to start studying until after the 4th of July. Enjoy this weekend and next and then get down to business.




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