Matt Berkey: Surviving And Thriving In Poker’s Nosebleeds
Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 001
Matt Berkey on social media:
I could not be more excited to share with you my conversation with guest Matt Berkey (otherwise known as “Berkey”… Poker players and their original nicknames, amirite?) a professional player since 2003 who’s known for playing in some of the highest of high stakes games on the planet — and that’s the way he likes it.
He’s gone from playing $1/$2 and $2/$5 games in college to claiming his seat among the world’s elite in the famed “Ivey’s Room” where he plays no-limit hold’em at stakes as high as $300/$600/$1200.
Not just a nosebleeds cash game crusher, Berkey also has over $4 million in lifetime tournament winnings to go along with 6 WSOP final tables despite playing a very limited tourney slate.
He also loves to write, whether it be for his own blog thevoicewithin.me, print and online magazines, or as a contributor to the Huffington Post.
Being one who thrives with multiple balls in the air, Berkey’s also the founder of elite live cash game training site SolveForWhyAcademy.com.
During our conversation today you’ll get Berkey’s input on what it means to be not just a good player but a good competitor at the table.
He’ll talk about his feelings on moving up stakes, the fear of taking shots, and how to overcome that fear.
He also has invaluable insights into game theory, exploitative play, and how to make sure that you’re always maximizing and increasing your edge. Aside from all that, he’s got some great stories, too.
Like a lot of players in their poker career, Berkey has won and lost millions of dollars—with the notable point that sometimes he does it in only one hand!
You’ll hear how he deals with the stellar highs of raking in seven figure pots as well as the crushing lows of watching a small fortune being pushed in someone else’s direction… and then being asked to pose for a picture with the dude that just won!
There are very few people in the poker world who can say they’ve seen and done as much as Berkey. He’s truly a gift to the game, not just because he’s one of the elite players in the universe but also because he does everything in his power to give back to the great game of poker as well.
So what are you waiting for?
Click any of the icons below to find the CPG pod on the platform of your choice. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy my conversation with Matt Berkey on the Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast.
If this is your first time on the Chasing Poker Greatness website, be sure to check out our groundbreaking poker courses to help sharpen your strategy and profitably implement solid, data-proven solutions to your game today:
Brad: Welcome my friend to episode numero uno of Chasing Poker Greatness, the poker podcast that digs deep into the minds of poker legends, up and coming stars, and tireless ambassadors of the game. You’ll hear it all in their own words as they explain the business of card playing from their point of view, and let you in on their secrets for learning, training, playing and constantly improving. This is your host, founder of enhanceyouredge.com, Brad Wilson. And I could not be more excited to share my conversation today with guest Matt Berkey, otherwise known simply as Berkey. He’s been a professional player since 2003, who’s known for battling in some of the highest of high stakes games on the planet. And that is the way he likes it. He’s gone from playing one-two, and two-five games in college, to claiming his seat among the world’s elite in the famed Ivy’s room, where he plays no limit hold ’em at stakes as high as 300, 600, 1200. Not just a nosebleed cash game crusher, Berkey also has 4 million in lifetime tournament winnings to go along with six WSOP final tables, despite playing a very limited tourney slate. He also loves to write, whether it be for his own blog, thevoicewithin.me, print and online magazines, or as a contributor to the Huffington Post. Being a man who thrives with multiple balls in the air, Berkey is also the founder of elite live cash game training site, solveforwhyacademy.com. During our conversation today, we’ll get Berkeley’s input on what it means to be not just a good player, but a good competitor on the green felt. He’ll also talk about his feelings on moving up stakes, the fear of taking shots, and how to overcome that fear. He’ll also provide invaluable insights into game theory, exploitative play, and how to make sure that you’re always maximizing and increasing your edge. Aside from all that, he’s got some incredible stories to tell as well. Like a lot of players in their poker career, Berkey has won and lost millions of dollars, with a notable point that sometimes he does it in only one hand. You’ll hear how he deals for the stellar highs of raking in seven figure pots, as well as the crushing lows of watching small fortunes being pushed in someone else’s direction. And then being asked to pose for a picture with the dude that just won said fortune. There are a few people in the poker world who can say they’ve seen and done as much as Berkey. He is truly a gift to the game, not just because he’s one of the elite players in the universe, but also because he does everything in his power to give back to the great game of poker as well. So, sit back, relax. And without any further ado, this is Berkey on Chasing Poker Greatness.
Brad: Berkey, it’s awesome having you on the show. How are you doing, sir?
Matt: Fantastic. Pleasure to be here. Nice to get to meet you face to face for the first time.
Brad: Yeah, likewise, likewise. As I tend to do, starting off this show, I’d like to ask you about your story getting into playing cards. I know you got in 2003. Could you tell me tell me how that happened?
Matt: Yeah, so I actually started playing long before that. In high school, I was playing just like quarter games with my friends. But we didn’t know really much about no limit. I’m from Pittsburgh. So, a lot of East Coast influence was coming through. We mostly played variations of stud games. And they were always like, you know, these wild variations like, Follow the Queen, Chicago. Basically, in any given game, there was going to be some subset of wildcards. And it was it was fun. And I won a lot. Looking back, I don’t really know why. I’m sure it just had something to do with psychology, where like maybe I was more risk averse, or less risk averse rather. Then my friends or whatever the case may be. But when I got into college, I’ve never drank in my life. And I played baseball. So, you know, the peer pressure was almost double being a part of an athletic team. And my bridge for being the outsider, I guess, aside from just like being okay, baseball was the fact that I played poker. So, like as a freshman, I was the only one invited to the upperclassmen game. And that was like a good social lubricant for me. By the time the moneymaker boom hit in 2003, I was a junior, and you know 21 in a position where I can start going to casinos and things like that, able to deposit online, and I was just very fortunate. I actually.. To get my first bank roll, there was a, like a medical study being conducted on campus, where, where they took like two, you can’t see, I guess, like on my forum. But they took two skin seen graphs from each of my forarm. And they were testing like a diabetic cream for people with foot ulcers. So, they’re testing this new cream compared to neosporin. Which one would heal faster? And I got paid like 1200 bucks for it. So, that was my initial like bankroll starter. Play some like, you know, 25 cent, 50 cent games in the baseball house. And I won’t say that I never looked back. I went broke a myriad of time. But you know that that was good enough to get me through college. I had more money than I ever saw in my life by the time I was graduating.
Brad: So, you literally had skin in the game right away.
Matt: Yeah. Basically.
Brad: You mentioned that you had never drank alcohol. Did you drink, like to.. or did you, was poker, just your, that was your bridge?
Matt: Yeah, no. I’ve never consumed alcohol. In my life. I’ve never really had drug outside of caffeine. I’ve just always been like, kind of on the straight and narrow. It was one of those things where like, the curiosity just eluded me, and still does to this day. I’ve never really felt or felt like any sort of, like, a compelling drive to test this stuff out. It just seemed like a net negative to me. But yeah, like poker was a huge, I guess bridge in that way where I was, I was shy, especially going to college, I didn’t like change, I came from a small school, it was hard to bridge that gap. So, it was nice to have something that whether I was or wasn’t, I had convinced myself I was skillful at it. And it allowed me then to kind of like socially blend in. And, you know, just like the landscapes now, I feel like it almost prepared me in a way where I didn’t have to lose in order to be liked or invited into these games, right? I just had to be the guy who had enough money to sit down and play. And, you know, as I kind of, like bridge the gap into high stakes, it was a lot of the same. It wasn’t about being the guy who came in dump money, it was about being the guy who could be a gracious loser amongst people who had more than enough money to gamble with and, you know, to be a competitor and treat everybody equally, despite the fact that in life itself, we might not be on a level playing field.
Brad: Yeah, and this is something that comes up a lot on this show, is respecting folks, and just being cool. You know, being a fun person to play with is something that takes you shockingly far in the poker world as far as developing relationships and getting opportunities. You know, if you’re, if you’re just, you know, an asshole, then it’s hard to you know, play in private games, it’s hard to get invited. It’s hard to have a social life. It just, it just compounds everything is so much harder. When you’re not just a cool, kind of easygoing, like you said, gracious loser. Because I mean, everybody’s going to lose, right?
Brad: But regardless of whether you’re a favorite or not. So just, you know, be happy for folks when they win and shake it off and just focus and play hard, but control your emotions effectively.
Matt: Yeah, it’s a tough endeavor, right? It takes a lot of work and introspection and self-discovery to actually be able to get to that point. Because the fact of the matter is, whenever you’re in an environment, where you’re getting to play some sort of nosebleed, almost nobody is going to be financially prepared for that. So, you’re going to be the one out on a limb, not your, not your opposition. And that’s going to do a few things. It’s going to make you really heighten your competitive drive, which isn’t really an appealing trait to everybody like, yeah, they want to feel like there’s a battle taking place. But nobody wants to feel like they’re being looked down upon. Or that like, you’re so good, that they don’t stand a chance. So, you know, there’s a few things at play. Like, I just kind of grew up through the game with the idea of the old gamblers axiom of you got to give action to get action. And, you know, taking that loss leader concept where you’re willing to play more hands pre-flop than everybody else because you feel like you’re able to recoup a lot of ADB post-flop. And yeah, that results in a lot of big swings and a lot of moments where you feel like the world’s crashing down. One story in particular, I’ll never forget, the biggest pot I’ve watched in my life up to that point. It was a $1.2 million pot where I had four-bit pocket kings pre-flop against Roger Sippl, who is you know, a very wealthy man from California, businessman, you know, but loves the game. He calls in the board comes down king, jack, six or something like that, with the king of spades. And we get in a bunch of money on the flop, turned into the queen of spades, putting king, queen of spades out. And now a ten, or ten, nines of straight, and I check Cheb for like 400,000. He calls, and I go once or twice Roger, and he goes, “I don’t know, I have a pretty good hand”. I know. So I, what is it and I tabled kings? Because my hands not so good anymore. Here’s jack, ten of spades, for a parent or royal drop. And I’m like, okay. Like, nah! Now just, just once. I’m like, okay. I’m fine, please, please don’t do that to me. And the ace of spades just rips off on the river, and he jumped out of his seat, it’s the happiest moment of his poker career. I’m at my lowest point for sure. And I like have to endure this guy, like laughing like a hyena, taking pictures of the board, taking pictures of me, me shoving half a million his way and everything else. But it’s like, you know, that’s a defining moment. Because if I throw a tantrum, or I hang my head, or I physically get ill at the table, whatever the case may be, they’ll enjoy that pain that, that I exude in that moment. But then they’ll also have this like sour taste, especially if I’m, like, aggressively emotional, where it’s like, I don’t want to play with that kid. Like, you know, I gave him action in the spot where I’m a big dog. And I got lucky. And he treated me like shit because of it. So, it was quite the opposite, right? It’s like, you almost get a guaranteed to be in those games for a long time coming, because you’re able to take those losses, and you’re able to just like, understand, like, hey, this might have been a defining part in my career thus far. But, as long as I can still get myself in action and have a chance to sit at the table. But there will be more defining parts down the line.
Brad: Yeah, you play the long term. And that is a giant pot. And also, you know, you don’t want to make it bittersweet for them either. But I, you know, you make it bittersweet. It leaves it like you said, it leaves a bad taste in their mouth. And at the end of the day, you obviously want to be in that game, and you want to be flopping top set and getting shit tons of action from jack, ten of spades.
Brad: Whether or not you want them to make a royal, is a different matter. But, yeah, tell me, you know, you mentioned about being out on a limb in like, you know, the first time that you’re playing big. Do you have any memories or stories about, you know, the first time you were playing big, like, what was going on in your head? How did you deal with that?
Matt: Yeah, I mean, I guess I’ll compartmentalize a little bit. Because there’s a difference between like the first time I played 25/50, on my own dime, where I might have had like, a quarter million to my name, versus the first time I played 300/600, where I was in a, I don’t even know what to call it, like calling it a backing deal almost isn’t fair, because I was putting up a lot of the risk myself. But the 25/50, I don’t remember very much. I just remember like, it was my time. I had arrived. I felt like I was comfortable in the spot. And I got my head kicked in by Robo sitting immediately to my left, just three betting me to death.
Matt: So, like, I got humbled a little bit, but it was also really early in my career, it was like 2010. Fast forward then to like 2013,14-ish, when I first got to play the big game, this is just way different. And thankfully, I was emotionally prepared for it. But that only takes you so far, right? Because no matter how emotionally in tune you are to how you’re supposed to feel as a professional and how you’re supposed to carry yourself, once you walk out of that room, and are no longer surrounded by your business counterparts, and you’re no longer expected to act like a professional, all those emotions that you’ve been suppressing for the better part of X amount of hours, just hit you like a brick wall. And, you know, I can remember my first session very vividly, I was playing 200/400, it was a 50k minimum buy in, I put up half. And at the time, I probably had like, I don’t know, 300, 400000 to my name. So not terribly large exposure, but pretty big, a little bit on the reckless side. I think I had like a total of 75k exposure for the session. And I flop top two versus bottom set, versus a guy that I thought to be really tight. And I just remember being in a situation on the river where I’m facing a 25k all in, and I just like no, I’m supposed to fold. And just like try to suppress that feeling because I think it’s just my emotions getting the best of me. And I ultimately arrived with a theoretically correct calling, he just shows me bottom set. And I can just remember like, replaying that hand for week. But it’s just like any other time that you take shots in your life. Eventually you become numb to the surroundings. And you just have to do a lot of the work off the table where it’s like okay, I have a proper shot taking strategy. I know how much risk I’m, I’m in for I’ve fleshed out what the worst-case scenario can be and I accept it. So now whenever I’m behind the glass doors, I’m just gonna play as if I was playing my normal game. And whatever comes with it, comes with it. And once I was able to kind of like, get to that point, it, it really altered everything. I played some like ridiculous hands. That is, in the moment I knew, or I was more aware of like how much actual risk of ruin I was taking on, I probably would have just like, bowed out and coward and not made the correct plays. But, you know, that’s what we get paid to do. And it’s, it’s really what you need to condition yourself from day one, if you want to take this group has seriously.
Brad: There’s a lot of things there. The psychological aspect of dealing with, you know, you have talked to against the type player facing a 25k shove on the river, and telling yourself that yeah, like, theoretically, this is a this is a call. I feel like it’s a fold in the spot. Is it my emotions? You know, is it because I’m playing big, and that’s affecting this decision? So, there’s, there’s a lot to go into play? How do you measure your risk of ruin? Like, what does that look like for folks?
Matt: Right. So, I mean, there are way more precise metrics than, than what I can give you off the top my head, there are actual calculators and things like that, that you can take a look at. The Kelly criterion is obviously the benchmark for where we should begin examining risk of ruin. But even once you’ve done all of that, that work, there’s still like this emotional risk of ruin, that I would say is like pretty impactful, where when you cross certain, certain thresholds of pain, it now becomes, like detrimental and there’s a deterioration process that happened to your game. And, you know, I can’t imagine I’m the only one who’s been victim of this throughout my career, but it was a big thing that like led me to working with Elliott Row in 2016, where I just seemed to have this innate ability to accumulate a lot of money very, very, very quickly. But as I hit certain thresholds, even if I didn’t necessarily up my risk, my emotional risks seem to be like greatly increasing. And I was almost like playing, playing to maintain rather than to grow. And, you know, keeping that mindset, even if it was subconscious, was very destructive, it would just put me in situations similar to this, like, top to versus bottom set where I couldn’t trust myself. Because I was unaware of, if I was just emotionally attached to this situation, or if this was an actual rebased decision that I could make in game. And you know, after working with him a lot and kind of deprogramming that, I guess, like, level of emotional tolerance that you have to the game, it became a lot more strategical, and I could just kind of pick apart the hand history and start making really explosive calls, really explosive bolts, because especially in like 2013 to 16 whatever, that’s what we were paid to do. I mean, that’s, that’s what the environment allows.
Brad: Yeah. And for the most part in life poker, I feel like, even today, that’s still, it’s still the way to be playing, you know, whatever, up to 10 and a quarter even, or even bigger, you can, you’re playing live, you have a lot of information. And a lot of times the inclination, I feel like is for folks to say, “Well, you know, if I fold here, then that’s very easy to exploit. It’s not to do and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah”. But the thing is, like, the better information that you get, the better decisions you can make, and who cares if something exploitive, if all of your information tells you look like, you know, this dude’s got bottom set? Like this is a fold, right?
Matt: Yeah, I mean, I think one of the big misconceptions that kind of has gotten passed along with the whole GTO movement, is that, hey, we’re capable of playing actual game theory optimally, which we’re not.
Brad: Yeah, yeah. Of course not.
Matt: And that be, that somehow it applies to the live realm in the sense that we need to protect ourselves, even against the best in the world. Like, of course, you have to be far more protected in your, in your strategy construction. But that’s simply because their counter strategies are a lot stronger. Not because they recognize some sort of hole in your game, and immediately lean into an exploit. They’re not wavering either, right? So, it, it takes a lot of data and repetition, in order to even begin to poke holes in whatever exploitive strategies were conveyed. So really, the whole concept of like having balance ranges and things like that, it’s, it’s, it’s not to, it’s not to keep your opponent from like understanding like, oh, he does this action too much or that. It’s more so just to have a strong strategy that won’t allow a really strong opponent, to kind of like step on your neck. But when you’re against weak opponents, you should just do whatever your hands instead of it.
Matt: And I think we’ve seen a lot of that in the high roller scene too. You know, these, these kind of top-notch guys, who go on runs. It looks like they start doing something different than the field sooner. And I think largely what that different thing is, is just playing in a more diverse range dynamic rather than range versus range.
Brad: And it makes a lot of sense. I mean, how, like, how many data points do you really get in a live setting?
Matt: You don’t even get you don’t even get a ton of data points in an online, online setting. Typically, unless you know, if you’re playing in like a big zoom pool, for instance. It’s like, yeah, it’s a, I think it’s a misnomer. And I think it can be very hurtful to people’s poker career, their earn rate and their win rate, when they just get stuck on this idea of GTO. And it’s like, you know, we’re paid, we’re paid to make good decisions. And we’re paid to maximize the value of our hand in certain situations. And sometimes, yeah, we may bet, one-tenth on the river to induce a river raise. And yeah, we’re not doing it with a bluff ever. But that’s okay. Right? Because they don’t, because the, our opponents are not going to realize that, they don’t understand. So basically, you want to maximize the monetary decision in front of you, instead of giving up, giving up EV for like some future spot that’s never ever, ever going to happen.
Matt: Right. I think like one of the best mantras that somebody can follow, and it shouldn’t be what guides their study, as well as their execution, is think theoretically, and then execute exclusively. And like if you, if you’re able to take that mindset, and then work it into your line work, you’re gonna put yourself in some situations where like, yeah, you might take the slight worst of it, but it’ll be an accident based upon the fact that your opponent just happened to have a certain region of the range, or they just like naturally fell into an expert, effectively on accident. But in a general sense, like you’re gonna maximize, you’re gonna find that, that size, that they’re willing to call that the maximum bet that they’re willing to call. You’re going to be able to, you know, over bet explosively, you’re gonna be able to small bet explosively. And like, all these things are really critical in the live environment.
Brad: Absolutely, absolutely. Even in the online environment, for the most part. I mean, you gotta you, have to really, it’s like, you have to run into a world class player for it to really matter.
Brad: Oh, one thing I wanted to go back, I forgot. But anyway, you mentioned early on in your poker career, by the way, in 2010. And I want folks to sort of let that seep into their brain that you’re seven years in, and you say it’s early. So, like regardless of your success, and how things are going in your own career, after a few years, like there’s, there’s a quote that, I love that, that says, you know, we’ve we always dramatically overestimate what we can do in a year, and dramatically underestimate what we can do in ten. And, you know, don’t get down on yourself, if you’re a few years into your journey, and things aren’t going the way that you want them to go. Just keep battling. It works out. Like you keep doing work. It works out.
Matt: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s easy for me to say that was early in my career, because there was no fast-tracking methods back then, like, you could be one of the lucky one to gotten to a soft market like, like all of us who got in at that time frame did, and had money to begin with. Because having liquidity at that point gave you more shots to fire, gave you more capacity to just play the highest stakes for being the smartest guy in the room was going to be the fastest track to profit, right? But for most of us, the trajectory is gonna look a lot more similar to mine, where it’s like, you’re battling somewhere between a 10K and 100k role for the first decade of your career. And it takes that monumental moment to kind of like springboard you through. It’s a little different now, in the sense that the market’s a lot tougher. But there are also infinitely more metrics to kind of fast-track things like, there are kids probably three years into their career that have a lot of similar knowledge as people who are playing really high stakes. And the money factor is really the only separating thing. Back then that wasn’t true. It was like, like it was a largely like intuition, natural talent, the way that you were able to distill the game down into a mathematical language, despite the fact that there weren’t really any trailblazers or guidelines set for you previously. So, 2010, for me, was a big benchmark because I was dead broke in August of 2009. And Brent Hanks actually started backing me in online tournament, and by February 2010, I charged the full tilt 750k for like 105,000, and it was the completion of like a 300k upswing in online tournament. So, I conquered a phase of my career at that point. Shortly thereafter, I got 41st in the main event, so like I conquered another phase, and now all of a sudden, I had the liquidity available to me to start beating 10/20, no limit at the Bellagio on the regular. And that became like phase three, which was where my heart and soul was, was to begin with. So, you know, for me like that year was really the year where everything finally came together. Opportunities aligned. And it was easy to say like, okay, I can confirm now, that even, even if it’s slightly biased that you know, I am good at this game, it’s a profitable market to be in and the trajectory moving forward really skyrockets. You know, now I have the availability to play 10ks, I have the availability to take shots at 50/100. And all of that very critical to the to the growth metrics of any sort of business.
Brad: Yeah. So, tell me. So you went broke in 2009? Did you ever have any thoughts of quitting poker, going to something else?
Matt: Yeah, that event, just because like I had been in the rinse repeat cycle for six or seven years at that point, my biggest bankroll between 2003 and 2009 was only like 50k. And, you know, I say only with an Asterix, but like back then, it’s so hard to communicate this to the younger generations now because they’re in such a different landscape. But, you know, to give you a, to paint the picture, the first no limit game that I played in a casino was a 1/1 40 dollar min-max fine. So, the 40 big blind game, the rake was $3 a hand, and they took $1 bad beat. So, you know, this is unbeatable by today’s standards. But in the game back then, when it was as soft as it was, people would fold on rivers to like a $6 all in, in an $80 pot.
Matt: And I crushed this game. I beat it for like $6,000, which is just unheard of. It’s literally unfathomable now, and of course, like some of that is variants or a lot of experience, whatever. But a lot of it was just the nature of the market, people thought very binary about hands, where it’s like, either I have the best of it, or I don’t. And if I don’t, I don’t want to be all in even if it’s from my last $6. So, you know, 50k, it wasn’t a lot of money. I mean, that’s what people would utilize to play like 1-2, 2-5 now. But I was playing like 5/10, 10/20 pretty regularly. Basically recognizing, like, I’m young, I need to take on all the risk in the world now. Because if I fail, it doesn’t really matter. I have a computer science degree, like I have a lot of other things I can do. I’d much I’m much more concerned returning 50 into 500 than I am worrying about going from 50 to zero, because it will only take me 10k to start up again. And that’s an obtainable amount of money. So, you know, I think I moved to Vegas in 2008. And I moved here with like, 10k. By 2009, I was broke. I think my peak bankroll was like 2006, I had like 50k or so. You know, I was just in the rinse repeat cycle. Once I had a lot of money in 2010, I think I was a little over 300,000 to my name. Now I felt like okay, this is worth protecting. At the time I was 28 years old. So, it’s like, okay, I’m getting close to my 30s I need to be mature and responsible. But the problem is, is like, at that point, I didn’t have that education. My whole education up until that point was trying to get to this point.
Matt: And just trusting yourself to do what’s right. But, you know, now I’m looking around, it’s like, Okay, well, I don’t know what’s right. But I know what I know. So, I’ll invest in poker. I’ll invest in myself. I put like 150k into my friends, who I thought were good and deserves an opportunity, backing them in like 5/10. And then like, you know, 3k tournaments and below. And then I took the rest and I just played like 10, 20, 40 and bigger with it. A lot of times I was playing like 25/50, sometimes 50/100. And you know, variance kicked in, like no shock. I went on a small downswing myself. I probably lost like, over that 18-month period, I probably lost like 40 or 50,000 playing cash. A lot of it actually in like one or two sessions. Just like, as an example, I played 5/10, 21 days in Venetian, against a reg, who I don’t think currently plays anymore. And when you hear the head, you’ll understand why. But in a hijack button scenario, we got in 25,000, each where I came to get a kit. And I asked him, do you want to run it twice? He just goes, no. I just taught me that. It’s just like AJ Deuce. So, you know, there were a lot of memories of that. But you know, the, the big element of it was just like losing piles through backing. In scenarios where like, you know, again, I didn’t know where else to invest my money that I could potentially see the return that I would be backing. But the other half of it was like I was kind of arrogant enough where it’s like, well, if I’m a winning player, and I think that they’re close to being a winning player or slight winning players, or whatever the case may be, then my money and knowledge combined with their ability to work, well certainly lead to return. That’s like that’s, that’s not true. Like, what would make them work is not giving them money and keeping them hungry and forcing them to prepare for the opportunity, instead of just like dumping a bunch in their lap and saying like, okay, go nuts on the 5/10 street.
Matt: So, yeah, I lost house backing, and I ended up going broke halfway through 2012. And like, that was the point where, you know, that was that was probably the crux of my career in a lot of ways, at least from a self-discovery standpoint. Its like, now I am 30. And I’m kind of asking, like, what the hell are you gonna do with yourself? You’ve been doing this, for up going through this process for as long as you’ve been playing the game. And, you know, you forget the fact that 50,000 isn’t that much. And the times that you went broke off 20k is like, pretty insignificant. They just start to lump it all together in the narrative, where it’s like, you’re always flushing in your bus, you’re flushing in your bus. And it’s like, well, this time that actually did apply, because I went broke off 300k and that’s pretty unacceptable, I think. But also, still well, within the realm of the states I was playing. And, you know, I was firing hard. I wasn’t, I wasn’t just like, trying to gradually grow, I still had the mindset of like 50k to 500. It’s like, okay, well, this just becomes easier now that I have a little bit more security. So yeah, that year off, where I just did nothing but study, and a little bit of coaching on the side, it was it was miserable. And it was a lot of self-actualization and a lot of questioning, like, do I belong in this career? Do I actually have the talent for this? You know, where am I faltering a lot of just poking holes at, you know, where my mistakes have been made, where I falter as a human where, you know, maybe I’m not the perfect poker player, for reason X, Y, and Z. And then, you know, building off a strength there after, you know, a lot of it. That’s really what led to the development itself why. By the time, the summer 2013 rolled around, I ended up having a massive world series where I won like 500k. And I just had this Google Drive that was full of like, you know, gigabytes of, I guess, like self-reflection and coaching metrics that I tied together. And once I was able to get into the big game thereafter, I was like, okay, like, this isn’t just happenstance, this is, this is a byproduct of hard work. And I kind of understand what it takes now.
Brad: And the fact that you could replicate your success over and over and over again. Ignoring, ignoring for a moment, all of the plane crashes in between. The fact that you could replicate it over and over is kind of proof that you’re doing something right, right?
Brad: Like, and I think that even you know, staking those folks, like you said, you didn’t really know, know what to do. You didn’t have a plan. But you’re attempting to scale, right? Like, you’re only, you’re only one man, you can only play a certain number of hours per day. But that was an attempt to scale which is not in and of itself a bad idea. It just, you know, you just have to kind of have more better guidelines and a better business model before you go into it. But yeah. So, so after the, that WSOP, you’re, you’re flush again, like there’s obviously a narrative, a story that leads to you playing, you know, a pot for $1.2 million, right?
Brad: I mean, that’s, that is a fuck load of money. I mean, that is a massive, massive, massive pot. Like, did, was it just like straight rocket up from that point? Like, how did that journey go?
Matt: Oh, yeah. So, you know, like I said, I went broke the World Series in 2012. And I spent a lot of time reflecting and just trying to grow as a person and as a player. And I had a couple of good friends in the business world. Bob Bright being one of them. And then this guy, Michael Bertolini being another. And..
Brad: One second, one second.
Brad: Where, where did you meet these friends?
Matt: They’re both my friends.
Matt: It has to be.
Brad: Right, so just yeah, just, just like let’s hammer home this point of being a cool guy while you’re playing poker, because so many side benefits of that. Okay. Now, go on.
Matt: Yeah, yeah. So, it’s like framing that a little bit better. You know, Bob is worth hundreds of millions, and Michael Bertolini is like Joe Montana’s manager he, he basically just like has access to everybody. Like it’s not that he’s so wealthy himself. It’s more so that just like his network is priceless. It does work with cartels, does work with Montana, like just all these guys who are connected to the ends of the earth. So, the whole time I was broke, I’ve been playing local games with Bob like smaller like 5/10 below for the better part of six or seven years. He loved my action. We battled hard because, you know, the steaks mean nothing to him. And I was just a chippy up and comer who like, really enjoyed gambling. And he used to beg me to come play their, their big game. And at the time, it was 100, 220k minimum buy in, and like, I didn’t want people to know I was broke. I just like very much kept it to myself. I was like someday, you know, I just, I’m not ready for it yet. I would give a bunch of excuses, whatever the case may be. Leading up to that summer, Berto, Michael Berlini, was able to like, be the one to be a catalyst to like getting me into the series. He just randomly said, like, I’m tired of losing, here’s 5k. I want you to be my coach on retainer. And I’m not taking no for an answer. It’s like, he’s got one of my really good friends. So, it’s like, I would coach him for free.
Matt: But he just knew I needed help. He knew I needed a jumpstart. And I turned that 5k into 50 very quickly, final tabling independent of when and then playing some cash, and then turn that 50 into 500, selling a package, the series. So, once all of that was said and done, now all of a sudden, I had like liquidity again and I was where I was in 2010. And I knew like I didn’t want to go the backing route, I was a lot more mature at this point. So, what I understood was, if I was going to start playing bigger, like I wanted to because all I ever cared about was progressing up the cash game ladder, it was never a concern of mine to just be like a tournament crusher, high rollers didn’t really exist yet. So, for me, it was like, how do I make it from 5/10, 10/20 to the big game? And you know, basically just what I understood was that leverage is everything. And being able to find a network of people who believe in you, and then allow your 300,000 to be worth 3 million, will give you great returns. So, Bob had been struggling in the big game, he reached out to me, asked me if I could, you know, help shore up some leaks in his game. And he returned, he would give me like a small coaching fee. I was like, yeah, sure, that’d be great. And really, in the back of my mind, all I’m thinking about is like, this is a great opportunity to kind of like, re-initiate that conversation of me getting into the game myself. So, after like a month or so of us working together, he’s like, you know, we can really use a guy like you in the game to drive the action. Would you be interested? And I was like, yeah, of course. So, he kind of like told me what the stakes were, I think they’d bumped up to like 2450 came in at that point. And I just immediately reached out to Berto and I was like, look man, I have this opportunity. But I don’t want to fuck off all my money like I did last time. You know, who do you know what you do? And he just pulled ties, found me some guys who like, were believers. And suddenly I had a bankroll adequate enough to start playing these stakes. Where it got a little scary was, I lost a little bit out of the gate. And a little bit as relative to the stakes, I think I lost, like two buy-ins my first five or six sessions. And then suddenly, we’re just playing 3612. Like, every day.
Matt: Every day.
Matt: Just like, I’m gonna have to dilute myself more. It’s like, I you know, I kind of backed into a bit of a self-inflicted business degree at this point, you know, it’s like, I’ve made all the mistakes. So, I kind of understood how to run a startup, at least on a on a basic level. So, it’s like, alright, I’m gonna have to dilute myself, you’re gonna have to get a lot more but, you know, effectively, like I put two of my 300,000 up, or, like a return plus a free roll. And when we needed more money, I would just further doubt with myself and we just, we just fired hard. So within, I would say eight months rolling into the World Series of 2014. I was a staple in the game playing pretty much every day. Winning small, I might have been outplayed a few 100,000 or so. But that summer was just epic beyond words. In my five or six years in the game, since no summer has compared. It was just, it was the last summer that all the guys from Macau were allowed in the Statesville. That whole group they got busted sports betting or running that ring out of Caesars.
Matt: So, they were all here, every day. Just, they wanting to play 24/7, you know, so the game would just like run around the clock and when he needed to be filled, I was the first guy to call and, man I mean, just the level of sickness that was taking place at those days. I had my biggest wind that summer, I think I won 1.6 million in 136 12 session and yeah, it was just, nothing could really compare the, the luster had worn off after, after that three months grind.
Brad: How did it feel, that summer? Like what, what were the thoughts going through your head as you’re like, you know, enjoying your breakout summer?
Matt: Um, that’s, I think that’s the biggest problem with being a professional poker player like, you don’t get to enjoy it, you know. It’s, I’m on pins and needles every single day because I don’t know if I’m gonna have a seat. I don’t know if this hot room can continue. I recognize that like, I can’t possibly get a hold of enough money to where my risk of ruin is so low that this is just like rich free money, you know? So, like, every decision is critical. Every lineup I sit in matters, my feet draw like matters. So, they just running hot in those situations, in a lot of ways, like kept me in action for a longer period of time that maybe I otherwise would have, if things had been a little bit different. So yeah, I mean, it’s more anxiety than the joy and I guess like any sort of retribution. Reflectively I was able to kind of look back after the series and calm down, and the game has slowed down a little bit. It’s like, wow, that was fucking crazy.
Matt: The amount of seven figure pots that I played over, over that stretch, it was just like, this is nuts. Way to go about it. But, you know, the fact that I’m only 10% invested, 15% invested whatever it’s like, it’s relative too.
Brad: Yeah, it’s still no matter how invested you are, it’s still probably fucking nuts to play a seven-figure pot. I mean..
Matt: Yeah. I mean, yeah, I don’t know what to compare to nothing else. The only thing that ever compared to was playing the bubble of the super high roller bowl. Just because I was out on a limb on that one, too. I took way too much of myself, and really just fired hard on this notion that I could compete.
Brad: And you said something to, like about poker players. And this is like, back when I was coaching a lot. I don’t really do one to one coaching anymore. But, my, I would always have my students I’m like, please remove EV from all of your databases. Don’t look at it, because you’re only going to feel one of two ways. You’re either going to feel bad, because you’re running below EV, where are you going to feel bad because you’re running above EV. EV. And you think that like the bottom is gonna fall out at any point, right? So, like there is no feeling good looking at this EV graph. And if it’s not gonna make you feel good, just get rid of it. And plus, it’s kind of bullshit anyway. It’s not really accurate data. But yeah, it’s like, you’re when things are going well, if you can always like wait for the other shoe to drop, you know, as a poker player.
Matt: Yeah, it’s a sickening feeling because like, we’re just so fundamentally flawed, just the, I mean, it keeps us from being sociopaths. But just our limbic system as a whole, is just so detrimental to our day to day operations. As far as like trying to keep things rational, and try to keep everything in perspective, you know, is that fight or flight system kicked in, and just all of a sudden, like, we just turn into cavemen?
Brad: Yeah, it’s a, it’s, it’s tough. Never, never underestimate just how tough it is to play this game and deal with the things that you inevitably have to deal with. And like you mentioned, the limbic system, and it’s impossible to play GTO, and this is 100%. accurate too, right? Like, there’s no spot where you know, you should raise 31% of the time. You can’t randomly generate a number one and 100 as a human being, it’s impossible. We’re awful at, right being random anyway. So, it’s like, you know, a lot of, a lot of the GTO stuff, and this kind of goes back is like, it’s impossible to implement. And yeah, we’re spending hundreds of hours studying it when you can even successfully implement it correctly.
Matt: Yeah, I think the biggest challenge is, that we just don’t necessarily have a better systematic approach, or at least not one that people are willing to be all in on, like, this is data driven so people can very easily be all in on it. Whereas you know, if you play live, like, the best data that you can acquire is the information from the players around you, like the one thing that human brain is very good at, is observation. Now, of course, it’s going to come with its own biases. But those biases are what helps get up here. So you know, in a lot of ways, like if you’re in tune to your environment, there’s a lot of very profitable information that you’re gonna be able to accumulate, that, then you know, allow you to dictate where you fall on that exploitative spectrum and start making better more calibrated decisions over and over again, as opposed to just like worrying about how perfect your mixes.
Brad: Yeah. A 100%.
What is up you future star of poker, you. Coach Brad here and I just wanted to take a moment to let you know about PKC poker. If you’re sitting there wondering, why? Why is coach Brad promoting this PKC poker app thing? Allow me a moment to explain my why. Battling in cash games has been my livelihood for the past 15 years. It’s how I survive and put food on the table, which makes it imperative that I either test out or seek qualified opinions on all the poker platforms on the market. One juicy fine can mean the difference between a meh year and an amazing family vacation and why kind of year. With that said I’ve tried almost all the major poker apps on the market to date and despite the hype about amazingly juicy games, I’ve come away from the experience unsatisfied. I was just never able to find amazing success against seemingly weak competition. And in one specific case was getting outright destroyed by passive villains playing more than 50% of their hands. What the heck was going on? After many evenings sitting in the bathtub, wondering if I had lost it, I finally dug into the data and learn something that shouldn’t have been too surprising to you. These dudes were colluding and super using their pants off. So, I swore off those free money, decentralized devil apps and decided to go back to my more familiar streets of ignition. It was then that I was contacted by a good friend of mine who turned out to be the Vice President of Worldwide Operations at PKC. Him and I had a long in-depth conversation about security, the ecosystem and the future direction of PKC, and he managed to convince me to give it a shot. That shot turned into an incredible six months with an hourly rate, that’s about five times what it would have been playing on any other US platform. As it turns out, I didn’t forget how to play, I just needed a level playing field to return to my crushing whites. I have no doubt that you, my community, my audience is going to play poker somewhere. And I want to be damn sure that you don’t go through the pain and frustration I felt by messing around with any poker app besides PKC. This is why promoting PKC is a no brainer. I love my community. And I want to put you in the best position to succeed at this game that we both love so much. So, if you’d like to join me in the streets of PKC, simply head to enhanceyouredge.com/pkc and get your invite code to play. You must have an invite code and you must be 21 years of age or older. One more time, that’s enhanceyouredge.com/pkc. Best of luck, and now on with the show.
Brad: So, now, nowadays. What is your, your process? And actually this can apply to before too, like when you’re experiencing sort of the exponential growth as a poker player? What did that process look like for regularly improving your game?\
Matt: So, I can confidently say that like prior to going broke in 2012, nothing I did mattered. Right? So, it was a lot of internalization. It was a lot of hand discussions. It was a lot of just trying to get my mind wrapped around the concept of variants. But none of it really mattered. Like yeah, sure, it made me better in the sense that I was gritty. I was able to keep showing up, I was able to keep plugging away. But the reason why I wanted just because I had a natural intuition or inclination to the game, right? I was, I was literally just playing a game of wits and wagers against people who were less witty than me. As the game matured, and as I personally matured, for me what it was, or what the breaking point was, was dedicating like hundreds of hours, to actually self-actualizing. And the reason why I think that’s so important is because it’s not until you’re able to, you know, kind of like openly state your flaws with no emotional attachment whatsoever, that you’ll actually be able to sit down, and put in the work necessary to achieve a higher bottom line in this game. It’s so simple to just fool ourselves based on whatever the outcome has been. Thus far, whatever repetitive pattern we think we’re observing, you know, all of this is still fundamentally flawed. Of course, there’s going to be some, I guess, like some truth to it. But it also depends like how you’re taking in those sources, right? Like, is this something that is just your memory? Because that’s going to be greatly skewed? Is this something that’s like based off of your spreadsheet of tracking results? Because again, like, you know, not the devil is really in the details in those scenarios, if you see that you’re making $30 an hour at 5/10 but you don’t recognize that like, of the 1000 hours you played, the vast majority of your profit came from the 100 hours you played having position on a drunk guy who dumped and buying.
Matt: Then that, that metric means absolutely nothing. Right? And you can’t really even say like, okay, well then just pluck out the outlier scenarios be like well, that doesn’t really mean anything either because now we might be looking at like a 600 hours. And you know, who gives a shit right? Like, the, the 100 hours you spent playing against the drunk is very fucking important to your bottom line. So, like, it’s not good enough to just pluck that out. It’s good enough to say like I have a skill set whenever this environment presents itself. So, I think like just becoming very intimate and secure with areas that I felt comfortable and confident versus the areas that I felt weak, allowed me then to like really reverse engineer strategy. And effectively the way that I went about it was like a top down holistic approach, where I don’t want to examine micro learning of, you know, how should I be playing small blind versus button open? How should I be playing blind versus blind? That’s, that’s all very important. But if it had, it means nothing without context, it means nothing without a larger why behind it. So, for me, I just like really started from the route of, you know, what, what do I want to achieve when I sit down. And what I recognized early was that you’re rewarded live, for putting in the most volume of hands. So, what I don’t mean being dealt the greatest volume, because I don’t think that that’s very controllable. Whether you play 15000 hours or 2000 hours is still a pretty insignificant sample size, you’re talking about very few hands over the aggregate. But what I’m talking about is of the hands that you’re dealt, being able to play a higher volume of them than the NIT, then the, the type reg, then all these other players, that table was very important to me, because it meant that I was going to be buying from more pots against players that I consider to be weak. And through that, I would be able to develop strategies that better expose their weaknesses better played to my strengths and things along those lines. So, you know, I basically just started to form, from, from big to little, and it was like, alright, well, what’s the normal opening range under the gun look like? How far can I expand? And what mistakes from the field am I expecting to occur that will allow me to do so. And in 2013, like that stuff is all very predictable is like, well, we’re gonna have these three profile types, some are going to fold a shack versus my open, some are going to call ace jack person my openness, and we’re going to three that a checklist is my open. I just need to be able to pinpoint where these people are at the table, and then figure out like, how that’s going to interact with my, my, under the gun opening range, my middle position opening range, etc. And, you know, it just, it all just took off from there. With the advent of solvers, I was able to get a lot more, I guess, precise with it. But so did the field, the field stop folding ace jack to an open, the field stop only calling these are all passive and unforced adjustments on my into, but it’s way, way, way easier to adjust off of the groundwork baseline than it ever will be to recreate the baseline. And I feel like that’s maybe the scary part that newer players should be worried about, is that they’re all kind of skirting that learning phase, where, you know, they’re just getting out there and they’re kinesthetically absorbing alive and thinking about the game deeply because they’re forced to. And instead, they’re just like grinding salts. And it’s like, if at some point, the, the baseline metrics for those salts change, and they will, because, like, I changed your yeah, major discovery, right? Like, we’re just ,so people think, again, so close to solving the laughable, it’s like, okay, like, show me, show me your, your multi weight solves, and I’ll poke holes in them for days. But it’s like, as we discover more, that baseline is going to look less and less and less like it did whenever you first got in. And that’s what you’ve been building off of from day one. So, if you don’t have the principles behind it, the whys and what’s in the house, then you’re just going to constantly be victim to old information. And then you’re going to have to reinitiate the learning curve all over again. So, if every two to three years, you’re going through this cycle of relearning things that you’ve already learned, just so that you can get proficient at whatever the current state of the game is, you’re gonna quit. You’re gonna quit, you’re gonna go broke, or you’re gonna do both.
Brad: Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s a very, very intelligent way to go about. I think about it like conditions. When I’m playing, there are certain conditions in every single game and you, you know, you can be playing a certain way. And you know, a loose, loose, aggressive player stands up directly on your right, and a Thai player sits in and now the condition for the game has changed and your strategy changes as well. And everything, you know that that’s why like, like people love, people want cut and dry answers all day long. They weren’t black and white. But the reality is like the makeup of the game changes constantly, which also changes your strategy, and changes how you adjust. And so, having that top down strategy is super clever, super smart, because then, you’re able to adjust with the game, no matter who sits down and all these different little puzzle pieces.
Matt: Yeah, and I don’t mean to frame it in such a way where like, everybody else got it wrong. And I got it right. That’s not true at all. The elites are the elites.
Brad: Sure, of course. Right.
Matt: What I’m saying is that the mimicking process is very, very fallible.
Brad: Oh, that’s cute.
Matt: That’s majority. Yeah. And that’s what the vast majority of the community is doing. Right? They’re not thinking deeply and thoughtfully. They’re just saying like, oh, Chris Kruk likes a 30% mix here. So, I’m going to plug that in and I’m going to go that approach.
Brad: Yeah, it’s monkey see monkey do, without realizing all of the things that go into it. Because, you know, for instance, doing a twitch stream or even making like narrating a training video, you cannot get all of the thoughts out of your head, that are going in your head, right? You’re like, I like a three bed here. Well, there’s a million conditions and a million reasons why you like a three bed versus a flat or versus a fold in a specific situation, you just can’t verbalize it. So, people will say, oh, well, this is a good spot to cold for bed there that I saw, you know, I saw Berkey cold for a bit here. So, I’m going to call for bed here. But like without understanding the conditions that lead to that cold for bed, and then they get smashed. And they’re like, what, why do I suck? Why is he so good? And why do I suck? Because you didn’t you didn’t fundamentally understand the why.
Brad: Which I guess makes sense for the name of your training site, right?
Matt: Yeah, that’s really what it’s all about. We’re just trying to create heuristics that we can lean on when it’s all said and done. So rather than trying to examine these things from such a tight vantage point or zoomed in scope, we want to be adaptable. That’s, that’s the biggest thing, right? So, it’s like, if it goes raise three bet, and we’re in a code for that situation, we want to have jurisdiction place or protocols, where we can just say like, okay, what are the things that we need to consider first, our opponents or the formation, right? So, the positional awareness of both our positions, and ourselves. Profiles are probably a really big indicator here as to what we’re able to do. How often is this guy three betting? Is it too wide and too tight? Is he very relatively close to calculate it? And then like, we want to start looking at hand properties, like, okay, well, how does my hand rank as far as the code for that candidate goes? Does it have showdown value, is it suited, is it connected like, how to all these properties work in. And eventually you’re just gonna arrive at a conclusion. And the biggest thing that people need to understand is like, the conclusion you arrive at is your good, is going to be accurate, like 55, 60% of the time, like, that’s what’s gonna make you good is that, that you’re getting it right more often than you’re getting it wrong. Not that it’s a binary, black and white spot where like, oh, this is a career format. And these are queer folds. It’s like, yeah, you get Asians in that spot, sometimes.
Matt: What else? You know, it’s like, that’s just not how poker works. It’s, it’s a dynamic game. And there are so very few situations that are cut and dry, outside of the nuts. And again, going all the way back to the limbic system. It’s why people yearn for that sensation of what it’s like to be facing aggression on the river with a stone cold nut. Because it’s the first time you kind of get to take a sigh of relief and just go, oh, I know the answer. I know the answer. Unequivocally is to just raise. And then you have to go through the variable nature of like, well, what’s my raid size, too? It’s like the anxiety builds up again like, what if I don’t maximize the spot? What can I do to control the fact that like, I need him to call, but I still want to maximize my earnings. And you know, that little exercise in and of itself should help people just like how much margin of error there is in any and all decision points in this game?
Brad: Yeah, you want to have a high batting average. You’re, nobody’s, nobody’s going to get it right every time, and just talking about all the data and like the formation and the three bet percentage of villain number two, like we also have to take into consideration villain number one, right? So usually number one super aggressive wreck. And then villain number two is a pro who’s trying to isolate and take advantage. And then now how does this affect us and like, there’s just so much all the time as far as information and data that goes into these decisions. And like, you know, you watch it on a YouTube video, and it’s like, oh, four bet. That’s a great spot before but I’m gonna start doing that too. This is a great spot to check raise, I’m going to do that too, without, without taking, you know, knowing what’s really going on.
Matt: Yeah, in my opinion, and this is why live poker will always flourish is because deductive reasoning conquers all. So, the ability to deduce what’s going on in game and arrive at a conclusion that are winning more than they’re losing, is really what this whole game distills down to, and no amount of Psalms or programs or any sort of cheat codes are available for people to do this with any level of consistency. So as long as that’s the case, as long as we don’t reach the singularity where we’re running live HUDs in..
Brad: Good night last glasses on.
Matt: Yeah, as long as that doesn’t happen, then the, the truest, most intelligent and brightest in the game are going to be heavily rewarded. Where that fails, maybe is that the high roller circuit, but understand that they were rewarded the whole process through, until arriving at that point.
Brad: What should folks do to improve their, and this is like a, maybe unanswerable but their deductive reasoning? What process does that look like?
Matt: I think first and foremost, everybody should be very intimate with the scientific method. I can’t think of a better approach to a theoretical game, is then walking through that process of hypothesize, test, implement, retest, revisit, conclusions and rinse and repeat, right? Like just going through that top down approach, where you, you have a focus, but it’s blurry. And you’re open to the idea that results may vary. I think that’s critical. I also think like doing a lot of things that aren’t necessarily poker related, will really improve the expansion of like people to do logically. So, just playing logic games in a general sense, even if it’s something a little bit like one off, like, playing like Connect Four. I remember like the, the first time that like game theory really struck a chord with me, Well, maybe not the first time, but the first time I married it to poker directly was Connect Four in my group of friends was like really big in 2010. And a couple of us were very, very, very good. And everybody else was like, very random. And it dawned on me, what was taking place was literally they were random, their first move was never pre-programmed. Their second move never really had much correlation to the first. And the ones of us that were good, had like patterns. And I was just like, of course, this is solvable. Like, you know, and I knew, I guess, inherently like, I have a background in this kind of stuff. But like, you just overlooked that when you’re in the heat of the moment of the game, right? I was 26. I wasn’t necessarily thinking that way. I was happy to be out of school. But it dawned on me one day where it’s like, no, no, no, wait, this is this is unequivocally solvable. This is just a gigantic Tic Tac Toe board. And you know, starting to think that way, and then having a hunger to like actually pursue more optimal solutions. It ruins the game for you in some way. But at the same time, like it expands your, your capacity to think. And then just like lastly, if you’re a passive learner who just like to like kinesthetically, absorb things and stuff like that, like, sports is so fantastic, man. There is just like, so many illogical things that take place in sports, especially baseball background. And I just think like the parallels between baseball and poker, two games of failure, where very often chooses winners in the short run, but in the long run, like you can very much scrutinize each and every decision point. Like, if you’re able to, like actively watch and engage in these scenarios, watching a football game not recognizing when they’re taking the high EV line versus the low one. Fourth down conversions are like, you know, the most obvious and egregious, but there are plenty of other ones like, you know, being uncertain long knowing that you have to go forward and forth and, and airing the ball out. It’s just like, you know, that’s obviously lower EV than just trying to cut the yardage in half and having a manageable fourth down. I think like putting yourself in that framework as often as possible. That doesn’t directly correlate to poker, because it can get exhausting just constantly running through flops, turns and rivers. I think it’s a way to like reengage that active part of your, your rational mind.
Brad: I love that. It’s like it’s immersing yourself in strategy. That’s not just poker.
Brad: Applying it to different areas. Yeah, that, that, that is, because you don’t want to burn out and you don’t want to live only poker, because that can be kind of boring.
Matt: Yeah. But yeah, and I think, I think understanding investment strategies is massive too.
Matt: See if you can understand markets, and like the way that it all falls back on ROI, and EV, no matter what you’re talking about, right. So, I think one of the most egregious things that I’ve come to find as a coach now for four or five years, is how misunderstood the pod model is, across the board, when you’re talking about players who are at mid stakes and below. A lot of them are good, despite the fact that they refuse to understand how the investment model works. And according to pause, and it’s just like, this isn’t hard. This is like, you know, any sort of late labor’s math, this is this is pretty simplistic stuff that should be a pre-requiement to anybody considering themselves a professional but like, it’s just insane. How often I’ll present a scenario like my, my go to these days have been like, you arrive at a flop, you have the nut flush draw on a dry texture, say like 10 deuce, three, you have eight of clubs, 10 deuce, or sorry, 10, three of clubs, and your opponent shoves all into two extra pot, do you have the right price to call? The amount of people who just like kept saying, no. It’s just like, so clear that they’re just driven by fear and risk aversion. And never ever put in a single second of thought as to like what the right price actually is? Right?
Brad: Like when doing shoving with? what’s his range? What are his previous patterns?
Matt: Right? It’s just like, yeah, it’s just like, okay, well, then you have to bring it down further. It’s like, what’s your equity if you’re in a worst-case scenario? It’s like about 38%. Like, okay, let’s go with that. So what price do you need to be late on the pot? Roughly three to two. Okay, so what price are you getting here? Let’s see, shoving for two pots. There’s one pot out there. So, looks like it will be in about three to two. Like yeah, so what should you do? It’s just like this mind blowing moment where it’s like, oh, I’m allowed to call with a non-made hand versus an over bet. That’s insane. But you know, that’s math. That’s math.
Brad: Like you said, you know, people think about things in a binary way, where it’s like, you know, there’s like you were talking about earlier, there’s $80 in the pot, and you’re shoving for six. And there, it’s binary. I’m neither right or I’m wrong, right? And it’s like, no, you need to be right, like 7% of the time, like, you got to hit seven, you got a bad 7% here. And people don’t like being wrong. And another thing about the scientific method that I’ve found is people don’t like testing, when they can be wrong. Like, this is why I think people play needier and tighter, because they’re afraid of making a giant mistake, and that to me is such a massive, massive mistake. Because number one, it hinders your growth as a poker player. And number two, you, you don’t get to expand. You don’t get to go deeper in the decision tree, you don’t get to think you missed plus EV spots because you never take them.
Brad: And that’s, that’s going to hurt you in your career. I’m not saying be a maniac, but I’m saying like, if you have a theory, where you think it’s plus EV, then test the theory out and see and then think about it, and then you know, analyze it and then move forward from there. Like in a worst-case scenario, okay, you’re putting some money in a best case scenario, you’re, you’re learning something that’s going to earn you thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars over your career. So, like, it’s, it’s a worthy attempt.
Brad: Yeah, and I mean, it’s a double-edged sword too, because it’s like, it’s what keeps the dead money flowing. So, it’s no shock that tournaments are the most popular form of poker. Why? There’s a fixed investment. And you’re incentivized to just survive in a lot of ways. So that disincentivizes post-flop play, which reduces the game tree and a lot of scenarios, and EVs, when you’re talking about just like push fold charts are gonna run relatively close. So, it’s like, no mistake is really all that egregious. And that just keeps people coming back for more, because the game does seem a lot more binary, seems a lot more solid voice. If you hear like average or below average tournament players discussing in history, all it ever is, is like could I have gotten away from this relatively nutted hand in this scenario? That when it kept me in the event longer. I could I just folded Jacks off my 15 blinds facing an open.
Matt: What are we even talking about? Like you just view the game through a different lens than I ever will or I guess a different lens that I’ve evolved into? I’m sure at some point in my career, I thought that way. But also, the market was very different when I thought that way, like people were making errors so large, that edges could be derived by thinking deeply about like, can I do something that seems crazy?
Brad: Yeah, it’s like we said, people don’t, people don’t want to make mistakes. They don’t want to feel dumb. They don’t want to look like a fool. So that’s what leads to them asking these kind of like, ridiculous questions like the jacks, like, should I just folded everything open and there’s a bias, right? There’s a bias once you see that they have aces, like ah, fuck.
Matt: That’s the big part. The negative feedback loop is so detrimental in this game, because even like when you’re right, it’s still negative feedback. It doesn’t confirm anything. But now this confirmation bias is just ingrained in you.
Brad: Right, and the negativity bias to you know, it sticks with us, we can make 10 great, great plays and then do something silly. And then that one silly thing is what we remember for the next five years. Well, it’s just how the human, human brain is built.
Matt: Well, it evolved us to keep us alive. You know, you have a deer with a tiger because you left your cage during the night. And it’s like, suddenly you stop doing that.
Brad: Yeah, don’t leave your cave at night anymore. It’s just too bad that we weren’t evolved to be superhuman poker players, right? All right, let’s, uh, let’s ask a couple questions and then wind down.
Brad: What’s your what’s your current big goal as related to your poker career?
Matt: Man, I have to tell you, like, I love the game. I’m super passionate about it. But so many of my goals are like out of my control, that it’s really difficult to call them the goal. So, it’s like, I feel like I don’t really get to control if and when I see. I don’t really get to control my volume whenever it comes to like high stakes cash and stuff like that. And I don’t really have the desire to like get on the high roller circuit. Maybe that’ll change. I mean, maybe at some point, I’ll realize like, these guys are the best of the best and I want to be able to hang my hat saying I can compete with them. Like, my ego at 37 is not the same as it was in 27. I know where my lane is, and its like it’s always been ditched that cache. So, you know, largely like, I just want to be able to play the biggest games in the world consistently. But in a big aspect, like that’s out of my hands, both from an availability standpoint, as well as, like a funding standpoint, not easy to just accrue. You know, for a lot of these games, like you need to have like, 5 million working role in order to ensure that like, you’re not going to go broke anytime soon. But I would say my bigger goals as a whole, I kind of am really into the idea of like, solving the problem as how poker can become more marketable. I just find it so ridiculous that this game has this cultic following that is so niche in nature and, so enthrallingly when, when you’re able to kind of peel back the curtain and see the characters and how they’ve made it this far. All the stories are just like super compelling. You know, we have so many of them, they’re just endless, you know, whether it’s guys like fever and, and ICU were roommates at Brown, and now our two world elites, or, you know, other guys, like the kind of older school generation like Dean eggs and Madison different paths that they’ve taken. It’s just a lie.
Brad: Doyle. Even older Doyle. He’s..
Matt: Right. Yeah, it’s like we can cherry pick hundreds of guys who deserve it. But most importantly, it’s like if we start to dive into the high roller circuit right now, I don’t know anything about these guys. Like even a guy like Bonomo who I’ve been familiar with since the day I started playing, because we’re about the same age. Like all I really know, from a bullet point resume standpoint is that Z Justin was a multi-accounter. Justin Bonomo is the, is the all-time second most winning live tournament player. And like the in between is just like shrouded in consistency, I guess. Like, yeah, he just like played tournament that one for many, many, many, many years. But it’s like, there’s way, way, way more going on there. And to me, it’s just it just seems sinful that things like NASCAR,s things like, you know, I guess even to a lesser degree, like secondary sports, like volleyball, or WWE, or whatever, like, these things are flourishing, and hundreds of millions of people are spending money to view. And it’s like, I really feel like the biggest challenge for poker is just coordination. And it’s something that, like, the top just doesn’t want to do. Tours refuse to coordinate with themselves, casinos refuse to coordinate, you know, then it falls down to the next level of like, upper management who’s making rules and things like that. I mean, it just seems like really problematic that we’re so individualistic.
Brad: And a lot of times they’re lacks, you know, we lack of proper narrative. Like you, you mentioned about, about Z Justin, right? It’s a multi accounter who got in trouble. And then Justin Bonomo, the second winningest poker player of all time, there’s no narrative in between. We don’t focus on that story of the journey to know him as a human being. And you know, if you watch like, one of my shows that I love on Netflix that came out, maybe a month or so ago, his show called, Hyperdrive.
Matt: Oh, yeah, love that show.
Matt: It’s amazing.
Brad: Right. And so, if you watch..
Matt: Hydrography is incredible.
Brad: Oh, it really is like..
Matt: they’re taking something relatively boring. But man, the shots are just insane.
Brad: Yeah, it’s, it’s an awesome show. And like, in the beginning, you’re like, come on, man. I don’t want to know this dude’s story. Like, let’s get into the races. I don’t want to know it. But that story is so necessary, because that’s what compels you to keep watching, you want to know if your characters are going to do well on the next episode. And then it’s what builds the anticipation, the anxiety when they’re, they’re running their race. Right?
Matt: That and yeah, like, they have racing to back them, right. Like, that’s actually something relatively exciting. You can see successes and failures, just based on time, based on like, how they perform. Not that poker is not that aesthetic.
Matt: So like, we really, really have to shift the narrative away from the actual gameplay, distill it down to clips, edited shows, whatever the case may be, but like, the vast majority of the content out there definitely should be on the career itself, like what it takes to live this alternate lifestyle, and, you know, the glory, the fame, and all of the pitfalls and failures that come along with it as well.
Brad: Because that is compelling. And I mean, you know, even like the, the cult show, the two months 2 million show, I mean, people will remember it, I think it was I didn’t care for it myself. But again, that was a narrative, right? That was a story that they put together and that was compelling in and of itself. And that’s what makes human beings remember it because we’re very story driven. As a species, and it’s just, you know, poker needs to do better. And I think that that is sort of what increases the marketability. And it’s not we get, we get fixated on the game itself, we get fixated on a high stakes game without telling the story behind all the players that are playing so, you have a rooting interest.
Matt: Yeah, I totally agree.
Brad: And you, you mentioned that you were you had your eyes set on some keynote speaking and stuff like that, too, right? Yeah, I did my first keynote, middle of June, I believe, or late June. Somebody from the San Francisco Recovery Center just randomly stumbled upon the blog, I wrote about my mom who owed it from drugs. And they have an annual recovery summit, where it’s friends, families, and recovering addicts all in the same room basically, just like talking about their journey, celebrating it, everything else. And you read the blog was moved by it asked me to be a keynote speaker, which I at that point, never done. And you know, just gave me 45 minutes of stage time. And I really, really enjoyed it. I mean, ultimately, I’m very driven by helping others. But not, not necessarily so much on a small scale, I kind of struggle with the idea of giving a man a fish versus teaching a man to fish for a lifetime kind of, kind of concept. Like, you know, I walked past a homeless person on the corner, my heart breaks for them, but I don’t feel necessarily compelled to give them $20. Because I don’t think we’re getting to a root cause solution there. But I would happily, like, try to put a lot of brainpower and money behind something that can potentially give him a place to stay instead of living on a corner, or whatever the case may be. And, you know, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with facilitating the band aid. It’s just not my mission. Right? Like, I think there’s plenty of other people out there, where that that’s what they’re happy with. That’s where they’re comfortable. For me, it’s like I just, I really enjoy examining root causes, and trying to find big picture solutions. And yeah, I think like, you know, being able to speak to a lot of people, and even if it’s just using my past experience, or, again, narratives and story driven type of messages, I think a lot of good can potentially come from it. So, let’s take a long view here. Just two quick questions left. Let’s, take a long view from now until, you know, the time that that Burke, he’s an old man, what do you what would you like to have accomplished at the end?
Matt: Man, that’s big. I would like to say that I impacted society as a whole in some notable way. And that’s super lofty, and I definitely don’t have my finger on the pulse of what that way would even be. But I definitely have a drive for it. Like it’s something that gets me out of bed in the morning. And it’s something that I feel like, I feel like anyone who is a reasonable intelligence, and relative empathy is probably struggling with, on the regular, where it’s like, well, I personally don’t matter that much. But we as a whole certainly do. How can I contribute to that greater good in in a meaningful, impactful way, through the resources that I’ve been gifted. So, whether that’s intellect, or privilege, or a podium, or whatever the case may be. So it’s hard because, you know, as somebody who is used to solving problems and used to taking action, it’s very difficult to figure out how the hell you’re going to contribute to society in a way meaningful, similar to like a Bill Gates, or whatever the case may be. But I’m kind of a firm believer in the sense that like, as long as you’re mindful and thinking about it, opportunities will kind of present themselves and then the snowball effect will kind of take over.
Brad: Yeah, again, cognitive bias, you think about things. You think about these problems. So, you know, it’s a moonshot, right? It’s a moonshot, you don’t know how you’re going to get there, but you’re focused on the problem. And then as you go and live your life, you start seeing things, and then you start making connections and then over time, those connections can maybe lead to a path that leads to a possible solution or a possible theory and then you just go from there. But having that target in mind is so helpful in noticing things because, as human beings we really don’t notice a lot, and we notice what we think about so just having that in mind and yeah I hope you you can pull it off because, I like society. I like society to be improved right? I don’t think there’s anybody there out here listening this like nah fuck society, let it burn. But yeah, man, so, final question, where can the chasing poker greatness audience find you on the worldwide web?
Matt: You can find me on all social at Berkey 11 and then you can also find me as far as like training and stuff like that goes at saltwateracademy.com or TV.filteracademy.com
Brad: I’d love this very, very much and let’s do a round to any year so.
Matt: Yeah, I can’t wait. I really enjoyed this podcast questions were great, very thoughtful. Looking forward to seeing how this whole podcasting kicked off.
Brad: Thanks, man.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of chasing poker greatness. If you haven’t yet subscribed to the show, please take a moment to do so on Apple podcasts or wherever your favorite place listen to podcasts might be. And once again,I also wanted to let you know about PKC poker. If you’re on the lookout for a new platform where the games are safe and secure and the action is amazing, head to enhanceyouredge.com/PKC to get your code and jump into the games. You must have a code to play as well as be 21 years of age or older. One final time that’s enhanceyouredge.com/PKC. Thank you so much and I’ll see you next time on Chasing Poker Greatness.
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