Have you ever played your best friend at a game of poker? What about one where there were thousands of dollars on the line? Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth do exactly that in this week’s classic Poker After Dark throwback hand. We’re into Season Six of our catch-up on demand via PokerGO and what a season of action this was. Some of the biggest names in poker clashing in every hand, and if they’re anything like Mike Matusow in this one, they’re not getting it quietly!
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AN OPEN MOUTH
Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow is a fascinating, in some ways polarising, character in the game of poker. Unquestionably good for the game in his early days on television, he’s almost become a symbol of how players used to act in the modern age of political correctness. Not without controversy, Matusow’s career at the felt is one of achievement, with four WSOP bracelets proof of his poker chops. One of his distinguishing characteristics is his famous inability to hold his tongue.
Matusow is simply unable to retain his manners around his old friend Phil ‘Poker Brat’ Hellmuth in this one, and who can blame him? Showing first the bluff then a massive hand, Matusow is adept at teasing his buddy by showing him his cards after he’s taken his chips.
“That’s how you play!” he declares excitedly at the end of the hand. But in poker, can it ever really be good to show your cards?
YOU SHOW, I SHOW
Poker has had its share of controversy around players asking other players to show cards. The British player Will Kassouf famously got into hot water in 2016 when he earned time away from the table and angered the poker world when he had “Nine high like a boss” in a hand with Stacy Matuson. The problem wasn’t necessarily that he showed his cards, but more how he talked himself into an argument with WSOP tournament director Jack Effel. By constantly declaring that he’d show if Matuson folded, Kassouf was punished. But what did he earn from showing his cards in that spot? Fame, as fleeting as it is, doesn’t have the value at the poker table that mystery does.
NEVER SHOW YOUR CARDS?
There’s an argument to be had that by never showing your cards, you are always at an advantage against players who do show their cards. If the aim for Kassouf and Matusow was to stoke up their opponent in that hand, it may have worked. But in the overall game, it can’t have much of an advantage. Players will soon know what you’re playing and letting rangefinders around the table narrow in on your poker hands is a very dangerous game to play. Unless you’re a complete wizard, mixing it up every hand, then you are giving away information. I can remember the last time I tried to do it and it very nearly cost me my tournament life.
NEVER ASSUME IN POKER
I was below average stack, and in middle position with . Not a bad looking hand, but not the sort of hand to put your entire tournament life behind unless you’re sure it’s the right time. I’d checked the reactions of every other player at the table in the tournament I was struggling in. All of them had told me with their reactions that they weren’t too strong. I thought I could get a shove through, especially because the player in the big blind had just won a huge pot and was stacking up chips. At a certain level, I love making a move against this sort of player – they always want to stack those chips up, rather than risk them in the next hand. It’s almost a tip, but it’s not because it can go very wrong.
All-in I went with my and everyone around to the big blind folded. Then the player who was piling up chips looked at his cards. Then he looked at me. Then he smiled and called, showing two queens. I gulped.
What should have happened at that point, to teach me a lesson, was that he held and knocked me out. What actually happened was that I paired my ten on the flop and hit a king on the river. He never got to stack those chips, instead of having to double my stack instead. I tried to be magnanimous about it. I politely stacked my chips and went on to win the tournament. My unlucky adversary busted soon afterward.
Want to see whether Matusow showing his cards leads to trouble or him adding more chips to his stack? Watch the whole episode by subscribing now on PokerGO. You can watch the best archive footage and brand-new Friday Night Poker episodes all year round with a PokerGO subscription. And, in quite the opposite advice to what we’d say about Matusow showing his hand, why not tell your best friend all about it?