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Matt Matros wins bracelets, writes books, loves wife

28 June 2010

Last year, eight days after his own wedding, Matt Matros was in Las Vegas trying to win a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet, and his wife was back home in New York. What a honeymoon.

To be fair, Matros's wife knew what she was getting into. The two had been dating for about six years when they got married, and Matros has been a regular winner at the WSOP since 2005, essentially doubling his buy-ins over a five-year period. He made a final table in a $3,000 limit Hold'em event in 2005, taking home $22,410, and scored his biggest cash three years later, finishing sixth in a $1,500 no-limit Hold'em event for $148,875.

Matros cashed twice last year, finishing 250th in a $1,500 no-limit Hold'em event for $2,890 and 12th in the $2,500 mixed Hold'em event, featuring both limit/no-limit varieties, for $19,672.

"It's tough being apart, but we're somewhat used to it," said Matros, who won $189,870 and his first WSOP bracelet in the $1,500 limit Hold'em event earlier this year. "We don't really like the long-distance thing; I don't know anyone who does. That's a big part of the reason I've traveled a lot less than in past years."

Matros has won more than $1.4 million on the poker circuit. His first major cash came at the $25,000 World Poker Tour Championship at the Bellagio in 2004, where he finished third for $706,903.

While his biggest cash came in a no-limit Hold'em event, Matros says limit Hold'em is his best game. After winning his first bracelet in a limit event, he had a chance for a second less than a week later, making the final table in a $2,000 limit Hold'em tournament before bowing out in ninth. He also cashed in the $2,500 mixed Hold'em event, which features both limit and no-limit Hold'em, over the weekend, finishing 44th in the 507-player event for $5,503.

"The second tournament was so different from the first," said Matros, who serves as a coach for the poker training Web site Card Runners. "The first tournament, I was just on a real rollercoaster ride the whole way. The second tournament, I just ran amazingly good the whole way. I just kept getting cards and cards and cards, and I had chips all the way until we got 10-handed. Then, all of a sudden I hit a wall and lost every pot I played the rest of the way. Obviously I'd much rather have it go the first way."

It's no surprise that Matros has been so successful in limit Hold'em. He graduated from Yale with a degree in mathematics in the late 1990s and often discusses poker with other top players who use math and game theory (Bill Chen, Jerrod Ankenman, Andy Bloch, Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer, to name a few) to guide to their play.

"The kinds of things that are important in limit Hold'em are whether or not you should make the extra bet, whether or not you should make the value raise, whether or not you should consider a bluff raise or a bluff; no limit is a lot more about trying to win pots any way possible through sheer aggression," said Matros. "Limit Hold'em is a game that can be figured out more so than no-limit Hold'em can be."

While Matros says it's "theoretically possible" to figure out an optimal way to play limit Hold'em, he insists that neither he nor anyone else, for that matter, has really figured out any form of poker.

"In limit Hold'em there are certain plays you can make that give you a pretty good sense that you're doing close to what's optimal," says Matros. "In no limit, to some degree, pretty much everything we're doing that we think is the correct play is to some extent guesswork."

It's not surprising, then, that Matros teaches his students to adopt an introspective approach.

"A lot of teachers come at poker from the standpoint of how can you pick apart what everyone else is doing wrong," says Matros. "My approach is kind of the opposite; try not to do anything wrong yourself, and the rest will take care of itself."

Matros says he teaches the game in part because it breaks up the monotony of just playing poker. He also believes that articulating his thoughts forces him to think about his own play more seriously.

But Matros isn't entirely poker-centric. After working as a software engineer and playing poker recreationally for a few years after college, Matros quit his job and signed up for Sarah Lawrence College's fiction writing program. He penned The Making of a Poker Player, a non-fiction account of his ascent through the poker ranks, which was published soon after his big win at the WPT Championship event. He is currently working on a novel which will have nothing to do with poker.

"Right now I play poker to pay the bills," says Matros. "Writing is my other passion. It doesn't make any money at this point, but it's something I'm very serious about. Writing is a tough field to get into."

Matros's novel is set on a college campus. The main character is a female college student and the plot follows her as she navigates her friendships and other relationships.

"It's a 20-year-old coming-of-age story instead of the 13-year-old or 15-year-old coming-of-age story that we're used to seeing," says Matros. "It's sort of meant to appeal to a younger readership; I would say high-school and college-aged people would be the audience that would be interested in reading it."

Matros spends his mornings and early afternoons writing, then plays poker, teaches or writes about poker in the evenings. But during the month of June and early in July, Matros focuses all his energy on poker at the WSOP.

Of course, last year, he missed a week of tournaments for his wedding, and this year, he jumped onto a red-eye flight home as soon as he busted out of his second limit Hold'em final table so he could spend his first anniversary with his wife.

The traditional first anniversary gift is paper, not gold, which brides have to wait for 50 years to receive. So while Matros will likely hold onto the WSOP gold bracelet he won, maybe he should be thinking about handing over the check.
Matt Matros wins bracelets, writes books, loves wife is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Aaron Todd
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.