going to be seeing a lot of that face in the near
future, that is, if you watch the World Series
of Poker (WSOP) on ESPN. So, Who is Matt Dean?
Matt Dean is the guy all of us aspiring
poker pros want to be. He parlayed $32 in an online
satellite tourney into $675,000 by getting to
the final table of the $10,000 WSOP main event.
He also recently competed in the World Poker Championships
in Ireland, finishing 13th among the world’s
toughest players (Paul Phillips, Jeff Shulman,
Phil Hellmuth, Erick Lindgren, Chris Moneymaker,
“Devilfish” Ulliot etc…) which
garnered a $15,000 payday. So how does a 25 year
old substitute teacher from Houston, Texas reach
the upper echelon of the Poker world?
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PokerLizard: I’m sure ESPN
will play up the fact that it cost you $32 to
get into the tourney and you ended up winning
$675,000 (sweet!). Did you just try and qualify
that one time or had you tried several times in
the past? in other words how difficult was it
to qualify via the online tourneys?
Matt: I had only been on PokerStars.com
for two days. The first day I spent $60 trying
to qualify and finished about 40th. The second
day I was on the site I ended up winning my seat
online. The competition wasn't too bad at the
early stages because it was a re-buy tournament
and everyone was playing loose. So, I accumulated
a lot of chips early. Then it got tough but I
seemed to pick up amazing hands every time I felt
like I was getting short-stacked. I played about
7 hours the time I qualified and 4th place got
nothing so it would have been terrible to finish
4th but the luck ran my way. You risk losing nothing
for 7 hours of your time but if you're a dreamer
like me then I say go for it.
PokerLizard: What was it like playing that final
table, You’ve got spectator’s all
over the place, cameras in your face, how difficult
was it to keep your focus?
Matt: It's kind of like the old story about the
frog in the hot water. If you toss the frog into
the boiling water he jumps out and hops away;
however, If you slowly heat up the water the frog
just sits there and gets burned. I was more nervous
the first day when the tourney was getting started.
Slowly, as the days went on the media coverage
increased but you start getting used to it. The
hardest part for me with regards to keeping my
focus was playing 12 hours a day, not the fans
and the cameras.
PokerLizard: What were the most memorable hands
you played during the WSOP?
Matt: The first and most famous player I knocked
out was Olaf Thorsen who got 15th in the main
event last year. I had QQ and he had JJ near the
end of day one and when I re-raised him he moved
in on me. That was a tough call but when I won
that hand I had a lot of confidence. I had my
tournament life on the line twice with JJ against
AK and both times managed to stay alive even with
an ace falling both times. I was all in once with
A6 against AK when I thought the button was trying
to steal and got super lucky when a 6 came on
the flop. So, there were lots of close calls.
My favorite hand was when Dan Harrington (back
to back WSOP main event final tables) had a set
of 4's against me with a board of 43K8J. I had
K8 and was tempted to raise Dan but I got a really
weird feeling he had me beat. It wasn't really
a tell but I knew he was tight and when he bet
into me on the river I only called. He later told
me he was shocked I didn't lose more on that hand
and to hear that from a player like Harrington
had me beaming from ear to ear.
PokerLizard: Do you recommend any books or training
materials (software) to become a successful player?
Matt: There are tons of books I would recommend
reading. But the most important way to learn is
to play. If you want to go to the World Series
next year then play tourneys, if you want to clean
up in the side games then play side games a lot.
Of all the books I've read two immediately come
to mind. Cloutier and McEvoy's Championship Pot-Limit
and No-Limit Hold 'em book is great if you want
to play big-time poker. Zen and the Art of poker
by Larry Phillips is great too for different reasons.
It really helped me not lose my cool every time
I got outdrawn. I can't emphasize enough how much
those two books mean to me.
PokerLizard: What influenced you to start playing
poker? Where/how did you hone your skills?
Matt: I got invited to a little home game when
I was at school at Southwestern University. A
couple of my fraternity brothers had started a
$.05/$.10 no limit hold 'em game and that's how
I got hooked. I was always drawn to the World
Series and at that time I had been watching Robert
Varkoni win it all. It seemed easy so I thought
I'd give it a shot. Pretty soon we started getting
really competitive and bumping the stakes a bit.
There are tons of young players who started out
just like me who are going to be a force to be
reckoned with in the poker world.
PokerLizard: Since we’re both from Houston,
I’ve noticed you are still playing in some
of the local games? Do you just love poker or
is it like shooting fish in a barrel after the
Matt: I like to play so it's neat to go back
to the local games and have people congratulate
me. It is hard to take some of the smaller games
as serious as I used to but I can be a little
more agressive now .
PokerLizard: You also recently competed in the
World Poker Championships Pot Limit event in Dublin
courtesy of Pokerstars.com
where you finished in the money again against
an unbelievably difficult field of high profile
players. What were your impressions of Europe?
What are the differences between playing World
Class Pot Limit vs No Limit? Any interesting hands
you care to comment about?
Matt: That was a great experience for me. The
casino was about the size of my townhouse which
is quite a shock right after coming home from
Vegas. But there were less players and a cozy
feel. The format of the event was very different
- you only play one of the first four days of
the tournament but it allowed me to meet a lot
more people. It was great to see some big name
Americans as well as big-name Europeans. I absolutely
loved it. Pot limit is interesting because you
can call with suited connectors a bit more. It's
slightly harder to drive people out of a pot.
In fact the last hand I played I raised with KK
and got called by 97 suited. I checked the 579
flop and was pleased when my opponent bet the
pot. My pot-raise put me all in and he happily
called. No help came and I finished 13th.
PokerLizard: If you were Matt Damon in “Rounders”
how long would it have taken you to kick your
girlfriend to the curb and get with Famke Janssen?
Matt: Great question! My friends and I don't
understand why Damon doesn't try to work it with
Famke Janssen when she's all over him. Maybe they'll
discuss that in detail when the Special Edition
DVD comes out. This question hits a little too
close to home though because my ex-girlfriend
was not a big fan of poker. We broke up for unrelated
reasons though. Also, I went to law school for
a semester and dropped out and ended up in the
World Series. Not exactly Mike McD but it's kind
of scary. (PokerLizard note: That is kind of scary)
PokerLizard: Any plans to turn pro?
Matt: I hope to play some more tournaments this
year but I don't know if it's going to happen
for sure. I'm pretty happy with my finish in the
World Series and I'm not eager to run though my
$675K. I am going to substitute teach this year
so my schedule will be flexible if anything comes
PokerLizard: How often do you play? What % live
Matt: Just like everyone else probably, I get
frustrated and take breaks, then the next week
I play 80 hours. But I honestly don't play that
much anymore. I probably play 60% of the time
online because it's so much easier chilling in
your boxers with a pizza pocket.
PokerLizard: Do you have any style differences
when playing online vs live?
Matt: I end up calling more online because the
players are crazy. Live I think I play better
because I take a lot longer with my decisions.
Online I'm usually playing 4 tables at a time
and not really thinking all that much.
PokerLizard: Are you playing in any upcoming
Matt: Not that I know of. Hopefully, I'll get
to play some more this year but for right now
I'm happy just to take it easy for a while.
PokerLizard: Any tips for players just starting
Matt: Play as much as you can. Last summer I
played online about 10 hours a day. When I wasn't
playing poker I was watching and when I wasn't
watching I was talking about it. I lived with
a buddy of mine who loves poker as much as I do
and that really helps. Talking about different
strategies and how to play different hands improved
both of our games dramatically.
PokerLizard: Thanks for the interview. Congratulations
Matt: Thanks to you. I hope to see you at the
this and other interviews in the Lizard Lounge
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