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Stacy Matuson Interview
High Roller Radio has interviewed some of the greatest gamblers, casino insiders, sports bettors, authors and poker players. Here is our Q&A with Stacy Matuson, a very successful poker player who finished 169th in the 2016 World Series of Poker main event. The self-described 'Poker Ninja' was also involved in one of the most epic hands in WSOP history - the 9-high bluff by William Kassouf.
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Stacy Matuson Interview
Poker Player, Entrepreneur
Full audio of this Q&A HERE
Alright High Rollers, big fan of our guest today, not only for her outstanding poker abilities but for the way she handles herself at the table as well. She won the hearts of many following that infamous William Kassouf 'nine high like a boss' hand at the 2016 WSOP where she finished 169th in the main event. She got her revenge on the 'Speech Play' king in Rozvadov and, this year, she went very deep in the WSOP Colossus. She can play folks! @StacyAcey on both twitter and instagram and definitely one of the empowered women of poker. Stacy Matuson welcome to the show, thanks for being our high roller today.
SM: Thank-you, thanks for having me.
Q: I know you get asked all the time about William Kassouf, of course the 9 high hand, and then the subsequent grudge match in the Check Republic at Kings Casino. Wondering if I can ask
(Left) Stacy Matuson with her friends and fellow poker playing ninjas Patrik Antonius (left) & Michael 'The Grinder' Mizrachi (right).
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Did you know?
@StacyAcey cashed the 2017 WSOP Colossus!
(Below) Stacy Matuson's sponsor for the the William Kassouf grudge match and other events.
2-to-1 you'll LOVE it!
about William Kassouf immitators? I’m sure you’ve faced a few since that infamous hand, guys trying to bully you, trying to bluff you, and maybe even with 9 high. What’s that been like for you and how do you handle these guys at the poker table?
SM: It’s interesting, I mean I haven’t had anybody quite like William testing me or talking my ear off. I think they realize that it’s kind of passé. I have had, in the last few tournaments I’ve played, people seriously put me to the test and, more times than not, I have made the call and won some really huge pots off of them. It’s really just been advantageous for me.
Q: It was a very exciting hand and you were were dead centre in the middle of it. There’s so much talk about the lack of women in poker, that perhaps the game is too intimidating for most. But, I gotta say, I love how you handled that whole situation. I think your twitter quote was something to the effect of, “Nobody has ever made me cry at the poker table.” You beat him in the grudge match sponsored by 888 Poker in Rozvodov and, even he says, there’s no animosity between the two of you. I think it was a fine example of how to handle yourself at the table. You don’t seem to be intimidated at all?
SM: Ah, thank-you. No, I’m not! I think it has to do with the type of person I am. I’m a little bit fearless and I don’t think people should intimidate you at anything. I think if you have a strong belief in your talents and yourself then you shouldn’t be scared of doing anything. I happen to like playing against men; sports, pool, gin and poker, because it’s not physical prowess that’s going to win. It’s usually the person who has the most clever mind or makes the smartest play and I’m always up for the challenge.
Q: You are very empowered at the table. When we talk intimidation it’s not just women affected but amateurs as well? I mean it’s just cards right?
SM: Right. Here’s the thing, I’ve been playing for over 20 years and I’ve learned a lot about myself. You learn a lot about human nature by playing poker as well. When you can make very good reads and spot tells on poker tables it will also help you in life, in terms of business and personal relationships as well. I find it a challenge to study human nature. I get excited to play. I never get intimidated.
Q: You have cashed all over the world. Where are some of your favourite places to play cards?
SM: This is the first year ever that I ventured out into Europe. I’ve been wanting to go for so long and I was just travelling everywhere this year thanks to 888 Poker, which invited me and sponsored me for these events. 888 Poker enabled these trips to happen. Costa Rica was actually the first ever no-limit tournament I ever played, in the year 2000, when I went with a group of my poker playing friends. I was just going for the trip and I read the book The Zen of Poker on the plane on the way there. So, I decided to take a shot at my first no-limit tournament. I finished second. I remember when I got heads-up because I was so inexperienced at the time at no limit that I was breathing heavy. My opponent, who won the tourney, said, "Seriously, just relax your breathing." He actually said that to me heads-up because I was playing a really good game but I had no experience whatsoever on keeping calm. I have done quite a 180 since then. I really enjoy Barcelona. Playing at Kings Casino n Rozvodov was amazing and I had a blast because I got to venture out to Prague. I don’t think I have a specific favourite but I always say Las Vegas is my go to place. The WSOP is probably my favourite place to play because it’s so life changing and there are so many different events you can play. If you travel to Europe, play the main event and don’t win then it’s over and done with. At the WSOP there’s more than 70 events that can change your life.
Q: You make an interesting point about the WSOP and how it can be so life changing, how one tournament can make a career. I don’t want to belabour the William Kassouf hand but that one hand got a lot of headlines worldwide, a lot of publicity. How did that one hand change you, in terms of your poker career? You’ve got 888 Poker on board, a lot of exposure, and I assume it's been a good thing even though you lost the hand?
SM: It’s interesting because I’ve been in the business a long time. I grew up in the ranks of Michael and Robert Mizrachi. Obviously they play a heck of a lot more than I do but we’ve travelled together a lot. We grew up together. People in the business or people who have been playing a long time knew of me but I was never in the limelight nor did I ever seek fame of any kind. So when this whole thing happened with Will Kassouf, all of a sudden I had everybody contacting me, talking to me. I kind of felt exposed. It was mostly positive but there was a lot of negative attention as well. His fans were blaming me for his penalty, which was not my fault. I felt sort of exposed and yet there’s good and bad when you are on the ESPN broadcasts. It was interesting because I’ve met so many wonderful people who have come up to me, who'vewatched me on television and they say they’re big fans. That’s very humbling. For me, I was trying to change my life financially and reaching a personal goal by making the final table of the World Series of Poker. That was really important to me. As far as all the exposure we got on ESPN? It’s been quite flattering. Yes, it has gotten me free trips to Europe so I can’t complain.
Q: When all the ESPN cameras showed up you must have been like, “Here we go!"
SM: It’s funny too because I’ve done so much media in the past. We used to run the WSOP Dealer Academy, we had a poker dealer school and I was around a lot of the media all the time. I was always doing things like that, short clips on television and things like that, so I feel really comfortable talking to the media; print, radio and television. So when the camera crews came to film us I just banked them out. They don't make me nervous. I don’t act a different way. It was a little overwhelming because when those hands were happening with William there were ten cameras around us. I wasn’t really paying so much attention to that, just more so the circus that was happening on the table.
Q: You definitely have fans all over the world.
SM: I’ve gotten messages from Germany, all over the world. It’s like, “Wow, I can’t believe it.” Here’s the thing; anything we can do to keep poker continuing on the rise, the upswing, is important. If we can bring mainstream media into poker and keep it thriving it’s great for everybody.
Q: I’m so happy you smashed Kassouf in the grudge match. When you were sitting there across from him you must have been thinking that this is pretty surreal?
SM: Before we sat down to actually play the grudge match we were doing photo-ops, all the good natured back-and-forths, we were posing as boxers next to each other. You know, he was coming to the WSOP from Britain and I think he was unaware of some of the differences of playing tournaments, in terms of rules and restrictions. When you’re in a cash game you can talk to someone heads-up incessantly. At the WSOP main event, when the action is not on you, you’re not supposed to do that. You’re not supposed to talk about the contents of the pot etcetera. He and I have spoken a few times since and that’s his spiel. That’s the way he creates attention for himself and business deals because he’s creating a personality. That’s just not my thing. I’d rather be a quiet ninja and trap you. Everybody’s got a different style of play and that just happens to be his. I do speak when I’m in tournaments sometimes, there’s needles there to, which I don’t mind doing sometimes, to get information from players. Someone can aggravate you at the poker table but it should never affect the way you play. I’m able to separate the two. I wasn’t able to show that on that particular hand but there was a lot more to the story which I’ve gone over numerous times. When you are playing you are trying to get information because you can’t see a person’s cards. Sometimes bets are not enough information. You want to speak to your opponent. I get a lot of information that way. There’s a limit though and you should always have respect for your opponent. I think that should never go away in poker regardless of how bad you want to win. Those people are just trying to get under your skin, hoping you’ll blow a bunch of chips in future hands. You always have to try and keep your composure and a little bit of zen about you. Poker is a wonderful thing. so when he and I were playing heads-up and he had those glasses on I just realized that’s his schtick. I could see right through it. The times he did talk I was able to pick up on all of his reads. It was pretty much an easy heads-up. I know he says he doesn't have a lot of experience playing heads-up but he’s much better in a full ring game than he is as a heads-up player. I have nothing against him. I saw him in Barcelona because we played a main event together there. We had a drink together. People just like to create a lot of drama.
Q: Your twitter profile reads, “Ninja. A real entrepreneur is somebody who has no safety net underneath ~ Never fear competition, they only make you look better. Poker pro life enthusiast. It also says HDFmagazine.com. Can you tell us about that?
SM: Ever since I started playing poker my close friends, Mike, Rob, Chino, they always called me the poker ninja. It’s just my style of play, waiting, hiding, and then trapping you and grabbing your chips. It’s kind of been a moniker that’s followed me forever. And I like that because that’s how I see my style of play. HDF Magazine is an entrepreneurial magazine that did an article on my life story. I opened the WSOP Dealer Academy, how I became a poker player, the story is unusual and inspiring to them. I am a life enthusiast. I think every day that you wake you should be grateful to be alive and make the most of it.
Stacy Matuson Thank-you!