The Past Week in Poker, September 20th to September 27th, 2021

Weekly Poker Update Mike The Mouth Matusow

The Poker Masters series in Las Vegas took center stage in the world of poker over the past few weeks. A total of 12 events were held in a variety of poker disciplines, all of which were in the high-stakes buy-in variety. In addition to the chances of winning those individual events, players also earned points for the overall Masters title.

While the bonus for winning the overall Masters was small compared to the purses on the line, it was still a lure as a testament to beating some of the best of the world in a larger sample size. And that overall title wasn’t decided until the very final event earlier this week.

Addamo Masters The Poker Masters

Four of the five players at the final table in that event, a $100,000 limit Hold’em tourney which attracted 29 players to push the purse all the way up to $2.9 million, still had a shot at the overall Masters win. Michael Addamo, Nick Petrangelo, Alex Foxen, and Mikita Badziakouski all had scenarios where they could get the overall title.

It was the Australian Addamo who had the inside track, however, thanks to a victory in the previous event in the series. And when Foxen, Badziakouski, and Stanley Tang all fell by the wayside, Addamo cinched the Poker Masters 2021 crown.

But there was still a little matter of finishing off the tournament at hand, with its beefy purse on the line. Addamo led Petrangelo by a chip margin of about four to one, meaning that any 11th-hour comeback was unlikely. Surely enough, Addamo eventually knocked out Petrangelo for the victory.

That meant two straight wins in the series for Addamo to close it out. Addamo ended up as the only one in the Masters to win two events, as nobody else won more than one. He also finished with just about double both the prize money ($1.84 million) and Masters points as his closest foe.

Petrangelo ended up not only second in the final event but also second in the Poker Masters standings. Daniel Negreanu, who briefly led in the Masters standings a few weeks back, ended fourth in the standings. For his win in the series, Addamo received a $50,000 bonus, the ceremonial purple jacket, and a whole lot of respect from the poker community.

Staking and Raking

For those who only casually follow poker, you might not realize that the world’s top players aren’t always playing with their own money. Instead, they are “staked” by other poker pros or anyone who wants to make an investment in their talent.

Earlier this week, PokerNews reported on a bit of a controversy surrounding the “rake” charged by certain players. In other words, when you stake these players, you have to pay a little bit of a premium, usually a few pew percentage points.

Well, that practice recently turned into a bit of a controversy, stoked by some comments on social media. The impetus was Mike “The Mouth” Matusow offering a package for his upcoming play in the World Series of Poker at the website You Stake where the markup for the investor would be anywhere from 30% to 50%.

In other words, if you wanted to stake Matusow and were hoping for a return of, for example $500, you would have to invest $650 (if at 30%) or $750 (if at 50%). Keep in mind that your possible return could be zero if Matusow struggles in the event for which you staked him.

Mike “The Mouth” Matusow

There were good points made on all sides of the argument. Many chipped in to say that some investors don’t quite know what they’re getting into when they stake a player like Matusow. They might not understand the risks that they’re taking with the practice.

Others, like Phil Hellmuth, who also charges a substantial rake, came to Matusow’s defense. He said that staking a top player like Matusow would be worth your while because of his talent and claimed that he had done so in the past and came away with a profit.

Doug Polk, of all people, turned out to be a voice somewhere in the middle. While defending Matusow’s right to charge a rake, he also suggested that those who invest should be smart enough to figure it out for themselves in terms of the risks and rewards, and it’s not the player’s fault if they don’t.

Another argument in favor of letting this practice stand was that the market will eventually bear itself out. In other words, if the players get too greedy with their rakes, investors may eventually back off, causing players to adjust their practices. It’s simple supply and demand stuff.

Unfortunately, as it often does on social media, things got a bit personal. Tony Dunst, a poker commentator for World Poker Tour, suggested that it was a bad investment in this specific case because it was Matusow. He’s not a player worth backing at that level.

Needless to say, Matusow went back at him and on it went with others chiming in on the subject. The personal broadsides were a somewhat disappointing side effect of this argument, one that will likely continue to be waged in poker circles as long as the practice continues and the rakes keep rising.

Poker Back Soon in Massachusetts

We’ve been following along periodically with what’s been going on lately in Massachusetts with their poker scene. For those who don’t know, Massachusetts is host to two casinos, and they’ve been without poker since last spring when health and safety protocols forced closings.

When the casinos opened up a few months later, they did so without poker because of social distancing concerns. Yet as 2020 crossed over into 2021 and most other casinos opened up their poker rooms, there were still no tables available.

As this situation dragged into the summer of 2021, Massachusetts poker enthusiasts—missing their Texas Hold’em action—began to lose their patience. They began filing regular complaints with the gaming board in the state to see the game return to the two casinos in the Bay State (MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor).

The two casinos claimed that they were keeping poker out for a number of reasons. Finding enough employees to deal the cards was one of them. But the biggest issue was profit, or perhaps lack thereof.

Poker is a kind of loss leader, something that brings people into the casino but doesn’t bring in a lot of money. Whereas the house edge for slot machines are high, it is very small in poker. The casino only gets a small rake on the action.

As a result, it made more sense for the casinos to bring in slot machines to the areas where the poker games once stood. And that made it look like the move away from poker could be permanent. It’s a good thing that the poker players stepped up and made their voices heard on the matter.

Finally, there is good news for Massachusetts poker players. MGM Springfield, which announced a few weeks back that it was bringing the game back, has indeed started to follow through on that promise. They are removing slot machines from the poker rooms and bringing tables back in preparation for the reintroduction of poker.

The casino also brought mask mandates back in the last week as per local ordinances, so that it’s something that players will have to deal with when they return. There were also be less players per table as well, which might but into the profit potential just a bit.

Masks Inside Casino

But this is still a win for the players. As we said above, there had been lip service paid by MGM Springfield to bringing poker back. But actual physical renovation means that they are backing it up and that the game will return soon.

Unfortunately, Encore Boston Harbor has not yet made the same commitment. It will be interesting to see if they capitulate to the pressure from players or if they status quo. We should know more about that in weeks to come.

WSOP Slated to Begin

This is just a friendly reminder that the World Series of Poker returns this week with live action once again. The first events are scheduled for Thursday, September 30th, at Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. That will mark when the first of 88 bracelets will be handed out.

It all leads up to the Main Event, which takes place from November 4th to November 17th. The return to live action is something that players and fans have been clamoring for, and—barring something crazy—it is finally just about here. We’ll keep you posted on all the action in this column.

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