Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine

A Poker Life With Matt Affleck

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Aug 31, 2016


You probably recognize Matt Affleck as that guy who had his pocket aces cracked by a Jonathan Duhamel suck out deep in the 2010 World Series of Poker main event. If you don’t remember the details, you can watch the hand online, but the gist of it is that Affleck was a 79-percent favorite to win a monster pot with one card to come and instead, the chips, and eventually the title, were shipped to Duhamel.

ESPN captured the very memorable fallout. As soon as Duhamel made his straight, a stunned Affleck went from smiling to a look of absolute dejection. The abrupt end to his life-changing tournament run caused a temporary, stunned silence, but the cameras caught Affleck in the hallways with what commentator Norman Chad dubbed a “delayed, understandable outburst.”

Affleck earned $500,165 for his 15th-place finish, and it has remained the largest score of his career, but some have estimated that the beat cost him upwards of $3 million in equity. Despite his very public misfortune, the Washington native bounced back strong and has quietly put together a solid, seven-year career in poker with more than $2.1 million in live tournament earnings and another $1.7 million online.

Poker Beginnings

Affleck grew up in Mill Creek, Washington, a small community about 30 minutes north of Seattle.

“I played a lot of golf, especially in the summers,” Affleck recalled. “We would get dropped off at the course and just play all the time. There were a lot of sports growing up, including football and soccer. Then, in high school, I got exposed to poker. There were probably six or seven of us who would play $10 home games and in the cafeteria. Then we became real high rollers and would step it up to $20 or even $30.”

Although he had a job at the local grocery store paying minimum wage, Affleck discovered that he was making $15 an hour playing poker and decided to devote more time to the game after he enrolled at the University of Washington. It wasn’t much at first, only covering beer money, but by the time Affleck reached his senior year, he was bringing in cash that would make his tenured professors green with envy.

“My first big year was 2009. I had a $25,000 bankroll and ended up winning a satellite into this $3,000 buy-in PokerStars SCOOP (Spring Championship of Online Poker) event. I tried to sell some pieces, but I wasn’t getting any takers, so thankfully I had all of my own action when I ended up chopping for $470,000. The internet went out in my fraternity during the final table, so I had to sprint across campus to the library to keep playing. I couldn’t exactly celebrate in a library, so we went to a bar and ordered the most expensive shots they had. Of course in a college bar there’s not going to be anything very expensive, so our entire bill came out to only a few hundred dollars.”

Mild celebrations aside, Affleck had no intention of dropping out of college. In fact, Affleck continued to play poker in his spare time, racking up big scores while simultaneously making sure he was all set to graduate with a degree in finance.

He finished second in an EPT Deauville preliminary event for $48,649 and then third in the California State Poker Championship for another $124,306. Later that summer, he finished 81st in the WSOP main event for $68,979. By the time his senior year had come to an end, he had already earned more than seven figures and now had a big decision to make about his future.

“My original plan was to start my own business, or perhaps go into the corporate world,” said Affleck. “But by the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to take a shot at playing poker for a living.”

Shaking Off A Bad Beat

Just out of school, Affleck returned to the WSOP and once again made a deep run in the main event. In fact, he had a great shot at making the November Nine before the infamous hand with Duhamel dashed his hopes.

“People still come up to me all the time,” said Affleck. “It’s great to be recognized, but I don’t necessarily want to be known as the guy who took a bad beat in the main event my whole career. I feel like the longer I stay in the game and the more results I put together, the more distance I can put between myself and that tournament. That being said, it was still a great experience. I was at the Rio this summer taking care of some business and happened to catch a little of the final few tables, and it all came rushing back to me. There just nothing like going deep in the main event.”

He may not want to be remembered for losing that pot, but the experience, and his affable personality, have made Affleck a player that others root for. Affleck has even had complete strangers wish him luck from the rail when he’s deep in an event. Just don’t tell him that he deserves a big win.

“People throw the word ‘deserve’ around a lot in this industry,” explained Affleck. “That player deserved to win. This player is deserving of a bracelet. That’s a dangerous way to think. If you’re a player and you think you deserve anything, then you’re already starting out with a disadvantage. The truly great players are motivated to work hard, improve their game and never think they deserve anything.”

Racking Up The Scores

After earning $1.9 million between 2009 and 2010, Affleck suffered through a couple of sluggish years before finding his stride again. He won the 2012 Fall Pot of Gold main event and an event at the L.A. Poker Open. In 2013, he got another win at the L.A. Poker Open and cashed in the WSOP main event again.

In 2014 he took fifth in the Arizona State Poker Championship and in 2015, he made his first WSOP final table when he finished sixth in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event. He also won the Coco Poker Open for $264,000. Most recently, on his 29th birthday, he finished third in a $1,500 event at the 2016 WSOP, earning $184,456.

“David Peters and I had big stacks at the final table and I kind of assumed we would get to heads-up play against each other. He obviously won it, but I ended up getting third. A good finish for sure, but you always want more. It was a nice birthday, however. My girlfriend Alexandria had ordered a custom poker cake in Las Vegas, so she just brought it to the final table. We ended up cutting the cake and singing Happy Birthday in the Thunderdome while we were four-handed.”

Moving Forward

These days, Affleck lives with his girlfriend in Brigantine, New Jersey, just minutes outside of Atlantic City. In addition to all of the adjacent live poker venues where he regularly plays as high as $80-$160 mixed cash games, he has also started playing online again.

“In Washington, I was driving an hour to the casino. But now I live ten minutes from Borgata, so I can actually leave my chips on the table and come home for a quick dinner. It’s incredibly convenient and I think the Northeast has some of the best action in poker these days with all of the options nearby.”

Even when he’s not playing poker, Affleck is usually doing something poker-related. He’s recently started coaching new players to support the chapter he wrote in Jonathan Little’s book Excelling At No-Limit Hold’em and has a multi-year endorsement deal with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

“I think I love the game more than anybody,” he said. “I’ve seen players get affected by burnout or the game just isn’t fun anymore, but I rarely take breaks and I’m always excited for the next game or tournament. Even after a three-day break, I’m already itching for the next thing. To be honest, I’m trying to force myself to take vacations that aren’t for poker, but it’s hard, because I love to work. Hopefully that love for the game stays with me my entire career.” ♠

Visit Matt Affleck’s website or follow him on Twitter @mcmattopoker.