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Poker Stories Podcast With Matt Savage

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Apr 10, 2019


Poker Stories is a long-form audio podcast series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.

Age: 50
Hometown: San Jose, California

Matt Savage got his start in the poker industry as a chip runner at Garden City Casino, and worked his way up the ranks to dealer at Bay 101, and eventually, tournament director. The San Jose-native saw a need in poker for a standardized set of rules, and with the help of Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, and Dave Lamb, formed the Tournament Directors Association. Savage was named tournament director for the World Series of Poker when he was just 34 years old, and served in that position during the onset of the poker boom from 2002 to 2004.

In the years since, Savage has continued to work tournaments at his home casino of Bay 101 and also at Commerce Casino in Los Angeles. He’s also seen his role with the World Poker Tour increase since he was named Executive Tour Director. Savage was heavily featured in the 2007 poker movie Lucky You, and also has a WSOP final-table score of his own, finishing fifth in the 2009 $1,500 stud eight-or-better event. He was the inaugural member of the Poker Room Manager’s Hall of Fame, and has been nominated for the Poker Hall of Fame the last few years.

Highlights from this interview include trying to get unplugged, why you don’t need a 16 lb. ball anymore, a disdain for homework, working since 14, going from chip runner to floorman, auditioning at Bay 101, being forced out of the box, the baby-faced TD at the WSOP, being proactive with Men Nguyen and John Bonetti, Hellmuth steals the spotlight, how he almost screwed up the infamous Moneymaker/Farha bluff, running out of chips in the main event, proposing to his wife at the final table, how $400,000 went ‘missing’ from the main event prize pool, why he’s the real star of Lucky You, a testy scene with Robert Duvall, John Juanda’s grudge, Dick Corpuz: king of the soul read, and why poker needs a museum.

The Highlights

About His Time On Set For The Poker Movie Lucky You

Julio Rodriguez: Were you star struck at all? I mean, Debra Messing, Robert Duvall, Horatio Sanz, Robert Downey Jr. …

Matt Savage: I did see Drew Barrymore and got pictures with her. I was able to work with Eric Bana, who hasn’t had a lot of great movies, but he was hilarious.

JR: He’s the Hulk. He was in Star Trek.

MS: The guy is funny. He was doing different impersonations of everybody, including myself. He was very funny. But it was Robert Duvall who I was kind of star struck by, you know. He was in The Godfather. He was the man.

JR: Doyle said something similar [on his episode of the Poker Stories podcast].

MS: But he was tough to work with. He was definitely a guy that wanted it his way. There was a [situation] where they told me that I needed to move, that I wasn’t on my mark.

I looked down, and I was on my mark. So I said, ‘I am on my mark.’ And they said, ‘No, you have to move,’ and I [pointed] over at Robert Duvall, who was a foot away from me, and said, ‘Robert Duvall is not on his mark.’

Which was a big mistake… because Robert Duvall looked at me and said, ‘Son, I’m always on my mark.’

And I just felt some sweat go down [my head] and everybody was silent for like three seconds before they started bursting out laughing. I was so nervous. But [what can I tell you], he wasn’t on his mark.

JR: Your mark adjusts based on his mark, I think.

MS: Yes, exactly. So they ended up moving me and not him.

On How He Almost Influenced The Outcome Of Moneymaker vs. Farha In the WSOP Main Event

MS: It was definitely awesome being there at the final table, and announcing [it]. I actually made a mistake on one of the hands and you can see it on the TV broadcast. I said, ‘Chris calls,’ and he goes, ‘No, no, I raise!’

It could have changed [poker] history, because it was a huge hand.

JR: Which hand was this?

MS: It was the hand where [Moneymaker] ended up bluffing.

JR: Oh, THE hand. The infamous Farha bluff. He had to clarify, I thought he was clarifying to a dealer. Who knows? That could have changed Sammy’s read.

MS: Of course! I could have screwed up everything.

JR: Maybe that adamant raise from Moneymaker is what got Farha to fold later in the hand. I think we might have to give you some credit for the poker boom.

MS: I’ll take credit for a small part of it, but not that hand. It was awesome to see this guy that nobody knew, do this to a legend like Sammy Farha. ♠