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WSOP: The Matusow Penalty

by Allyn Shulman |  Published: Jun 16, '14


Mike in one of his calmer momentsThere has been so much inaccurate discussion regarding the penalty issued to Mike Matusow by Dave Lamb that I feel the need to add some facts. But first, I want to say a bit about my past.

Having been a criminal defense attorney for almost 30 years, the nature of my profession included constantly being embroiled in conflict. After many long years of constant conflict with judges, prosecutors, biased cops, lying witnesses or sometimes even unruly clients, I retired. Although I dearly miss being in court, one of the really nice benefits of retirement is not having a constant knot in my stomach because the game is never played completely fairly.

Retirement is peaceful and my poker hobby is fun and invigorating.

All that being said, I am going to be the lone voice supporting the WSOP’s decision to give Mike Matusow a penalty. And let it be known that I have NO desire whatsoever to be involved in this or any other controversy.

When the $2500 OE tournament got down to 24 people, there was a redraw. I was moved to a table with Mike Matusow. From the moment we were seated, the players were subject to Mike’s constant stream of profanities. Whatever subject he was discussing included expletives such as Mike saying he had the worst F***ING* luck or some other F***ER did this or some ASSHOLE did this F***ING BULLSHIT. It was as if the table was his personal stage. His loud, fast-talking, ill-mannered, vulgar barrage was almost frantic like someone who had WAY too much coffee.

After listening to about 10 minutes of non- stop swearing, I started looking around for a floorman, to see if someone would tell Mike that his constant stream of vulgarities lacked civility and he needed to ramp it down. That never happened nor did the dealer say anything. At the time, I thought this was a mistake on behalf of the WSOP because if Mike had been put in his place, perhaps things would not have escalated. Recently I learned some additional facts I will address later.

On the hand in question, Mike was involved in a 3-way stud pot. Mike raised on 4th street, and while waiting for one of the players to act, Mike was staring at the player and mumbling something to him. The player was to my right and asked me what Mike was saying and if Mike was taunting him. Eventually that player folded.

After Mike won the pot, he started screaming he was the greatest F***ING player in the world, no one F***ING deserved this like he did, etc. He pounded on the table making the chips shake and then started running around the room whooping, hollering, yelling, jumping and swearing.

A number of players at the table who were obviously fed up with Mike’s shenanigans eventually called the floorman and asked about Mike’s excessive celebration.

IT WAS THE PLAYERS WHO COMPLAINED. Now why would the good folks at the table do that? Clearly Mike had been out of line since the redraw. So after he won the pot and continued his loud, foul-mouthed unruly behavior, some players finally had enough and complained.

Dave Lamb came over to the table to see what the commotion was about. He did not walk over and issue a penalty. He came over and asked what had happened. Immediately Mike got up into Dave’s face. Dave calmly asked Mike to step away from the table to discuss what had happened. Mike started going nuts.

Dave calmly, quietly but firmly asked Mike a number of times to step away from the table. Not only did Mike refuse to move from the table, he was up in Dave’s face yelling and cursing with his normal diatribe of vulgarities bellowing something like you can’t F***ING give me a BULLSHIT F***ING penalty; that would be the worst F***ING ruling in the history of poker. (with emphasis on the word F***ING.) It was only at that point that Dave Lamb quietly said NOW I am giving you a one round penalty.

Hurray! FINALLY someone said enough is enough.

I’m pretty sure the penalty was NOT for excessive celebration, but rather for getting into the face of a floorman and loudly swearing at him when the floorman was simply gathering the facts and accessing the situation. At least that was the moment when the penalty was finally issued.

I recently learned (from an interview Mike gave) that hours earlier, Mike DID receive a warning from Dave Lamb for his foul language. Although he received a warning, he ignored it and continued his constant stream of expletives.

What was also not reported was that during the one round penalty, Mike came back to the table STILL swearing, threatening and saying it was the worst F***ING BULLSHIT penalty in the history of the WSOP.

I said to Mike that he probably didn’t realize that every other word out of his mouth was the F Bomb. He replied that the rule changed and he was ALLOWED to swear as much as he wanted as long as it was not directed at a specific person.

Therein lies the entire problem. Even after the warning, Mike still believed it was okay to be vulgar as long as it was not directed at a specific person.

Rule 39B of the 2014 Official tournament Rules states that players are entitled to civility. Now that must mean something. More on point, Rule 45 states:

“Rio prohibits the use of obscene or foul language in any public area of the casino at any time. Any participant who uses such language or makes a foul, profane, obscene or vulgar statement, or speaks abusively or in an intimidating manner to another participant, a dealer or a Tournament staff member, will be penalized.”

I have read that Mike is on some kind of meds from which he is having a bad reaction and for that, I feel for the guy. However, I paid the same amount of money to enter the tournament and worked as hard to get that far. I’m trying to win another bracelet just like he is. It’s not the Mike Matusow show where he can vomit his vulgarities all over the room. He was loud, insolent, out of control and completely ill-mannered.

Another point that hasn’t been mentioned was that Mike only missed 6 stud hands. When we switched to Omaha, it was Mike’s big blind and even though he should have missed two more hands, Mike sat down, telling the dealer that the round was over. I am 100 percent positive that 8 hands had not been dealt because when Mike got the penalty it was the second stud hand and I counted, thinking that Mike would go nuts when we switched to Omaha and he had to sit out during his blinds. Instead he kept coming to the table, arguing and talking and swearing and complaining. It was classic Mike. I don’t think anyone wanted to have to deal with him anymore so the dealer just dealt him in. It was stressful for the entire table but no one said anything.

So when folks criticize Dave Lamb, at least know the facts: A player was loud, vulgar, yelling, swearing and up in the face of a mild mannered floorman who thereafter issued a penalty after previously having issued a warning.

Had the facts simply been that Mike was engaged in excessive celebration, I wholeheartedly agree that a penalty would have been totally outrageous!

Let me also add that the Shulmans have been friends and supporters of both Mike and Dave. I hope they are each successful in their endeavors. But in this instance, Mike was completely out of control and deserved exactly what he got. Sorry Mike.

Allyn Shulman has more than $1.2 million in tournament cashes and won a bracelet in the 2012 WSOP Seniors event. She is one of the world’s leading experts on online gambling law, a former Board member of Poker Player Alliance, and a member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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