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Poker Book Review: Check-Raising the Devil

Book Review: Check-Raising the Devil by Mike Matusow
Review by Chad Holloway of

I recently took a trip to visit the 2009 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, Nevada.  One of the highlights of the trip was a book signing right at the Rio by Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, who had just released his book Check-Raising the Devil.  Naturally, I purchased a copy and met “The Mouth,” who I thought was a pretty nice guy.  His book, which is an autobiography written with the help of Amy Calistri and Tim Lavalli, doesn’t examine strategy like so many other poker books, but takes an in-depth look at Matusow’s spiraling journey in becoming one of the world’s best known poker professionals.

The first thing that struck me about Check-Raising the Devil is the brutal honesty Matusow uses to describe his life.  He holds nothing back when describing his humble upbringing, gambling addiction, drug habits, sex life, and general state of mind.  Not only this, he does so in a manner that does not seek nor inspire sympathy.  The message seems to be, “This is me, take it or leave it.”  The book also offers a glimpse into Matusow’s arrest and legal issues between 2003-2005, which has become a matter of debate in the poker community.

In his book, Matusow is able to tell his side of the story and how things unfolded from his perspective.  This section of the book is especially engaging and interesting as it is clearly an event that affected Matusow’s life a great deal.  Unlike many poker books that glamorize the world of high stakes poker, Matusow offers a look into a world quite different.  One filled with sex, drugs, and emotional ups and downs.  These are obviously common elements of the poker world, but ones often overlooked and ignored.  I believe this is where the real strength of the book comes from.  Matusow is the hero, but a hero that is simply human and trying his best to overcome his own shortcomings.

At 267 pages and a $24.95 price tag, Check-Raising the Devil is an excellent deal.  The stories are intriguing and riveting, while the material covers highlights from the poker world such as Matusow’s 2005 WSOP Main Event final table appearance, his bracelet wins (including his most recent win at the 2008 WSOP), and his victimization in the Absolute/UltimateBet cheating scandals.

One of Matusow’s closest friends and eleven-time bracelet winner, Phil Hellmuth, summed up the book best when he said, “ . . . love him or hate him, you will not be able to put this book down!”


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