Regardless of what you think of his antics, you know you're going to be entertained when Mike Matusow hits your screen. The 42-year-old three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner can always be counted on for entertainment when he's at the felt. His combination of Tasmanian Devil-esque energy levels and insistence on uttering his innermost thoughts and feelings in front of the camera place him somewhere between lovable loser and tragic hero in a way that we can all relate to in some way.
Matusow is flawed, and we know this because he tells us as much. After years of bipolar behavior that has seen him tackle Mr. Peanut, Phil Hellmuth and everyone in between, he insists he's feeling better than ever. If you want proof, you can tune in Tuesday night, when Matusow and the rest of the world begin their respective quests to win the main event of the World Series of Poker.
The point of the medication he takes is to bring some balance and stability to an obviously extreme life. Although the man forever tagged with the affectionate "The Mouth" moniker seems to be calming with age, his life still offers regular "What was he thinking?" moments. One of those moments in which he made a bet with Ted Forrest had everyone in the poker world once again talking about The Mouth.
"How did the bet come about?" the 5-foot-11 Forrest mused. "Well, a couple of years ago, Mike was pretty portly. He weighed about 250 pounds, and I bet him $100,000 he couldn't get down to 181 pounds in a year. He did it and beat me for $100,000. We were at the Commerce [Casino] a few months ago, we'd just had dinner, and I felt full and fat. I weighed about 188 in clothes. I bet him I'd weigh under 140, and he was like, 'No, it's impossible,' so he laid me 20-1 that I couldn't do it by July 15 and another $1 million against $100,000 that I couldn't do it by Sept. 24."
In layman's terms, Matusow bet $1 million against Forrest's $100,000 on the Sept. 24 date and another $1 million against Forrest's $50,000 on the July 15 date. No diuretics or amputation were allowed.
For Forrest, one of the best established prop bettors in the world, this was a new one. "I've never done a bet similar to this one," he admitted. "I've done weight-gain bets. I bet I could get up to 200 pounds, but I felt so uncomfortable at 186 pounds that I had to give up. I might have made it, but I was feeling so sick, it was better to give up on that one. I think I started that one at about 170 pounds."
The new challenge forced Forrest to undergo some lifestyle changes. "I ate less," Forrest recalled. "I exercised more, cut out sugar, went to raw and organic vegetables, cut down meat. I was running and walking a lot, lifting and circuit training four days a week. I didn't want to build too much muscle, but I needed to build a little keep my metabolism up."
One of their peers weighed in on the bet. "I thought Ted would make it because we've had a series of these weight bets, and we have a lot of experience with them," said Huck Seed, a close friend of both bettors and one of the most affluent prop bettors on the planet. "Mike only had the one bet where he went from 241 to 181. When you have more muscle like Ted, a former athlete who's used to working out a lot, it's a lot easier. From my perspective, it was so hard for Mike to get 241 to 181, he couldn't fathom continuing. Mike thought Ted's body would shut down, which I thought was a ridiculous statement. The hard part was losing weight while playing the WSOP. It's hard to lose weight when you're sitting and playing poker all day."
"Sitting at WSOP was a little difficult," Forrest admitted. "I used every hour dinner break to take a run. I'd run four miles every dinner break. I walked to and from the Rio every day. In my opinion, walking is the best exercise to keep in good condition."
All the hard work started to pay off. Forrest quickly made it down to 163 pounds and then plateaued before embarking on a second stage of his workouts in which he stepped up his activity. He spent six hours a day in the gym, walked an average of 16 miles a day and cut his food intake down to next to nothing. Finally, on July 4, he began a fast that would last almost until the first weigh-in date of July 15.
"I didn't eat for 10 days," Forrest said with a smile. "Then, I ate the last few days, and that enabled me to win the bet. I ate a kiwi, a tomato and five or six raspberries, which gave me the energy to make the final push and lose the weight."
That's right. On July 15, Forrest weighed in at 138 pounds. Mike, what were you thinking?
"As soon as he made the bet, I said, 'I don't want you to die,'" Matusow said. "'If you do, I don't have the $150,000.' Then I told him, 'I don't have the $2 million to pay out.' That's how it came down. I made that bet because I didn't think it was feasibly possible."
Now, the question of payment lingers. "I could pay him a big lump, but I'm going to wait six months to see if he dies first," said Matusow, his tongue not quite firmly planted in cheek. He's planning on paying Forrest off in $5,000 increments in the next 18 years. "I think he's 50-50 to die. He starved himself for 11 days and ran 16 miles a day. He's lost all of the muscle around his heart. He could have a heart attack. All that for $5,000 a month. He'll get paid all of it, but I made it clear when we made the bet he'd get $5,000 a month. He tried to kill himself for $5,000 a month."
Forrest doesn't see things quite Matusow's way. "He said that after the fact," Forrest said, his voice raised. "He beat me [last year], and I paid him off. I think he should try to pay me as much as he can in the next two months and then work out a satisfactory, reasonable, agreeable payment arrangement."
Forrest also points out that Matusow's math is suspect. At $5,000 a month, it would take nearly twice as long as Matusow estimates to pay the debt. Of course, as long as Matusow does what Forrest deems the right thing, there will be more bets in the future.
This all lends itself to our opening premise. Matusow, regardless of how his actions affect his welfare, is a ball of fire. He lives in the moment and doesn't consider the influence his actions might have on the future, and that reality combined with his energy and his ongoing monologue may just make him the most entertaining sweat in the poker world. That's why he'll be on your TV on Tuesday and why you'll be watching.
Gary Wise is a poker columnist for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @GaryWise1.