Globetrotting Marty "TheLipoFund" Mathis on back-to-back Super Tuesday wins
"Typing from phone so it may be a bit jumbled, but hopefully enough for you to work with. Seems so long since we all met in Peru."
It's not the standard email sign off, but Marty Mathis isn't your typical 25-year-old American, either. Mathis has spent the last few years travelling the world playing poker and winning hundreds of thousands of dollars in doing so. I first met him in Peru at PokerStars LAPT Lima in June 2010 while working the crowd at the players party - okay, looking for potential drinking partners - amid an excitable throng of Latin poker enthusiasts. Mathis and friends, such as Chris "king suckout" Conrad, were part of that pre-Black Friday group of young college guys who'd qualify for an event online at PokerStars as much for the chance to explore the world as to win quarter-of-a-million dollars.
These were young players without a care in the world. There was no surliness, only smiles, as summed up by Conrad's bubbling of the final table in 11th place ($11,160) and his arrival the following day dressed up as Tigger, accompanied by Mathis as Winnie the Pooh. Mathis had min-cashed the event and Conrad had been rivered by a super-light Nacho Barbero four-bet shove for the chip lead, yet both were there in good spirits to cheer on fellow American Ben Barrows. Their USA chants may have been a beery drop in the ocean against the partisan support for Erick Cabrera and Nacho Barbero, but it was fun and well received by the locals. Like many other young qualifiers, there was no reason to think that I'd bump into Mathis again.
That was four years ago and it does seem like a long time ago. Mathis is now 25 years old, based out of Rosarito Beach, Mexico, and travelling around Europe fresh off the back of a win and runner-up finish in the $1k Super Tuesday on PokerStars. That combined scoop pocketed Mathis more than $200,000. Amid all the planes, trains and auto-calls, Mathis squeezed in an email interview from a night train taking him from EPT Vienna to Prague.
"I was in Vienna for 17 days and it was one of the best trips I have taken," said Mathis. "The city was incredible and there was something to do even at late hours almost always. The food was diverse and cheap. The people were cool, and it was easy to get anywhere you needed to go. Even just outside of the city, Danube Island was a sweet spot to observe more nature and wildlife. I wish I had more time to spend here getting to know Vienna better. The internet was also very kind to me here."
Very kind is somewhat of an understatement, Mathis finished runner-up in the $1k Super Tuesday during EPT Vienna, then won it at the next attempt, just after the EPT had wrapped up. That's two scores of $114,378.13 and $86,285.50 in the space of a week. First this one, then that one.
"It feels a bit unreal still to have gotten heads up back to back weeks in the 1k," said Mathis. "It is a tournament I play nearly every week, without better than a eighth place finish until December 2013. I have since won it twice after chops, and finished second another time. It is, of course, a good and validating feeling as a poker player to do so well in tough fields and make money, but at the same time I need to realize I really did just run better than usual in a few tournaments, and that doesn't suddenly elevate me to the next level. There are still many players better than me, and I will continue to improve regardless of how I do in a particular week. I don't have to be playing the biggest or highest games, and will leave the battling to those who wish to battle. I can continue working my way up at my own pace."
It seems to be a good attitude to have. Mathis busted Day 2 of EPT Vienna thanks to a kings into queens set-up. One failed attempt to get into a museum later (it closed early on Tuesday) and Mathis made dinner plans instead of sulking.
"We went for dinner in a big group. Stephen Chidwick had reservations at some nine course tasting menu place (we also had a bottle of wine) that his friends cancelled last minute," said Mathis. "The dinner was great but was running late. I got a taxi by myself back to our apartment so I could play the Super Tuesday. I was the only person in our group to register the tournament. I had maybe five beers and two glasses of wine in six hours, and a daze of food coma, but I was still comfortable playing. I couldn't believe the next morning at 10am when the sun was up that I had just had my biggest score. I played the bounty turbo side event immediately after then celebrated the win in Vienna."
"The timing of it all is really funny for me. It comes at a time when I'm working less hard and the urgency isn't there," said Mathis. "I've spent many years grinding endless hours and getting better. It's cathartic in a way to have these scores because they're a sign the work has paid off. But it serves even more as a motivation to continue getting better because now I have had a taste of what it means to work hard at something and see the results from it. As far I can see, this is only the beginning."
The PCA: so close, yet...
Mathis seems to be one of life's optimists. Most would look back at a 17th place bust in the PCA with a grimace. Sure, $87,500 is a great score, but when a big money final table, and the shot at a million dollars was just a day away, and you were unlucky to lose a big pot to the tournament wrecking ball... Well, it would just be very easy to look back, grumble, shake your fist at the sky and complain that you were robbed of your chance.
"The PCA was my first tournament as a 'poker pro'," said Mathis. "I had graduated from university the month before and went down to the Bahamas for the tournament. The PCA was a fun run, and I was quite unlucky towards the end. I didn't dwell on that one for too long. The months following that were some of the best... until black Friday happened. Then I had a completely different kind of problem to deal with."
Going loco down in Acapulco (and Australia, and the Bahamas, and Peru...)
When Black Friday struck some three years ago, Mathis was given a decision. To pursue poker and leave the US or to stay and give up the dream? I think you can guess which answer he settled on.
"Poker has taken me all over," said Mathis. "I have lived in two different Mexican cities for almost three years in total now. I have gone to Brazil twice and travelled to some of the most beautiful destinations there. I have been to Peru three times and am only beginning to scratch the surface of what you can do there. This is my third trip to Europe right now. I've had three trips to the PCA and also did five weeks living in Australia during the Aussie millions in 2012. Poker has enabled me to see the world in a way I never thought or dreamed possible. Travel and experience has always been a priority for me, so finding poker was a good fit."
Mathis has clocked up $176,400 in live tournament winnings, a number which is dwarfed by his online dollarometer at PokerStars, where he plays as "TheLipoFund". Mathis has registered tournament cashes worth $5,873,758. That's not pure profit, of course, but it is an astronomical amount for someone who's willing to bounce around a hot tournament room in South America dressed as a large honey-lovin' bear.
Whether Mathis stays the course in the poker world or decides to shift his attentions down the road, one suspects that his work ethic will see him succeed wherever he turns his focus.
"My grandpa taught me early that he didn't care what I did for money or work as long as I worked hard at what I did," said Mathis. "I have been able to make up for my lack of other skills with hard work."
Hard graft into big wins
Mathis pins July 2012 as a turning point in his poker career. He was playing with friend who were "much better" than him and were able to identify some key leaks that needed stopping and tweaks that needed tuning. They also hammered home the need for study and review.
"I like to ask a lot of questions and use quantitative data to answer these questions," said Mathis. "It comes from studying economics and carries over well into poker. Some people might look at me as nerdy, but I am okay with that title.
"Other people probably view me as a bit of a workaholic. It's hard to say what other people think though. I have a reputation for always grinding. Away from the poker tables, I don't really know what others think. I just hope to have good encounters with everyone I meet regardless of what they think of me. I only hope others view me as grateful. I have been extended so many courtesies and favors while traveling, that I may never be in a position to repay. I only hope people can see how appreciative I am of their hospitality."
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.