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Mike Matusow aims to prove doubters wrong at WSOP

Mike Matusow spoke to several people about backing him this summer at the World Series of Poker.

But it was one response, in particular, that set off “The Mouth.”

“Your day in the tournaments is over,” the text message read in part.

“That really pissed me off,” Matusow said.

Matusow used the rejection as motivation and is having one of the best summers of his career at the WSOP.

Matusow was one of the handful of stars playing Day 1A of the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Texas Hold ’em World Championship on Saturday at the Rio Convention Center. He had just under the 50,000-chip starting stack at the final break at 9:30 p.m.

The first of three starting flights drew 795 entrants, and Ryan Hall was the unofficial leader at the final break. The Main Event continues at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Rio with Day 1B.

“The reason why I’ve had such a great World Series is because, for the first time, I got sick of feeling sorry for myself,” Matusow said during the dinner break. “I just said, ‘Stop saying why me and just go out there, fight through the pain and show every one how good you still are.’ ”

Matusow, 49, is a four-time WSOP bracelet winner whose troubles with sports betting and drugs were documented in his book “Check-Raising the Devil.” His latest struggles are health-related, however.

In October 2014, Matusow underwent back surgery to correct a disk protrusion, and now suffers from a painful condition called intercostal neuralgia that occurs when the nerve that runs between the ribs is damaged.

“Nobody knows what I go through,” he said. “I live in misery.”

Despite the pain, Matusow quietly cashed in five WSOP events in 2016 and nearly made a deep run in the $10,000 Pot-limit Omaha Championship. This year, he made the money in seven of the 18 events he entered.

Matusow reached the final table in three $10,000 buy-in events and also finished 12th in the $50,000 buy-in Poker Players Championship. He has more than $250,000 in earnings this summer.

“I have never in 21 years of poker, ever, put my heart on the felt hour after hour, day after day at the World Series for six weeks,” Matusow said. “I was on a mission to prove to the whole poker world that you guys think I can’t play? It was 2013, I had the best year of my life and all of a sudden I was sick for two years and I can’t play?”

Matusow’s opening table for the Main Event included top professional Pratyush Buddiga and four-time bracelet winner Tom Schneider, which received plenty of attention from the ESPN cameras. His second table included three-time bracelet winner Doug Polk.

Defending champion Qui Nguyen was one of a handful of former Main Event winners spotted in the field, along with Martin Jacobson (2014) and Jerry Yang (2007).

“We’ll see what happens,” Matusow said. “I’m playing with confidence, and that’s all I can do.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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