Although the 100-minute podcast interview was a departure from WSOP-themed topics that have dominated the news cycle since early last month, Berkey’s willingness to openly relate his unique poker experiences with Rinkema’s audience was good enough to earn an organic veteran contributor shout-out and subsequent positive feedback on the world’s largest poker forum TwoPlusTwo.com.
Due to the high level of interest shown by the forum community and requests for a summary within the official 2+2 thread, the following is a partially transcribed recap of the Saturday, July 9th Remko Report episode featuring Matt Berkey.
Remko Report Episode #42 – Matt Berkey (Timestamps)
(Intro) Matt Berkey is a high stakes professional poker player who is backed by several high profile players. Berkey normally competes in live cash games, but his 5th place finish in the $300,000 buy-in May 2016 Super High Roller Bowl at the Aria Las Vegas for $1.1 million (aired live on CBS) has exposed the veteran to new fans. His first significant live score came in 2010, when he placed 43rd in the WSOP Main Event for $206,395. Berkey also has nearly $1 million in career online poker tournament cashes according to PocketFives.
(3:15) Berkey’s thoughts on tough field in SHRB
“I knew from the time that the event was announced that I was going to play it so I didn’t take it lightly. I pretty much planned on just studying from April until the start of the event but I began gathering research and all that stuff far sooner. I recognize that the players in this pool are very good but also that the vast majority of them play very similar to one another. We were running footage and watching a lot of the tape and just grouping guys into more of a GTO category versus exploitable players and developing a proper gameplan as to how to adjust and how to use my strengths from cash to my advantage.”
(4:40) Did that preparation give Berkey an advantage over the field?
“Poker is a strange thing. When you believe that you’re playing your best and that you’re really good at something, that confidence often translates into some sort of momentum. So if nothing else I created this placebo effect where I truly believed I had a massive edge over the field. In the moment the field felt soft, I was getting good table draws. I just felt very prepared the whole way through.”
(5:55) Thoughts on SHRB 40-second time limit per decision
“Absolutely [I am for it]. It’s very tough on the dealers and the weight of that event makes it a little bit easier because it’s a small field. The cameras are on and they do everything in their power to make it easy for the dealers to run the clock. If we could figure out a slightly more convenient way to extrapolate this out to bigger fields, I think it will absolutely revolutionize tournament poker. The fact of the matter is in most regards it’s the best players that are playing the slowest. I definitely understand there are big moments in events where you need to take your time and really consider all your options, but it’s gotten to the point now where by default they’re just wasting time and burning through structures.”
(12:20) Did Berkey have his own action in the $300k SHRB or did he sell action?
“Both. I’ve played nosebleed cash games and obviously I don’t have 100% of myself. It would be ridiculous to think I did. I play $300/$600/$1,200 NLHE and I’ll be very honest, I was on a $5 million downswing after I was on a $2 million upswing… [bankroll variance] is real. So I have a group that takes a huge piece. I have 33 percent, they have the rest. When it came to the tournament, in a general sense like nobody wants to be involved because of tax implications. It’s just so much more difficult. But the negative rake and the fact that was buried in makeup made it a lot easier to say, ‘Okay let’s take a shot.'”
“I could have done the whole thing on the stake but I actually chose to risk a fair portion of my net worth and I bought 20 percent of myself on top of it. I put more into one tournament than would be recommended by standard bankroll [guidelines] but I felt like I was working really hard to capitalize on this event, this opportunity, on this particular moment.”
(16:30) How did Berkey initially enter high stakes live cash games?
“When the game came to be it was originally $200/$400 NLHE with a $20k minimum buy-in. Bob Bright used to come to the $2/5, $5/$10 games I was playing and be like, ‘I can get you a seat any time I’d love your action.’ At the time I was stone broke. I had gone from pretty much zero to about a quarter of a million in 2010 through a [WSOP] Main Event score amongst others. Over the next two years I just absolutely found every way possible to lose it. Playing too big myself, backing way too many people at way too high stakes, and just a lot of poor business choices that come from not having that type of background. You learn the hard way.”
“The following summer (2013) I had a half-million dollar summer at the World Series. Now suddenly I had money again and [Bob] was very aware of it.”
(19:00) Details on “The Game”
“I didn’t know half the people who were there. It was Jean-Robert Bellande, it was Bob Bright and then it was just like other ‘business types’ who were not professional poker players. Having been in The Game for two and a half to three years now, I understand that poker is more than just a passion to a lot of these guys. They may have a job elsewhere on an income source elsewhere but they are no slouches. That’s not to say that The Game is like the toughest game in the world but when you’re talking about these stakes with people who are competent and have a hundred times more money than you, they’re not missing a lot of the pressure points. And that’s a big deal in big-bet poker. It’s not how competent you are in playing certain hands or maneuvering post-flop, it’s just understanding pressure points.”
(25:30) How did Berkey clear over $1 million in makeup?
“We were stuck for as much as a million after the first six months or so and then in May 2014 I was fortunate enough to come late into a really good lineup. From the outside looking in, it wouldn’t have been considered one. It was Andrew Robl, Brian Rast, Prahlad Friedman… just a lot of top-level guys. But for me that’s almost better than a table full of amateurs because the onus isn’t necessarily on me to drive the action all the time anymore. These guys are fighting. They want to win pots just as badly as I do where for the businessmen they’re very happy to just lay down until they have it and then strike.”
“I sat with $600,000 the blinds were $300/$600/$1,200 but Rick [Salomon] likes to straddle so there were a lot of twenty-fours and things like that going on too. Everything’s on the table… not a foreign scenario to me whatsoever. [That night] was actually the most comfortable I felt since I entered the Big Game. I’m finally sitting deep and whatever happens, happens. I ran fairly well off the start and I was up $250k and I remember I was texting my close friend just to keep him updated. He’s just sick… he loves the pain and torture [of a high stakes sweat]. I win another pot and very quickly I’m up $350k and he’s like trying to tell me to quit and I’m just like, ‘Relax we’re in a good spot.’ Next thing I know I’m playing a massive pot with Robl where I flop the nuts with Queen-Jack and the pot’s already over $150k. He ends up Call-Call-Call postflop and I win a $600,000 pot.
So now I’m texting him and I’m like, ‘I’m up $600k, I think the game’s still really good. I’m not going anywhere.’ He’s like, ‘Just do your thing we’re going to get out tonight I can feel it.’ I hadn’t seen many 7-figure swings in one session. It’s happened for sure, but I didn’t get to play those types of games because yeah, people like my action and everything but they don’t need me in an already action-filled game. So I got the lesser lineups for sure. This was definitely more of a mix of a fast-paced game. When it was all said and done, I ended up winning $1.4 million that night. I cleared makeup and finally had a little bit of profit.” (30:00)
Remko Report Summary
Berkey continues to share his unique poker and personal experiences with Rinkema throughout the interview. Our Upswing Poker readers who are interested in finding out more about Matt Berkey should visit the following links.
PokerNews: Remko Report Podcast Episode #42 with Matt Berkey
TheVoiceWithin.me — Matt Berkey’s Personal Blogsite
SolveForWhyAcademy.com — Matt Berkey’s Live Poker Coaching Website
TwoPlusTwo Matt Berkey Interview Forum Thread
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David Huber (known as “dhubermex” online) has been involved in the poker industry for more than a decade. He currently assists several poker and gaming entities as a researcher, writer, and consultant. Former Editor-in-Chief & Head Moderator of online tournament rankings site PocketFives (2006-2011).