After starting the final table as a short stack, Michigan poker player Harvey Mathews mounted a dramatic comeback last Friday to capture his first World Series of Poker bracelet in Las Vegas.
One of 720 players in Event #13, the $3,000 Freezeout No-Limit Hold’em, Mathews earned a huge $391,914 first prize for the effort, by far the largest win of his poker career.
Mathews outlasts other WSOP bracelet winners, formidable poker foes to bring win to Michigan
Mathews used to play the WSOP regularly prior to 2011, when “Black Friday” shut US players out of online poker for several years. He returned to the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Vegas to compete in events in 2019. That summer, Mathews earned one small cash to bring his career tournament earnings close to $30,000.
Now, the 38-year-old from Mt. Morris has suddenly increased that total to more than $400,000.
In speaking to USPoker, Mathews described the experience as “pretty surreal.”
“I’ve always dreamed and wanted to win a bracelet, but I never thought it was an actual possibility,” he said. “This event was a pretty star-studded field, so it feels great to get the win.”
Indeed, among those Mathews had to outlast at the final table was four-time WSOP bracelet winner Michael Gathy, who eventually finished third. Other notables making deep runs in the event included Niall Farrell, Tristan Wade, Daniel Weinman, Sergio Aido, Jerry Wong, Maria Konnikova, and Brock Parker.
A big hero call: ‘I went with my read and was correct’
In fact, it was a big hand against Gathy that proved a turning point during the tournament’s endgame for Mathews.
Matthews reached the nine-handed final table as one of the short stacks. He started the third and final day still near the bottom, in fifth position out of seven players. He scraped his way back, though, and enjoyed the chip lead as the field further narrowed.
With three left, Gathy had moved back to the top of the counts. That’s when Mathews and Gathy battled their way to the river in a heads-up pot. With the board showing 4h-5d-Jc-Qc-10s, Gathy led with a huge bet that Mathews ultimately called. He held just Ac-5h for a pair of fives.
The call was correct, as Gathy was bluffing after missing his flush draw with Kc-8c.
“I went with my read and was correct,” Mathews told USPoker. “At that moment, I really started to think that I was capable of taking the event down.”
Having taken the chip lead again, Mathews soon knocked Gathy out in third. He then maintained the lead throughout heads-up versus Gabriel Andrade, eventually winning the last all-in to claim the title.
WSOP marches onward with more live and online bracelet events
Mathews is returning home to the Michigan online poker scene this week. He plans to go back to Las Vegas in November for the $10,000 buy-in WSOP Main Event. He’s played the Main a few times before, but has yet to cash in it.
When home, Mathews will return to his full-time job as a database manager. While there he will likely find the time as well to play online poker on both PokerStars MI and BetMGM Poker MI. He says he tries to play online three nights a week.
Meanwhile, the WSOP continues to move forward with its 88-event live schedule, plus another 10 online bracelet events.
The online bracelet events are available only to players on WSOP.com sites in Nevada and New Jersey. When WSOP.com comes to Michigan, expect Mathews to be among the many MI poker players eager to start playing for bracelets from the Great Lakes State.