Episode 169: Matt Berkey

Matt Berkey shares his remarkable story of growing up in a small steel town with a drug addicted mother, pouring himself first into baseball and then into poker, and ultimately rising through the ranks to play as big as $300/$600/$1200 no-limit in Ivey’s room. We also discuss the Solve For Why coaching academy and Infinite Jest!

Edit: How did I forget to link Matt’s excellent blog? He writes a lot about poker and his life at thevoicewithin.me.


0:30 – hello & welcome
6:49 – strategy
25:21 – matt berkey


This hand is from a WSOPc Main Event and takes place at the 300/600/75 level. I have a stack of about 55,000 and Anthony Gregg covers me.

In this hand we are in the big blind We are holding the ace of spades 10 of diamonds. Anthony great opens with a raise to 1200 utg1 it folds back around to me and I decided to call.

The flop comes 4104 with two spades. I check, he bets 2000, I call.

The turn is the 6d. He bets 3300 and I call.

The river is the 7 of spades, for a final board of 4♠️10♠️4♥️6♦️7♠️. I bet 5500, and to my surprise he shoves!

9 thoughts on “Episode 169: Matt Berkey

  1. Fold.

    I like your line. Given your positions and the way the hand played out, you could have a lot of flushes and top pair. Even if he does have an overpair, given what you are repping, he cannot shove.

    To me it just seems like he has made a unlikely yet huge hand by the river.

    The way you played the hand, it looks like you either have 1 pair or a flush (your passive line indicates that you can’t have a 4 or a two pair etc, likely expect a turn bet/check raise with those at atleast).

    If he wanted to get you off top pair, a more 3x your bet sized bluff sizing would make sense. Also, the shove is a huge overbet (3x the pot!) it’s not a profitable shove from his perspective. Risk/Reward math for the bet sizing from his side doesn’t make sense, unless he thinks you are a low limit cash reg, who will auto fold this spot a lot purely given the bet size.

    I feel like he shows you boats or the nut flush here a lot.

  2. Oops. I just realized I cant read well 🙂 You do have the ace of spades. That makes his shoving range with flushes pretty non existent.

    This makes his value range very very narrow. (Boats) Still given the huge overbet, my inclination is to fold. I can’t think of a bluffing range for him here.(busted draws, triple barrels etc )

  3. In the strategy hand, even though we have a good bit of showdown value, is it possible that check raising as a bluff might be viable? It seems like we have a solid candidate, though of course we might just have a better candidate for bluff catching. What would our check raising range as a bluff look like?

  4. re: hand history

    a professional player gets donked into by a recreational player when the flush comes in on the river, and reacts by jamming for ~3x pot over top?

    in my opinion, that’s going to be for value 100% (boat+ here). i appreciate the discussion from andrew and nate on why your hand is a particularly good bluff catcher from a theoretical perspective. but this bet is wholly designed to extract max value from a less experienced player that may not be able to get away from his likely strong 2nd best hand.

    i try to avoid maxims in poker, but you just don’t try to bluff amateurs off of likely huge hands as a general rule (and even more so when giving yourself a horrible price to do so).

  5. I really loved the interview. Amazing to hear Matt’s perspective on the game and realize how big down swings can become. If you guys get him back on the show I’d love to hear a bit more about how he maintained his edge and continued to play his best through the multi-million dollar downswing. He said he lost something like 20+ sessions out of 27, I imagine that’d be much more stressful at nose-bleed stakes than at 1/2.

  6. Great episode! I’m so glad you did that second part that got the discussion on infinite jest and David Foster Wallace going! As someone who has struggled getting into it, it was good to hear more details about how and why it is so dense.

    • Re: DFW… If one is looking to his essays to understand his fiction, I cannot recommend any piece more highly than his review of Joseph Frank’s multi-part Dostoevsky biography. Using a powerful book review as a vehicle for much more, Wallace lays out many of his central existential themes as well as struggles with how to approach fiction.

      His Frank review originally appeared in the Voice Literary Supplement, and was slated to appear in A Supposedly Fun Thing—it was included in my review copy—but got axed from the final published edition. Later it showed up in Consider the Lobster, as I recall.

      Anyway… Longtime listener *and* Wallace fan here. (FWIW, I wrote one of the earliest or maybe the very earliest rave review of Infinite Jest, in one of the first issues of TimeOut New York, and got a lot of flack for it… People seemed to think he was just trendy at the time.) Keep up the great work on the podcast, mixing hard strategy with more eclectic and philosophical themes.

  7. This is such a sick hand … he has to have a good read on us that we have the flush, and is over shoving for value with a turned or rivered full house, or he has a weak made hand, and is over shoving as a bluff, knowing we can’t call. Given the potential to find better spots, I think we fold here and keep an eye on this villain going forward in the tournament…

  8. I think, he is bluffing because of how the hand was played, he having a 4 is unlikely the only 3 scenarios is he having a over pair, pocket 10 or a bluff.
    Since we have the ace of spades he going all in with flush is unlikely.
    I would call expecting to win 65% of the times.

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