Matt Berkey

Matt Berkey isn’t your conventional poker pro, his background forcing him to think about the game much more deeply and in different ways.

Growing up “insanely poor” might not be the best background for a man who would choose poker as a career and go on to boom and bust several times, but Pennsylvanian Matt Berkey isn’t your conventional poker pro, his background forcing him to think about the game much more deeply and in different ways from his fellow high stakes players.

Primarily a cash game player, Berkey himself stating “I won’t go so far as to say that I hate tournaments, but they’re my least favorite form of poker,” the name might not ring so much of a bell for most poker fans, but millions won online and over $3million in tournament earnings show that the tall and lean American is an adaptable and versatile character.

Growing up in Leechburg, Pittsburgh, Berkey found an out with his love of baseball – playing throughout his college years in Allegheny and then Gannon, majoring in computer science with am minor in mathematics, but when the crunch came he decided on poker as his future – a game he’d discovered in school.

“I was spending four hours each day in practice or in the gym and then another four hours grinding online,” Berkey told Julio Rodriguez of Cardplayer back in 2013. “There was an Indian casino about an hour away, which gave me my first live experience, and I just got better over time.”

That better would see him walk-off with a $1.1million score at the 2015 Super High Roller Bowl - an unexpected result which got him fully back on track after a dismal time in 2012 and for a year or two afterwards. “It’s on record, I have gone broke a number of occasions”, he told Calvin Ayre’s Lee Davy last year, 2016.

“It’s the nature of the beast for people like me who have been playing for 12-years. The very last time I went broke in 2012 I had $300,000 to my name 18-months prior, and I made horrible business decisions.”

Now he has a small core of backers who help him to play the otherwise ridiculous huge buy-ins at things like the SHRB, a tournament which he sees as good value despite being cash-game focused for the most part.

“I have been playing high stakes cash for the better part of four years. I am a poker player by trade, so we find value,” he told Davy. “Anytime a $300,000 field comes up where they are adding $300,000 and ten businessmen sign up there is no reason not to play. Even though tournament poker isn’t my strongest suit, it’s my career. I can adjust. I was one of the first players to sign up.”

His new ‘Solving for Why Academy’ takes a novel approach to poker, Berkey describing it as “very abstract”, adding the idea is, “getting away from hand histories…we want to empower the attendees to be independent in their learning process.”

Add to this his recent ‘Dead Money’ documentary, following the run-up to his SHRB appearance last year, perhaps just one of a number of ‘poker content’ ideas he has for the future, it’s clear that Berkey – who has few close friends within the game of poker itself – is an ‘outlier’; a poker pro capable of adapting to whatever life has to throw at him.

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