Under The Gun: Inside the mind of Ian Matakis

2023 WSOP Player of the Year Ian Matakis looks at the camera during a poker hand
Craig Tapscott
Posted on: December 24, 2023 22:08 PST

We ask the questions...

Thanks to a bracelet win and some stellar play resulting in a further 21 cashes, Minnesota's Ian Matakis was named the World Series of Poker Player of the Year for 2023.

Splitting his play across WSOP Online and Live events, Matakis managed to cash in nine tourneys online and 13 in person, making the final nine no fewer than six times and banking a more-than-respectable $881k during the series. His bracelet win came online in the $500 Bankroll Builder.

Matakis beat out the likes of Shaun Deeb, Chris Brewer and Josh Arieh to lock up the POY honor, and as a result will be playing next summer's Main Event with house money.

What's one bit of essential prep you do before a big tournament or cash game session?

"I go back and look at and study hands from my previous session to get warmed up for that day’s session."

What piece of strategy advice did you get when you first started playing that you wish you had ignored?

"Not sure I have one, but I think it’s important to at least consider different strategy tips and be open minded about them. You never know what it could yield you in the future!"

What's the dumbest thing you've seen /done at the poker table?

"I remember calling off an all-in on the turn with king-high.

I was thinking my opponent always had a flush draw below king-high, the way the hand was played. But I was drawing dead to a set, and the whole table was looking at me like I was insane."

Poker player Ian Matakis, pictured during a WPT event

What’s your most memorable hand?

"My most memorable hand is actually a hand I lost deep in the $10m GTD Wynn Millions in 2022, to get 13th place.

With the big blind at 50k, I started the hand with about 4.5m and opened the button to 125k with K♠Q♠. 

Vanessa Kade made it 425k from the small blind and I called. 

The flop was K♦️️7♦️️4♠. She c-bet 375k and I called.

The turn was the 8♣. She bet 1 million and I called.

The river was the 5♣. She quickly put me all-in for ~2.7m into a 3.7m pot.

And after a very long tank I end up calling and lost to A♠6♠ in pot worth over 9m chips."

What's your single best piece of advice for poker players?

"Go for maximum value with your strong hands!"

If you owned a poker room, who’s the first player you’d want to sign as an ambassador and why?

"Dnegs. He is the most well-known poker player there is. He is very sociable, but also takes the game seriously and obviously plays very well."

Images courtesy of the WPT