The tributes from poker’s elite — following six-time WSOP bracelet-winner Layne Flack’s untimely passing — continue rolling in. On Thursday, Mike “The Mouth” Matusow hosted a special edition of his popular “The Mouthpiece” podcast, featuring several of poker’s most famous players reminiscing about Flack, who died at age 52 on Monday from unreported causes.
Flack became one of the game’s most distinctive and outward-spoken characters, as shared by those who knew him best. Matusow’s special episode offered appearances from Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel, Chip Jett, Scotty Nguyen, Matt Savage, Ted Forrest, Mori Eskandani, and many others. Flack’s daughter Hailey and other family members also appeared.
Matusow, a close and longtime friend, termed what became a two-and-a-half-hour episode as a “celebration of life… a special day but a somber day”. He then worked through his lengthy guestlist, allowing each to share their favorite Flack memories.
‘Sharpest’ guy at the tables
Savage, for example, focused on Flack’s skill and intelligence. “He was the sharpest guy I ever met, barring none,” Savage said. Earlier in the week, when Savage learned of Flack’s passing, he posted on Twitter that Flack was the best player in the game in the early 2000’s, and it wasn’t close.
Brunson offered a similar thought. “He might be the sharpest mind outside Stu Ungar that I’ve ever seen,” Brunson said. Ungar, like Flack, enjoyed a meteoric career, but passed away at a young age (45) in 1998. Like Flack, Ungar battled substance-abuse problems. Ungar became addicted to cocaine in his later years, while Flack battled alcoholism above other addiction issues.
15-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth in 2004 said Flack “spots the field by drinking a couple of six packs of beers while he plays.” Yet despite the heavy drinking, Flack remained a feared opponent at the tables for many years. Matusow, who’s had his own substance issues, repeatedly referred to Flack as the “life of the party,” though he noted early on that he’d recently talked with Flack, who’d stated he’d been cleaning up his life over the previous two years.
Flack’s passing short-circuited that effort, which would have been celebrated by many in the poker world. Yet Matusow himself reminded his viewer, “Layne would not want us to cry. Layne would want us to party and have fun.”
Flack played hard, partied harder
Having fun was the central theme of Flack’s existence. Jett, for instance, told viewers that most of his favorite stories involving Flack were unsuitable for a public audience, but that he’d consider writing them in a book for someone to read after he also had passed on. Jett did describe Flack as a man with many hidden skills. After a long night of bar-hopping in Reno, Jett related, the two went bowling at one of the city’s 24-hour bowling centers. Matusow then bowled a 269 game while using a house ball. Jett also remembered Flack as an exceptional arm wrestler.
The stories in large part, however, returned to Flack’s amazing skills at the table. Seidel recalled staking Flack into a tournament, then being shocked as Flack went into manic-aggressive mode. Yet Flack was playing his edges and the rush; he ended up winning the tourney. Seidel chuckled about the memory, saying, “Needless to say, as funny as it was, it was the last time I staked him.” Flack was a brilliant but flawed player, as those around him knew all too well.
Featured image source: Twitter/BillBruce