The Poker.org Interview: Kevin Mathers

Haley Hintze
Published by:
Posted on 12/22/2021

There are few people who occupy as unique a niche in poker or are more respected at what they do than one of the game’s kings of social media and the relaying of news than Kevin Mathers. He’s been a part of the game for nearly two decades, and he made headlines last week when he was announced as the Poker Information Manager for GPI/THM (Global Poker Index / The Hendon Mob).

Mathers, of course, is best known for his recurring role during the World Series of Poker as the WSOP’s “Twitter Czar,” where he keeps the poker world posted on the latest happenings while on the scene at the world’s largest poker festival. Yet Mathers’ history in poker stretches much farther back. What began as postings on the old rec.gambling.poker Usenet group morphed into a popular (but unpaid) gig at the largest online poker forum. From there the paid gigs began, including major tours of duty at Bluff, PocketFives, and Poker Atlas.

As Mathers knows well, working in poker can be a nomadic experience. Yet his new role with GPI/THM might be the best fit yet for his information-gathering skills. Combined with his well-known diligence, he may make a singular difference for what’s already widely regarded as the best poker-results online database. It’s a natural fit for someone who really didn’t play a lot of poker or work in the industry early on.

“I wasn’t like playing home games or anything like that,” Mathers said about his start in poker.. I was just (going to the) casino near me, Turning Stone. I played a little bit of poker, but I wasn’t exactly crushing there. Like the live games there. It was just something that interested me. [] I did a lot of customer service jobs, working in call centers, so that sort of started that customer-service role, a real job that got me to like helping people out. And then that sort of extended into poker.”

The man publicly known as “KevMath” — though he prefers “Kevin” with his friends and work associates — shared much more with Poker.org, including his new gig, his recurring WSOP role, and other things poker.

A timely opportunity

According to Mathers, hooking up with GPI/THM had its roots within the recent WSOP. As he explained, “Eric Danis, as you know, is the President of GPI/THM. He contacted me, directly sending me a direct message on Twitter. He wanted to meet with me before I was leaving on Thanksgiving Day.” Mathers had just completed his 2021 tour of duty at the WSOP.

“(He wanted) to meet with me, the day before, to go to the Bellagio buffet, and to have a conversation. So I kind of had an idea that it seemed like he wanted to hire me. But I wasn’t sure if it was just like, maybe Eric’s doing something nice for me, you know. And so as we had the buffet and all that and just like that,” referring to the hiring angle, “he sort of agree with me. And then we started talking about the details about working for GPI/THM. And we quickly came to an agreement and worked out some stuff and here I am.”

As for what Mathers’ role will be, it’s not quite etched in stone as yet, but it will make use of Mathers’ extensive industry connections to help strengthen The HendonMob’s ability to gather results from more and more tournament venues. “I think, what they’re hoping that I may able to do is to help get to some casinos who may not be listing tournament (results). To strike up some sort of spot, you know, to do more promotion, for the rooms to promote. I’m the head of my website, and I’ll be doing some results, I’ll be uploading events. And it’s gonna be a variety, you know, doing some customer support on the back end.

“In the first few days, I’ve been actually working, there’s definitely been several people emailing that they need to fix or resolve issues, like their name was spelled wrong, or why the event wasn’t in the database. So it’s gonna be it’s gonna be a variety.

Mathers will be working on the Global Poker Index side as well. “At least at the start, my main focus, we have the GPI Global Poker Awards coming up in February. So I’m going to be helping Eric with that. It’s been my main focus for the first couple of months, and of course doing the other stuff as well. That’s certainly a big undertaking crew,” he noted, adding, “We didn’t have an event last year. But events like that help get the name and the brand out there to more to focus (attention on GPI/THM).

Mathers’ WSOP Twitter Czar role likely to continue

One of the questions many people have wondered is whether Mathers’ new GPI/THM duties will preclude him from returning to his familiar role at the WSOP as the series’ one-man online information desk. But Mathers says it’s not likely to be a problem, and continuing on with the WSOP role during the annual series even comes with Danis’s and GPI/THM’s blessing.

“When I talked with Eric about the (WSOP) job of Eric he was definitely all for me doing my usual role there during summer,” Mathers noted. “He had no objection to me doing that. It’s something that I’ve happily done the last five World Series of Poker, and I sort of wanted to do that again. And he had no issue with that. And I spoke briefly with Gregory (WSOP VP Gregory Chochon) shortly after I made the tweet. Gregory talked with Eric and Eric said he was fine with me working for MSP” — one of Mathers’ prior gigs — “and I told Gregory I would be happy to do the same thing here.

“I didn’t really follow up on my tweet, but I would say it’s pretty much like a 99%. You know, I mean, over 90% certainty that I’ll be back doing my usual role at the WSOP for 2022. … I would say I’m looking forward to be back officially for next summer at Bally’s.”

Mathers’ experience may help improve WSOP’s results database as well

One of the hidden benefits for the WSOP keeping Mathers on board is that it could strengthen the WSOP’s own results database. While the WSOP’s results is popular, especially during the Series, it’s suffered from both corporate neglect and a lack of coherency and planning in making sure all WSOP results are uploaded correctly. The WSOP’s results include not only live events from the series, they also include results from the WSOP’s Circuit Tour, WSOP Europe, and online events as well, which are now run partly in partnership with GGPoker.

Several other issues also complicate the recordkeeping. Multiple entries for players abound, and they’re often combined on the fly as they’re discovered. Add in moves, name changes, multiple players with the same name, data-entry errors, and those records often being entered by inexperienced staff, and it’s easy to understand how such errors proliferate. With Mathers as a conduit to GPI/THM, however, which likely has the world’s most comprehensive database of poker results, it offers a feedback mechanism for correcting the worst of the errors as they occur.

As Mathers noted, sometimes there a players in the WSOP system for whom “two, three, or even four profiles” exist. It’s an issue he says became even more complicated with the GGPoker online partnership, as “it created a new branch” of results and data-entry channels.

He noted that the new complexities almost led to a mix-up in the 2021 Player of the Year calculations. One of the last online events of the series was delayed in being entered and propagated into the WSOP system, and it was an event in which POY contender Ben Yu had cashed. Josh Arieh had appeared to withstand all challengers, but it turned out that had Yu won his final event, he would have just eclipsed Arieh’s winning total. Yu made a deep run but finished 10th in the event and fourth in the overall POY race. In 2019, there was such a mix-up in the WSOP’s POY race, when a data-entry error temporarily led to Daniel Negreanu being declared the POY. When the error was corrected, Australia’s Robert Campbell claimed the honor, narrowly topping Negreanu and Shaun Deeb.

Remembering a special 2015 moment

Mathers’ nomadic career has led to his knowing more poker people than others in the industry might even imagine. And while is career has had its ups and downs, and it took a COVID-related hit two years ago, it’s offered Mathers some special moments as well.

When asked about his favorite poker memory, Mathers returned to 2015. That was the year the poker community showed its appreciation for Mathers’ hard work and collectively bought him into the WSOP Main Event. He didn’t cash, but he did make Day 2, and then received a special honor, when the WSOP’s lead tournament director, Jack Effel, asked him to do that day’s honorary “Shuffle Up and Deal!”

Mathers recalled the moment. “So I was there, in the Brasilia Room in front of a few hundred people staring up at me as I had to shuffle up and deal and then I had to run to the Amazon Room, because that’s where my seat was. So I think personally my best moment in poker.” Mathers remains very grateful to the many people who gifted him the wonderful experience of playing in the Main Event.

Will he return as a player in a major event? Mathers has been just too busy at the WSOP to risk being involved in a major tourney for multiple days. Instead, he’s been content with occasional Daily Deepstack appearances, which he’s dutifully documented on Twitter. It’s what he does.

Featured image source: Haley Hintze