Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #25 Matt Affleck
I had to be reminded of who Matt Affleck was on Day 5 of the Main Event of the World Series of Poker this year. I didn’t recognize him in any of the first 4 days of play, but the morning of day 5, his chip stack certainly caught my eye. Each night, the seat assignments and chip counts were sent out, and I’d go through the list the next morning prior to the start of play to pick out significant names and chip counts for my photo-blog for the day. On the morning of day 5, Matt Affleck’s name jumped out to me as he was 4th in chips heading into the day as one of the few stacks that were over the 1 million mark. Affleck’s story in the 2010 Main Event was of back to back deep runs, and this year, his story was a truly special one to watch unfold.
In the 2009 WSOP Main Event, Affleck was in a remarkably similar position. Late in the tournament he held a commanding chip lead, but somewhere along the lines, he just began spewing chips until he finally went bust in 80th place. It was a whirlwind of an event for Affleck who dedicated himself to improving his play over the year, and focused himself on the opportunity to run up a stack again in the 2010 Main Event, and this time, not let it slip away.
The Washington State native wore a different Seattle Sports Team jersey on every day of the main event. When day 5 began, Matt was decked out in his Blue Mariner’s Jersey with Gold Shoulders and sleeves, and he unbagged a total of 1.3 million chips. He was intently focused on playing solid poker throughout the remainder of the tournament, and he was a very aggressive and very active player. He’d finish the day with twice as many chips as he began it with and would enter into day 6 with 2.8 million, 7th most of the 205 remaining players. Decked in his Washington Huskies Purple Football Jersey, Affleck added some PokerStars Patches to his jersey along with a PokerStars baseball hat for the start of day 6. Throughout the day Affleck would almost double his stack again, bagging 5.3 million chips when play ended for the night. Affleck had surpassed the mark of 80 that he set for his finish last year, and had his eyes set on the November 9, as only 78 players would return for day 7.
It was back to his Mariner’s jersey for the play on Day 7 that saw Affleck have his best day of the series yet. Play ended when Bryn Kenney was eliminated in 28th place, and with just 3 tables remaining Matt Affleck was the owner of a chip stack worth more than 12.5 million tournament chips, good for 6th in the event. With all those chips, Affleck’s eyes shifted focus from simply trying to get to the final table, to winning the whole thing.
As the 27 remaining players reconvened in the Amazon Room for day 8, Affleck’s story was one that had the attention of everyone in the media. Matt had arrived on the day with a white Seattle Mariners jersey on, and sporting a brand new look. He’d left his glasses in the Amazon Room the previous night, and they weren’t recovered by anyone there. Jack Effel took to the microphone asking the crowds if anyone had come across them, but when no one came up with the glasses Affleck would simply make due by playing the day without them, and just squinting a little more than usual. The decreased visual acuity did little to get in the way of Affleck as he’d mix it up early eliminating the first player of the day, busting Johnny Lodden in 27th place to get play going. But as the day wore on, it would be a roller coaster ride that neither Affleck nor anyone else would ever forget.
Affleck found an adversary midway through the day in Matthew Jarvis at the featured table, and the tournament changed for him in one giant pot. Jarvis moved the rest of his chips into the middle on the river, and Affleck was forced to fold his hand, losing a monster pot and reducing his once healthy chip stack to just 4 million. But Affleck had no quit in him as he’d rally back, first doubling through Jarvis with Aces vs. Jarvis’ AK, and then picking some great spots to put him all the way up to a little more than 20 million chips. Near the top of the chip lead, the stage was set for a moment in which he tangled with Jonathan Duhamel in a hand that will be remembered forever.
Jonathan Duhamel opened a pot with a standard raise to 550,000 from the cutoff, and Affleck 3-bet him from the button to 1.55 million. When the blinds folded, Duhamel reached for some more chips as he 4-bet to 3.925 million, and Affleck made the call with 8 million chips now in the pot. The flop came out T-9-7 rainbow and Duhamel slowed things down as he checked to Affleck, who wasted little time in firing out a 5 million chip bet. Duhamel thought for about a minute and a half, but made the call. With now 18 million in the pot, the dealer turned over the Qd, and Duhamel thought about that card for another 20 seconds or so before again checking to Affleck. Affleck made the absolute right move by moving all in for his last 11.6 million chips. Duhamel called after what seemed like an eternity and found himself in a spot that he must not of expected as Affleck showed two black Aces, and a disgusted Duhamel rolled over two Jacks. There were 42 million chips in the pot and Affleck had a monster lead, and was just 1 card away from taking a massice chip lead into the November Nine, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The dealer flipped the 8d on the river completing a straight for Duhamel, and eliminating Affleck on an incredibly brutal beat. Affleck held his hat in his hands and buried his face in it, weeping. It wasn’t shown real well on ESPN when it was broadcast, but he was clearly devastated, and it makes sense why. The $500,165 cash prize that he’d take for 15th place was not even a consolation at that point, as he will forever be haunted by that eight of diamonds on the river, and a missed opportunity.
Bad beats are a part of poker, and winning championships usually means that you’re putting a few on your opponents, just like they’re going to put a few on you. Affleck recovered from the beat after wandering the hallways of the Rio Convention Center to gather himself, and came back to shake the hands of everyone at the table, and then Matt left the Rio with his friends, short of his goal. To say that I wasn’t moved by the moment would be a lie. You could feel Affleck’s pain, and you couldn’t help but hurt for the guy.
The part of the story that makes this a good one is where Affleck rebounded from that moment to continue playing solid poker at his next tournament. At the WPT $10k Main Event at the Festa Al Lago in Las Vegas, Affleck ran great for several days to take a 22nd place finish for another $19,344 score, and would then follow that up with a 13th place finish at the North American Poker Tour main event at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles. A few days later, he made the final table an event at the LA Poker Open at the Commerce casino, and followed that up with another cash as he’d finish 13th in the Championship Event.
All told, Affleck booked a solid $589,709 in live tournament earnings in 2010, a far cry from what was a card away from being the best score of the year. I find it impossible to think of the story of “what might have been” had the Aces held, and how different the story would be when discussing the kid from Seattle Washington who had the most chips at the November 9. Hopefully, he’ll give me some more reasons to write about him in the years to come.