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Like the age old saying, “the 11th time’s the charm,” Mike Matusow finally took down a Poker After Dark episode, winning this week’s “close but no cigar” contest.  Matusow played a lengthy battle against Andy Black, but would eventually out-last the Full Tilt Pro and claim the title, $120,000, and get a rather large monkey off of his back.

This episoode’s theme, “close but no cigar,” paid homage to men that have come oh-so close to winning the WSOP Main Event, only to fall short.  Joining Black and Matusow were David Williams (runner-up in 2004), Allen Cunningham (4th in 2006), Dewey Tomko (Twice runner-up, latest in 2001), and Lee Watkinson (8th in 2007).

First to go was David Williams when he would 4bet shove over Andy Black with AdJs.  Unfortuntely for Williams, Black would have QdQs.  The board would run out KsKc6s4c3s and Black would ship the ~$40,000 pot, leaving Williams out in 6th.  Williams and Matusow would get into quite a shouting match over how Williams played the hand.  Williams offered Mike Matusow 10-1 that he would not win the episode, but Matusow would quickly decline, stating he’s “a 30-1 dog” to win the match.

Next to go was Dewey Tomko, who finished runner-up to Carlos Mortensen in 2001.  Black would open the button, Tomko would 3bet, and Black would 4bet shove.  Tomko, with only $11,000 beat him in the pot with JdJc.  Black’s AsTc needed to improve, and it did, once the board came AhAc4h8hQd, busting Tomko in 5th place.

Arguably the best player at the table, Allen Cunningham, soon found himself out in 4th place.  Black would open the action to $2,000. Allen 3bet to $6,000 and Black would ship $24,000 total in.  Allen called it with QdQh, finding himself in a dominating position over Black’s TdTc.  The flop seemed innocent enough, coming Kd6s2d, and the Jh did little to bolster his chances.  However, the Th on the river busted Allen, giving Black a nice chip-lead in the process.  Cunningham took the beat quite well, proving once again why he’s one of the classiest players in poker.

Lee Watkinson went out in 3rd place in a weirdly played hand.  Lee limped the SB with Kc5c, and Matusow decided to check his option with Ah7d. The flop came Ac7h6c and Lee would lead small, and mike raised a small amount.  The Jc hit the turn and Lee check-raised Mike all-in.  The pot would be $48,000 once Mike snap-called the all-in.  All that could save Mike was an Ace or a 7.  That’s precisely what would fall, as Mike would “bink” the 7s on the river to ship the big pot and take nearly a 5-1 chiplead into Heads-Up play.

Heads-Up play was quite swingy, but in the end Mike would get the best of Andy, who at one point was a 2:1 chip advantage after starting as a 5:1 dog.   The final hands were quite interesting, as both players made what can only be described as “less-than perfect” plays.  With blinds at 1k/2k, Andy Black limped the button with Ah6,\. Matusow then makde it 8k total with 66 and Black snap-called.  The flop fell Qc8c2h and Mike insta-shoved 36k into the 16k pot.  After thinking for about 10 seconds Black made the call, and soon find out he was a about a 85% underdog.  Luckily for Mike there was no miracle and he would take a nearly 3:1 chip lead.  Only a few hands later Mike would get all of his money in with A6o vs Black’s KJo, and would hold, winning him his 1st Poker After Dark title.  Matusow was quite exuberant, running around the room, his arms flailing all about.  LeeAnn was finally able to calm Matusow down and get an exit interview.  Mike refered to his “heart” quite a bit in the interview, saying he would never give up and that his positive thinking was the key to his success.

Be sure to tune into NBC next week when Todd Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Gordon, Gabe Kaplan, Cory Zeidman, David Grey battle in the “speak your mind” episode.