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Meet Ian Matakis, Shaun Deeb's Surprising WSOP Player of the Year Competitor

June 30, 2023
ian matakis wsop poker

Shaun Deeb has some legit competition for 2023 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Player of the Year, and it isn't Daniel Negreanu or Phil Ivey. The name you need to learn, if you haven't become familiar with him already, is Ian Matakis, who is about to take over the lead, and it appears he's going to be in the POY race until the end.

PokerNews caught up with the Minnesota native on break of Event #65: $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em (6-Handed), where he's still in it on Day 3.

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Matakis, who won an online bracelet earlier this summer, said he's "more of an online" poker player, but "I'm transitioning more to live." The Midwest poker pro with just over $1 million in Hendon Mob results has 15 bracelet event cashes this summer, six of which have taken place on

He will add a 16th cash when the $5k at Horseshoe Las Vegas wraps. At the time of publishing, he had over 2.3 million in chips, putting him in the top 10 out of 31 remaining players. The final table is set for Saturday, and the winner in the 1,199-player event will receive $938,244.

Can Up-and-Coming Poker Pro Beat Shaun Deeb?

Ian Matakis wsop poker
Ian Matakis

As of now, Deeb leads the Player of the Year race with 3,358 points, while Matakis is at 3,338 points. Chad Eveslage, the only multiple bracelet winner this summer, is in third place with 2,745 points. Chance Kornuth is also in contention as he sits on 2,648 points.

At the conclusion of the $5k, Matakis will regain the lead, and could earn as many as 1,237 points, which would put him well ahead of Deeb. He's guaranteed to rack up at least 247 points, also easily enough to move into first place. Of course, this all depends on Deeb's performance over the weekend. He's always a threat to run deep in any event.

One advantage Deeb has over Matakis is that he plays just about any game. Matakis, on the other hand, has stuck with no-limit hold'em and pot-limit Omaha tournaments, the games he specializes in. But now that he's a serious Player of the Year contender, he just might expand his horizons.

"I might play a couple extra ones that I wasn't going to play for the Player of the Year points, but other than that I'm playing a pretty normal schedule," Matakis, pronounced (muh-take-iss), said.

"Yeah, that's definitely an advantage, but I have learned some mixed games, so he should watch out," Matakis continued when asked if Deeb had an edge over him in the Player of the Year race given that he plays the mixed games.

Matakis expressed confidence in beating Deeb, who won the award in 2018. But Deeb, who also won a bracelet this summer, doesn't seem to agree.

Every year, there's one or two players nobody projected would compete for WSOP Player of the Year who contend deep into the series. This summer, it's Matakis, and it seems as if the Minnesota poker pro will be the race for the long-haul.

"It was never anything I was chasing," Matakis said of his pre-WSOP Player of the Year contention. "Of course, now I'm working towards it."

Matakis says that his red hot summer has been due to a combination of factors — running hot and the "preparation I've put in." The question now is can anyone cool him off? Deeb better hope so or he'll have quite a tough battle the last few weeks of the summer.

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