Retired NFL Offensive Lineman Evan Mathis Takes on Poker Pros at the PCA
As some professional NFL players were gearing up for the wild-card playoffs and the divisional playoffs, retired NFL offensive lineman Evan Mathis was heading to the 2019 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure to play some high roller poker tournaments.
Before his trip to the Caribbean, Mathis didn’t have a HendonMob profile. Now Mathis has $278,880 in live cashes to his credit, compliments of two cashes in the Bahamas. He finished 35th of 1,039 players in the $25,000 buy-in PSPC for $86,400 and followed that up just a couple days later with a sixth-place finish in a $50,000 for $192,480.
Though he came to PCA with no live tournament cashes under his belt, the nine-year NFL offensive lineman is in no way new to the game of poker. He started playing back in college with friends and was relatively active playing online cash games and tournaments around 12 years ago. His focus shifted to playing in the NFL beginning in 2008, but now two years into retirement, he may be able to fit in a bit more poker.
“I liked the line-up for the PCA and I thought that the $25K was kind of a no-brainer based on the structure."
Still quite busy with other obligations in his home base of Michigan, Mathis sees poker as more of a side hobby, but he has several friends who play poker regularly. It was these associations and the attractive PSPC event that led to the Caribbean poker trip.
“I liked the line-up for the PCA and I thought that the $25K was kind of a no-brainer based on the structure,” Mathis told PokerNews at a break during the $50K. “I had a couple friends that were playing in it too. So I put it on the calendar and came down here to play.”
Towering Table Image
Like his good friend Jason Koonce, an amateur who took fifth in the PSPC for $1,304,000, Mathis is often underestimated at the poker tables. The six foot, five-inch tall former O-Lineman stands out at the table, and opponents eventually do a little research to find out Mathis was a long-time NFL pro. He does his best to play up the novice poker player image that often comes along with the pro athlete status.
“Some people will see who’s at the table and they’ll Google my name and see that I’m a football player,” Mathis told us. “Sometimes I try to use that to my advantage to kind of play dumb and act like a big dumb football ogre. Sometimes I’ll try to create an image where initially, they think I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Sometimes I try to use that to my advantage to kind of play dumb and act like a big dumb football ogre."
Of course, eventually his opponents will discover that he’s no dumb giant, and he’s got some real poker chops. Mathis enjoys the challenge of poker and sees plenty of parallels between the two activities.
“Both of them are very competitive and take an incredible amount of discipline and mental toughness.”
Playing with the Best
Rated as the best guard in the NFL by Pro Football Focus in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 seasons, the Alabama native knows a thing or two about getting better in competitive games. We asked him about his willingness to hop into high rollers at the PCA where he played alongside big-name poker pros.
“It’s great. Any time I want to get better at something I want to put myself around people who are smarter than me or better than me, or more experienced than me. So diving into an event like this, the $25K and even more so, the skill level that’s in this $50K, is a really good experience for me. I think I’ll get a lot out of it.”
"Any time I want to get better at something I want to put myself around people who are smarter than me or better than me."
In addition to the first-hand experience he acquired while playing with some of the top pros in the game, Mathis was profitable after going deep in both the $25K and the $50K events he fired. With friends like Jeff Gross, Jason Koonce and Bill Perkins, who knows – He may even continue to turn up at some big poker events. While he makes no promises, Mathis could see himself coming along a bit in the future.
“Just being around them will probably bring me back around [poker] more often.”
You can see an appearance from Mathis in the recent Jeff Gross vlog below:
The Stars Group owns a majority shareholding in iBus Media.