Matt Berkey Poker Journey: Solving for Why Since the Poker Boom

matt berkey

9 minutes

Last Updated: May 1, 2024

The poker world has been taken over by drama and controversy in recent months, much of it involving Matt Berkey, a professional poker player and the founder of the “Solve for Why” poker academy.

Matt Berkey has been a professional poker player since the days of the Moneymaker Boom, and has thrived in the cash game streets while also showing some solid performances in the tournament circuit.

Despite showing consistently solid results at the felt, Matt has often caused a stir with his loose playing style, and has even caused the likes of Doug Polk and Nik Airball to call him a fraud.

So who is Matt Berkey, what is his background, and is he a poker beast or just another break even reg in the live cash circuit? Keep reading to find out answers to these and many more questions regarding Matt Berkey poker career, personal life, and more.

Matt Berkey Poker Career Highlights

  • Successful live cash game grinder since 2006
  • Made a deep run in the 2010 WSOP Main Event
  • Won over $4.6 million in live tournaments
  • Won close to $1 million in online tournaments
  • Founded the “Solve for Why” Poker Academy
  • Beat Nik Airball for $1 Million in heads up grudge match
  • Co-hosts the “Only Friends” Poker Podcast

Matt Berkey Early Life and Way to Poker

Matt Berkey was born on January 29, 1982, in Leechburg, Pennsylvania. He came from a family of moderate means, and his parents were separated, which led to a tough childhood, which Berkey often referred to in his blogs and social media posts.

At a young age, Berkey was forced to struggle with poverty and drug addiction of his close family members, which eventually led to him and his sister living with their grandparents for a good chunk of his childhood.

Yet, despite all the drama at home and the lack of a complete family life, Matt was able to overcome the odds and make a life for himself.

While in high school, he exceled at baseball, and he was offered multiple baseball scholarships by colleges. However, he turned all these offers down as he didn’t want to move too far from home at the time.

Instead, Berkey attended the Gannon University, where he successfully completed the courses needed for a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, along with a minor in Mathematics.

By the time he was in college, he was already in love with poker, a game he picked up playing against friends in his high school days.

He started playing poker more seriously around 2006, when he had his first successes in both tournament and cash game circuits.

Despite having success in tournament poker and online poker, Berkey eventually dedicated himself to live cash games, a game he has been predominantly playing for well over a decade.

Matt Berkey Professional Poker Career

matt berkey poker

Images courtesy of the World Poker Tour

Matt Berkey’s professional poker career started in the years following his college experience, as he quickly realized he could make more money playing the game than working a job.

His passion for poker took him to Native American casinos in his vicinity, where he quickly started winning in live cash games.

His first recorded tournament cash was a victory in a $225 event at the Seneca World Poker Classic in January 2006, which was good for $3,400 in total, while his first WSOP cash came in 2008.

Over the early years of his career, Berkey made appearances in tournaments with some frequency, cashing in quite a few and winning a few lower buy-in events along the way.

In July 2010, Matt came very close to an achievement of a lifetime, as he ran deep in the WSOP Main Event, but eventually ended up busting in 43rd place and cashing for $206,395.

Despite not making the final table, this score gave even more wind to Berkey’s career, which was picking up pace in every way imaginable.

In 2011, Berkey made his first WSOP final table, coming 6th in a $2,500 NLH event for $119,528 in total, his closest call for a bracelet by that time.

2013 was a year of close misses for the young pro, who ended up getting a 3rd, 5th, and 6th place at three WSOP events, along with several other cashes, worth close to half a million dollars cumulatively.

Despite rarely playing such events, Matt managed to capture first place in a $25k Aria High Roller in late 2015, winning $315,180 in the process.

In May 2016, he played the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl and captured the biggest cash of his tournament poker career, winning $1,100,000 for his 5th place finish there.

In 2017, Matt had another close call, as he came 7th at the WPT LA Poker Championship Main Event, winning another $161,320.

Ever since then, he has managed a great number of deep finishes in major poker tournaments, including a 2nd place at a WPT Seminole Poker Showdown side event, worth $171,825.

Despite accumulating more than $4,600,000 in tournament poker cashes, major titles have eluded Berkey to date, as he is yet to win a single WSOP bracelet or other major tournament title.

Yet, for a player with limited exposure to tournament poker in general, he has managed to amass a fortune greater than that of many players who make tournament poker their main profession.

Matt Berkey as a Professional Cash Game Grinder

All his tournament poker success aside, Matt Berkey has always been a cash game player primarily, and the majority of his success has come in this format of poker.

In fact, Matt has focused on live cash games over all other poker formats, even though he has cashed for close to a million dollars in online MTTs and over $4.6 million in live tournaments.

Cash game results are not tracked, so it is nearly impossible to say how much he has won in them, but it is more than clear that the number is in the millions.

Matt started playing live cash game early in his career, grinding live $10/20 private games in Pennsylvania and Michigan, later moving on to play across the country, including major games in Las Vegas and California.

During his career, Berkey has made appearances in all major televised and live streamed poker shows, including Poker Night in America, Live at the Bike, Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, and Hustler Casino Live.

On Hustler Casino Live streams alone, Matt has won more than $400,000 in pure cash, only appearing in three episodes to date.

In an episode of Poker Night in America aired in April 2018, Berkey won about $278,000 in a single sitting, with blinds set at $200/400.

Matt Berkey has had a number of other successful and less successful appearances on TV poker shows, but has likely won over a million dollars on TV alone, despite only a small fraction of his poker hours ever being shown to the public.

Away from the cameras, Matt has been a regular in countless high stakes poker games, including private games and casino games in Las Vegas, California poker clubs, and beyond.

Matt Berkey and Nik Airball Heads Up Match

In early 2023, a Hustler Casino Live regular “Nik Airball” called out a number of high-profile poker players, including Matt Berkey and Garrett Adelstein, and invited them to play him in a live heads up match.

After some pushing from poker personalities like Doug Polk, Berkey ended up accepting the challenge from the young and abrasive challenger, which led to a 100 hour game at Resorts World Casino in Las Vegas being set up.

The two played $200/400 NLH heads up matches with a buyin of at least $100,000 per sitting, with the Solve for Why founder having his money and his reputation on the line.

Berkey defended both with great success, winning more than a million dollars of Airball in just 60 hours of play, which lead to the latter quitting the challenge and admitting defeat.

After a series of aggressive and insulting Tweets, Airball eventually came out with an apologetic Tweet which was accepted by the poker community with mixed feelings.

The victory over Nik Airball in heads up poker, a format that Matt is not very familiar with, was one of the greatest single victories in his career, both in a financial and in a brand-building sense.

Matt Berkey and “Solve for Why”

In 2017, Matt Berkey founded “Solve for Why,” a poker academy aimed at teaching existing poker players the skills and strategies required to move up the stakes and improve at poker without going into the specifics of poker hands street-by-street and other familiar poker learning concepts.

According to the Solve for Why website, the Advanced Poker Training seeks to help poker players improve their cash game or tournament play in a holistic manner which escapes the infinite micro-learning loop.

Designed to look into the deep parts of poker strategy and beyond the obvious, Solve for Why poker academy is a unique way of learning poker for those who already understand how to play the game at a fundamental level.

To date, Solve for Why has produced a number of happy graduates, despite often being criticized by some in the poker community as inadequate poker learning tool.

Most notably, successful poker pro and YouTube personality Doug Polk called Matt Berkey an imposter and fraud during their online feud, which resulted in both sides saying some fairly harsh things about the other.

On the other hand, many who have attended the academy have testified that it has helped them understand poker on a new level, including the business side of things that they never saw before.

Attendance to a Solve for Why poker academy event will cost you $3,500, and it may be a step in the right direction for your poker career according to some graduates who claim this academy has changed their poker lives for the better.

Matt Berkey Net Worth

matt berkey net worth

If there is one thing that no one can take away from Matt Berkey, it is that he is a true poker professional, always showing up for work and getting the job done, despite any outside elements.

Matt has consistently played the game of poker at the highest level for many years, winning millions along the way and staying mostly immune to criticism and trash talking.

When it comes to Matt Berkey net worth, it is important to note that he has managed to create many streams of income over his career, spanning close to twenty years.

Matt has won well over $5 million in online and live poker tournaments, and has won at least two million in cash games that had coverage (including the Nik Airball match) to date.

However, it is impossible to say how much money Matt has won in cash games that were not tracked, nor is it possible to talk about the exact numbers he may have been making from his other business ventures, including his Solve for Why poker academy.

Yet, if I had to venture a guess on Matt Berkey net worth, I would say that he is probably worth about $10,000,000 in total, although this number could be a significant understatement.

Where is Matt Berkey Today?

Matt Berkey posts regular updates on his poker career on his Twitter profile, while also doing a lot of hand breakdowns, strategic analysis, and poker commentary on his Only Friends poker podcast, which can be found on YouTube.

A popular personality in the poker world, Matt Berkey remains very transparent about his wins and his losses, and continues to play a crucial part in the ever growing poker community.

With live streamed games and poker challenges similar to his heads up match with Nik Airball becoming the norm in the high stakes poker world, we can count on Matt Berkey being involved in more controversy and big games in the months and years to follow.

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