Poker Pro Matt Marafioti Dies by Suicide

  • Marafioti jumped from an upper-story condominium high rise
  • The professional poker player had been in a custody battle for his one-year-old son
  • He had a perceived mental illness for years, frequently spouting conspiracy theories
  • In the moments leading to his death, Marafioti thought someone was trying to kidnap him
  • Friends expressed their sorrow over what felt like an inevitability
Matt Marafioti
Matt Marafioti, who had battled apparent mental illness for years, died by suicide Friday, August 13, in New Jersey. [Image: World Poker Tour/Flickr.com]

Tragic, disturbing scene

Poker pro Matt Marafioti passed away late last week in an apparent suicide. He was just 33 years old.

According to the Daily Voice, Marafioti jumped from a friend’s 28th-floor New Jersey condominium. He had been staying there after moving from his nearby apartment after a breakup. Marafioti was in the process of trying to gain custody of his son, who had just turned one year old, and was scheduled to appear at a custody hearing on Tuesday.

Two lifeguards at the pool next door discovered Marafioti’s body after hearing him scream. Officers who arrived on the scene found the door to the friend’s apartment open and bags filled with $24,000 in cash.

It’s clear that Matt had been struggling with some major mental issues for quite some time.”

“It’s clear that Matt had been struggling with some major mental issues for quite some time,” a different friend told the Daily Voice. “Most of us haven’t heard from him in days. He’s usually posting somewhere about something and that stopped [on Friday].”

Marafioti had his inner demons

Those “mental issues” had a hold on Marafioti for years, but really reared their ugly head in the days and weeks leading up to his death. He experienced paranoia, convinced that the “social justice movement” and other characters and groups just called “they” were after him.

On Friday, Marafioti posted a picture of a man on Instagram, saying the man was going to abduct him.

If I leave this apartment they are going to make me go missing.”

“If I leave this apartment they are going to make me go missing,” Marafioti wrote. “If I stay they are going to say I’m crazy and won’t leave. Everything is a Catch 22 and they are setting me up for torture if I go missing or by saying I’m crazy.”

He concluded with the now very sad message to his son: “Sammy I love you so much. You mean the world to me. I am always with you no matter what. Love dad.”

Friends had once thought Marafioti had passed five years ago when he disappeared for 45 days. While he said he was fine upon resurfacing, his social media and video posting surrounding that time were filled with conspiracy theories and various ramblings, worrying those that knew and cared about him.

It is clear that Marafioti’s thoughts in his final days revolved around his son. On Thursday, he posted a selfie of the two of them, writing, in part: “I’m so proud of my son and love him so much. He’s the most incredible person I’ve ever met. Despite what happens in this situation my time spent with him was the most fulfilling and incredible experience I’ve ever had in my life.”

Friends wish they could have helped

Reaction in the poker community has understandably been that of sorrow, particularly because there had been signs that something like this could happen for years. Though Marafioti’s image, especially in his earlier online poker days was one of a brash, “look at all the money I’ve got” kind of guy, those who knew him or even just met him in person recalled a nice and funny person.

“ADZ [his online handle] was a great person in my interactions with him. I’ll never forget when it was freezing one night at PCA in the Bahamas and he loaned me one of his sweaters,” one poster on the 2+2 poker forums said.”

Before Marafioti’s death was confirmed, Doug Polk tweeted:

Will Jaffe took note of the multiple facets of Marafioti’s personality:

And posting in the comments of Marafioti’s final Instagram message, Léah Hendriks said: “I knew Matt from the time he was a baby and up until his teens and poker days and his charisma, warmth, sensitivity and intelligence are how I’ve always, always thought of him.”

“…he is a human being with all of the love inside his heart and also the vulnerabilities we all have.”