His real name is Matvey Natanzon, but no one called him that. Even his mother called him Mike. Falafel was born into a Jewish family in Russia. In 1972, he and his mother emigrated to Azor, a small town near Tel Aviv. And a few years later, he moved to Buffalo city of New York state, as a teenager.
Falafel went on to study accounting at New York State University at Buffalo and graduated in 1991. He moved to Manhattan shortly after graduating.
He was homeless for six months and lived in Square Park, Washington. At night he sleeps on a bench of the park. It was there that Falafel learned hustle chess and backgammon from local players. And he learned how to live in the street. Some of Falafel associates at that time became famous poker players, including Phil Laake, Gus Hansen, and Abraham Mosseri.
Falafel played for the Israeli team in the 2005 World Cup Tournament in Slovakia. And in 2007 he was recognized as the number one backgammon player in the world.
The strange thing about him is that despite his considerable income from backgammon, he never lived in a fixed location and even had a cellphone and credit card for a long time. Falafel could earn $ 10,000 in half an hour but only lived with a suitcase of personal belongings.
This myth of the backgammon world passed away on February 14, 2020, he always lived as if he were playing.