Juan Carlos “El Matador” Mortensen
Carlos Mortenson made history in 2007 when he became the first player to win both a World Poker Tour Championship event and a World Series of Poker main event.
Born in Ecuador, where his family had farms, he moved to Spain when he was 15 years old. Notably, poker wasn’t popular in Spain, and was even illegal. But it was at around this time that he began to play. Carlos used to play chess at a private club in Spain, where he worked as a bartender. He came to the club one day and spotted people playing Texas hold’em. While waiting for his wife, he sat down to play, and promptly lost around $100. Not happy with the loss he came back the next evening and won, and he kept on winning for four straight days. Carlos enjoyed enough success in these games to quit his job as a bartender and concentrate on poker full-time. Within months he had cleaned out all the local games and couldn’t find an opponent anymore, so he came to Atlantic City despite not speaking a word of English. He dropped half the bankroll he’d brought along on his first day, but just as he had back home in Spain he built the roll back over the course of three months. By the time his visa expired he went home with over $10,000.
Carlos impressed other players in Madrid so much that they bankrolled him into the 1999 WSOP Main Event. After outlasting half the players in that tournament, he went broke in side games but won $4,000 in a tournament at the Mirage. He ran that $4,000 up to $10,000. When his visa expired this time he left the US with nearly $50,000. The next year Mortensen played at the WSOP Main Event with his own money, leading the field at the end of the 1st day and finishing just out of the money. He also finished at the final table of the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods at the end of the year. When he returned in 2001, his time had finally arrived: he won the Bay 101 Shooting Stars tournament, and then outlasted a then-record field to claim the WSOP Main Event and $1.5 million. As his visa only allows him to stay in America for 3 months at a time Carlos still travels frequently between the US and Europe with his wife to play in tournaments.
Carlos is thought of as one of the handsomest poker players alive with his intense yet suave Spanish/Danish looks. But besides handsome, poker enthusiasts think of him as an expert bluffer with his frequently loose and cool style.
Carlos’ winning WSOP hand:
Dewey Tomko held pocket rockets, and was in the drivers seat until Carlos caught a straight on the river. The flog came JT3 giving Carlos both a straight draw and a club flush draw, with another 3 on the turn Dewey was still well in the lead with 2 pair, but this was crushed by a 9 on the river completing Carlos’ king high straight.
In his own words:
“Mike Matusow raised me with the worst of it the previous day and I mucked my hand. But I have a long memory. I saw that he was raising with nothing. So, one hand when the blinds were $10,000-$20,000, Mike looked at me and raised my blind to $70,000. I knew he didn’t have anything. I decided I was going to raise to $200,000 no matter what I had. After I raised, Mike said very slowly, ‘Ray-zzz,’ and raised to $380,000. I said, ‘All in.’ Two seconds later, Mike mucked and I showed Q-8. I knew he didn’t have a hand he wanted to invest all of his chips with.”
“I believe that poker is a people game played with cards, not just a card game played by people, I think that all players have limits, or situations where they become uneasy, and that is when I put them to the test.”