Carlos Mortensen
2005 Jason Kirk  

Carlos Mortensen - Source

If you ever find yourself sitting to the right of Carlos Mortensen at a tournament table, watch out! The man known as "The Matador" has a reputation as one of the more fearless and aggressive players on the circuit - and also as one of the players with a great shot to win every time he sits down to play. This Ecuadorian-born poker star is one of only two players ever to win both a World Series of Poker Main Event and a World Poker Tour title - the other is Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson, one of the players Mortensen himself most admires. As you might expect from a man who keeps this sort of company, Mortensen is a player with the spirit of a warrior.

For someone who has amassed such a reputation, Mortensen hasn't been playing poker for that long. He used to play mostly chess and pool in his spare time after work. He first began playing in 1997 at a bar where he worked in Madrid, Spain, and he lost $100 the first time he ever played; after a sleepless night he sat back down and won back his money - and then some. Mortensen 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 playing 5-10 and 10-20 hold'em, but just as he had back home in Spain he built the roll back over the course of three months by dropping to 2-4 and starting over. By the time his visa expired he went home with over $10,000.

Upon returning home he found another no-limit game in which he could practice, and he impressed the other players in Madrid so much that they bankrolled him into the 1999 World Series of Poker 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 after using a coupon for a free tournament entry. He ran that $4,000 up to $10,000 playing 10-20 hold'em, traveled to California with his wife Cecelia to play poker at Commerce Casino, and 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 played in the $3,000 No-Limit hold'em event, and this time he finished 7th to win over $22,000. 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 championship and $1.5 million. He defeated long-time professional (and three-time WSOP bracelet winner) Dewey Tomko heads up to take home the big prize.

Since his reputation-making wins in 2001, Mortensen has enjoyed continued success thanks to his focus and winning attitude. He claimed a 2nd WSOP bracelet in 2003 when he won the $5,000 Limit Hold'em event and made his first WPT final table at the Borgata Poker Open that same year, finishing 4th. In 2004 he claimed his first-ever WPT title at the tournament named for his poker idol - the Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship. All told Mortensen has won over $3.6 million in tournaments since 2000, placing him 14th on the all-time WSOP money list and 24th on the all-time WPT money list. That's not too shabby for a guy who came to America not knowing any English and having to fight at the low limits to win enough money to cover his expenses.

Few players in the world have the fighting spirit that "The Matador" possesses, and even fewer have enjoyed the sort of success he has in the last 5 years. Don't be surprised to see his name continue to pop up at the top of tournament leaderboards for some time to come.

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