Never Judge a Matador By What He Did in Kindergarten

Carlos Mortensen

About three years ago I wrote a piece on my Swedish blog about Spanish poker players.

I predicted that they would have great success on the international tournament scene when they had some more mileage under their belts.

I also said that one or two superstars would emerge from all the young Spanish kids competing fiercely against each other to become the next great matador.

Spain got a World Champion in 2001 in Carlos “The Matador” Mortensen. He has had a fantastic tournament career since and amassed over $11m in winnings.

Carlos Mortensen
No shortage of accolades.

He finished 10th in the 2013 Main Event and has also won the WPT World Championship.

Style Fits the Name

The Matador plays like the nickname; not afraid to go all in with nothing knowing that he will feel the breath and wrath of the angry bull, but will get the wanted fold in the end.

He once told me that he had run with the bulls in Pamplona seven times.

It can be without danger if you run in front of the other guys, but it can also be very dangerous if you try to run in front of the bulls. Like Carlos Mortensen did.

I think he said that he was injured twice. I guess five betting all-in with nothing is nothing compared to running in front of a 500-kilo bull licking your neck.

Maybe that is a great education for a poker player. It sure seems like it.

Fasten Your Seat Belt

The EPT Grand Final has just finished. On a very tough final table 21-year-old Adrian Mateos prevailed in the Main Event and picked up one million Euros plus.

New Spanish superstar has emerged

Two years ago he won the WSOP Europe Main Event and one million Euros.

Is it safe to say that my prediction about a new Spanish Superstar emerging was correct? I think so.

I have not played with Mateos but I have played with many other young Spanish poker players.

They are tough, proud and fearless matadors.

If you stumble upon one of them, fasten your seat belt because they are out for blood.

Everybody Wanted a Piece of the Pescados

In the '90s Spain was a black spot on the poker map.

The only poker played in Spain was probably a week a year in hotel PYR in Puerto Banus, Marbella, where the Swedish Championships were played three years running from 1996 to 1998.

Carlos Mortensen
Everybody ordered pescado.

The organizer was Per Hildebrand, who later started the Entraction poker network.Hildebrand was always very good at finding guys for the games.

I played my first Swedish Championship in 1997. Usually the big cash game was five-card draw, same as the Main Event, but this time the big game was PLO.

Two Spaniards had showed up. One old man who played very badly and a young kid who was even worse.

The game was too big for my bankroll. And even if it hadn’t been I would never get a seat.

The line went two rounds around the table. Everybody wanted a piece of the Spanish pescados.

We Laughed All Through Dinner

Hildebrand was sitting next to the Spanish kid. He could see how he folded winning hands at showdowns. That is an impression that lasts for any player.

Three years later the Swedish House Mafia was at the WSOP. We were about to have dinner when Lars Kjestrup said that he had seen the Spanish fishboy at Binion’s.

Everybody started to salivate. Kjestrup continued and said that the guy was actually playing really good.

We all started laughing. Kjestrup was not pleased with that and wanted odds on the Spanish kid to win the Main Event.

We laughed even more. Hildebrand spoke up.

“I'll give you 10,000-1 on him.”

Kjestrup bet $10 and we laughed even more at him -- all through dinner I recall.

Just a Good Story

The Main Event had 512 players that year, but this was before Moneymaker so it was a dead-certain assumption that half the field had no chance of winning.

Carlos Mortensen
10,000-1 a good deal it turns out.

Still, a $100,000 pay out probably had Hildebrand a little worried.

Of course he didn’t show it. He has always had a great poker face. And of course the Spanish kid didn’t win.

Later Kjestrup claimed he wanted to bet on the Spanish kid for three straight years. No doubt Hildebrand would have offered the same odds for the next two years.

It’s a deadly sin to show weakness in the world of players and you always put your wallet behind your mouth.

The very next year the Spanish kid, Carlos Mortensen, won. But there was no bet; just a good story.

About Ken Lennaárd:

Sweden's most controversial poker blogger Ken Lennaárd has been around the professional poker circuit for almost 20 years. Among his numerous accomplishments are Swedish Championships both live and online, three WSOP final tables and over $1.5m in live earnings. He's now bringing his singular poker voice to the English world via Look for new posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Note: Opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not represent the views of

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