About J.C. Alvarado

Juan Carlos Alvarado
J.C. Alvarado

J.C. Alvarado is fine-tuned for a successful career at the green felt. Young, ambitious and practical, he understands the challenges a professional poker career presents and tackles them with the grace and maturity of a man many years his senior.

J.C. is one of the few Internet pros who have managed to parlay successes in the online realm into victories on the brick-and-mortar circuit. With his aggressive style and determined focus, he has cashed in an impressive array of international tournaments and proven himself to be a young talent with a big future.

But the young gun wasn't always poker inclined. In fact, he's only been slinging chips since 2004.

Enticed by the usual suspects - Rounders, Moneymaker and the Fossilman - J.C. began playing poker the year after he graduated from high school. His career was launched at the local IHOP, where he and his buddies were forced to ante-up $5 each week because no one had space at home. The game quickly became a biweekly and then daily occurrence and soon J.C. had built a $200 bankroll - a lot of money for a kid earning minimum wage at the local mall.

J.C. realized he had talent and decided to take his game online. He started by depositing a quarter of his bankroll, which he lost within the hour. Undeterred, he deposited another $50 but also invested in a couple of instructional DVDs to make the transition to online play a little smoother. He continued playing and learning and he improved. By the fall he was beating the online games and had saved enough money to move to Los Angeles, where he had been accepted to college.

After he was set up in an apartment on the West Coast, he hunkered down and began to grind it out at the tables online again. His school work and social life suffered, but it was worth it to J.C. After about a year of playing Limit Hold'em, he took a shot at a $50 buy-in event at PokerStars and smashed the competition for a $6,000 payout.

The win boosted his bankroll to a never-before-seen amount: $8,000. Feeling invincible, J.C. took his winnings and dropped out of school to pursue poker full time. He started to take risks at higher limits and after two months found himself broke. With little money and no prospects, he took his embarrassment and his $1,000 bankroll and moved home to McAllen, Texas to live with his mom.

When he arrived, he and his mother sat down to discuss his career choice and his decision to drop out of school. After a long conversation, his mother began to understand J.C.'s motives and goals, and decided to loan him $5,000 to help him get back in the game.

With her obvious support and encouragement behind him, J.C.'s confidence and morale were boosted. But her show of faith and commitment to his goals was not a total surprise. After all, J.C. and his mother had always been close.

An only child, J.C. was raised by his mother after she divorced his father while still pregnant. Surrounded by friends and family, the mother-son duo lived in Mexico City until J.C. was five years old and then immigrated to the United States.

Once there, they settled in McAllen, Texas, where J.C. spent the remainder of his childhood, adolescence and teenage years. With no other family in McAllen aside from his mother and nanny, he returned to Mexico City each summer for two or three months to spend time with his cousins. It was in his hometown that he experienced his first taste of gambling at age 12 when his cousins hustled him at pool and several other games.

After graduating from high school J.C. decided to pursue his childhood ambition of becoming a professional soccer player. Within half a year, though, he had sidelined that dream for good and was working a more practical job: selling vitamins at a kiosk in the local mall.

It was around this time he began playing home games with his friends and dabbling in online play. The skills he subsequently developed are what his mother decided to invest in that fateful night in McAllen, when J.C. returned home from Los Angeles with his tail between his legs.

With his bankroll beefed and his confidence renewed, J.C. gratefully accepted his mother's $5,000 and promised a full return of her investment within the month.

The next day, he took down an $11 re-buy at PokerStars and its $18,000 first prize. His self-confident playing style helped him take down two more tournaments on PokerStars that week, and after just seven days of play he had rebuilt his bankroll to an astonishing $60,000.

He paid his mom back and continued to play and win online. By his 21st birthday in the spring of 2006, though, J.C. was bored of Internet play. He felt a change was needed and decided to head for Vegas; the time for playing live tournaments had arrived. Plus, the WSOP was coming up.

He cashed in three events that summer - two Bellagio Cup finishes and sixth place in the WSOP $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event, where he was awarded $28,665 for his efforts. Indeed, these were impressive accomplishments for a young gun who'd never played brick-and-mortar before and who struggled to learn the techniques of live play.

"Adjusting to live play took me a while," J.C. told PokerListings.com in 2007. "It took me maybe six months.

"I wasn't really doing that much in a lot of tournaments. And then I started studying more about reading people, as far as physical tells go, and that really helped me out," he admitted. "I used to be a non-believer in that; I didn't think it made that much of a difference, but it does make a huge difference."

J.C. began touring the international tournament circuit, cashing and final-tabling his way up the ranks. Along the way, he scored several final-table finishes, including a second-place win in the L.A. Poker Classic and another large cash in that series' WPT main event.

His biggest payday came in March 2007 when he took second in the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Championship at the World Poker Challenge in Reno. There, he toppled a field of more than 470 players to go heads-up against poker legend J.C. Tran. In the end, the Vietnamese pro took first, leaving J.C. to pick up second and its $366,798 payout.

Not that J.C. was too upset. It was his first WPT final table and he lost to one of the best tournament players in poker. And, while he currently considers it his best poker moment, he's reluctant to admit it was his proudest.

"I don't know if I've done anything that would make me proud as of yet," he told PokerListings.com in 2008. "Once I win a bracelet or a WPT event, I'll have a definite answer."

In August 2007, J.C. relocated to Vegas permanently and set himself up in a nice place, fulfilling a lifelong goal: to move into his own space and furnish it just the way he wanted. With Vegas as his home base, J.C. spends half of his year travelling and playing poker and the rest of the time in Sin City.

Away from the felt, J.C. enjoys playing soccer, watching live UFC fights, visiting his family in Mexico City and exploring the myriad dining options on the Las Vegas Strip. And although he admits he hasn't picked up many new hobbies since he went pro, J.C. is interested in learning to play golf and plans to start training in Mixed Martial Arts at a local Vegas facility.

Talented and driven, J.C. has risen above his peers to become a winning and respected player on the poker circuit. He has spent the last several years developing the skills he needs to travel the world playing a game he loves, and is hooked on the freedom of his lifestyle. But he also appreciates the dangers of poker and has some words of caution for new players.

"Manage your money wisely and don't go broke," he advises. "Keep your head on your shoulders, stay focused, be confident..."

"Be humble and play your game at the same time. Don't let success get to your head."

These are wise words from a player so young, and indicative of the mentality that has helped him rise to the top of the poker heap - and stay there.

For, despite all the various attributes and experiences that have helped J.C. Alvarado along the way, his successes in poker can basically be attributed to three things: a realistic outlook, an unwavering focus and a natural ability. It's a killer combo that has proven very hard to beat. And, as J.C. continues to assert his place in the cut-throat world of tournament poker, there is no doubt his defining talents will prove of tremendous value to him again and again.

Tournament Placing

Place Winnings Tournament
5 $138,375.00 2009 WSOP - Event 45 - $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em Championship
28 $6,441.00 2007 WSOPC - Caesars Palace Las Vegas
37 $14,215.00 2007 WSOP - Event 35, No-Limit Hold'em
64 $3,507.00 2007 WSOP - Event 30, No-Limit Hold'em / Six Handed
8 $43,720.00 WPT Season 6 - Mandalay Bay Poker Championship
2 $366,798.00 WPT Season 5 - World Poker Challenge
15 $72,140.00 WPT Season 5 - L.A. Poker Classic

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