About Carlos Mortensen
|Current Residence||Las Vegas Nev.|
|Born||Apr. 13, 1972|
|Birth Place||Ambato , EC|
Ask anyone on the poker circuit about El Matador and you'll get an earful: Aggressive! Wild! Unpredictable! It's an image Carlos Mortensen has worked hard to build and one he continues to cultivate. And, when you glance over his poker resume, it's not very hard to see why.
The first player in history to take down the WSOP Main Event and a WPT Championship table, Carlos Mortensen is one of the most highly respected and feared poker pros on the circuit. His natural ability at the green felt, combined with an uncanny knack for remembering opponents, their tells and the hands he's played against them, are crucial factors in his ability to take down pots and have been paramount in his slow but steady rise to the top.
So, just where did this legendary player come from, and how did he get his start?
Born in Ambato, Ecuador to a Spanish mother and a Danish father, Carlos grew up with three brothers and two sisters. His father, an alumnus of the Georgetown Military Academy who also studied politics in Europe, held a diplomatic post in the resource-rich Latin American country, and was the owner of several farms. Carlos spent his childhood in Ecuador but when he turned 15 moved to Madrid with the rest of his family.
Carlos finished high school in Spain and went on to earn a university degree in physics and mathematics. While in school, he married Cecelia Reyes-Mortensen, now a successful pro poker player in her own right. They moved out and bought a house when they were both 19 and had to work many jobs to keep themselves afloat. At one point, Carlos was working three jobs. He took on anything he could find and played chess in his spare time - until the day he discovered poker.
It was April 15, 1997 - years before the poker boom - and Carlos was waiting for Cecilia at the club where he bartended. A group of people anted up for some Texas Hold'em and invited Carlos to join. Unable to resist the challenge of a new game, he sat down and played his first hands, losing about $100 in the process.
Distraught over his performance, Carlos stayed awake all night trying to figure out what went wrong. He returned to the club the next day, bellied up and doubled his money. After playing and winning for four more days he decided to quit his job and take up poker full time.
He played and cashed every night for several months and after a while his regular opponents dropped out. There was no game left for them with Carlos running so well. Faced with a fledgling career but no opponents, Carlos decided to it was time to head stateside.
Leaving a majority of his bankroll at home, El Matador arrived in the United States in October 1997 with zero English-language skills, a standard three-month visa and about one-fifth of his $15k bankroll for poker and living expenses. He made for Atlantic City where his lack of English-language skills forced him to observe and analyze his opponents on a new level. Unfortunately, while his ability to read tells increased, the size of his bankroll decreased and he was forced to drop down to a $2/$4 game in order to rebuild it. He continued to grind away and when his visa expired several months later, he was $10,000 richer.
Returning to Madrid, Carlos anted up at a new No-Limit game. After several months his performance was so good his fellow players offered to bankroll him in the 1999 WSOP. Carlos accepted the deal and set off for Las Vegas, with his travel, accommodation and buy-in costs covered. To sweeten the deal, he was guaranteed a chunk of his WSOP winnings if he won.
Unfortunately, the poker pro didn't cash despite outlasting half the field. That didn't stop him from staying on in Vegas, though. He lost the remainder of his bankroll playing side games but won a ticket to play in a $100 tournament at the Mirage, where he outlasted the field to take third place and the $4,000 payout. He took his winnings and bellied up to the cash games once again, where he eventually won $10,000.
With his visa still good for several months, Carlos decided to make for the tables of Los Angeles. He headed to the Commerce Casino and won over $40,000 before flying back to Spain, his visa expiration date looming.
He returned to the WSOP in 2000 on his own bankroll and took down seventh place in the $3,000 No-Limit Hold'em event for more than $22k. The next year, he relocated to the States permanently to be closer to the action. And close he was. He soon anted up a $300 buy-in along with 400 other players for the L.A. Poker Classic, where he took first and $116,772 in prize money.
It was by far the largest prize El Matador had collected in his poker career. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. Little did he know the size of the pots he'd be raking in the near future: The next month Carlos crushed the competition at the Bay 101 Shooting Star championship for $44,550 and a seat in the upcoming WSOP Main Event.
It was 2001, and poker was still a game played almost exclusively by experienced rounders. At a mere 613, the playing field at the Main Event was small in comparison to today's numbers, but the competition was stiff. Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Dewey Tomko, Allen Cunningham, Phil Gordon, Mike Sexton, Billy Baxter - these were just some of the men El Matador went up against.
No matter though. Carlos dominated the field and found himself at the final table. At the end of the grueling eight-hour match, El Matador went heads-up against three-time WSOP bracelet winner Dewey Tomko. Carlos was dealt pocket rockets and the river gave him a king-high straight. He was named champion, and was awarded $1.5 million in earnings, a coveted gold bracelet and bragging rights for years to come.
Two years later, Carlos won his second bracelet in the $5,000 Limit Hold'em event, and the next year he rocked the Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship, taking first and another $1 million in earnings.
Since then, El Matador has tamed countless fields and final-tabled in many WSOP, WPT, EPT and other major tournaments, including his record-breaking first-place win at the WPT Five Star World Poker Classic in Las Vegas in 2007. There, he battled a field of 639 players to earn the nearly $4 million first prize and his place in poker history as the first player to win a WPT and WSOP championship.
A man who learned poker the old-fashioned way - at the green felt - Carlos is a rarity in today's world of Internet-taught, book- and DVD-dependent young guns. His skill and bravery at the table add to his mystique as a self-made poker prodigy with the bluffing skills and humbleness legends are made of.
Despite all of his accomplishments, and perhaps because of them, Carlos has no plans to retire young. With the poker world open for his taking, you're sure to see him at many more final tables before he trades his card-slinging career for a life of chess, bowling and listening to music. You can bet his graceful plays and fearless style will continue to dominate live action in the years to come, and be sure to tuck your chips under you and gear up if you meet him at the green felt - El Matador is feisty, and he's not afraid to go in for the kill.
- Fights green-felt boredom by building pyramid-like structures with his chips, listening to his iPod, and playing chess or sudoku on his PSP
- First person to win both the WSOP and WPT Championships
- Is the 2001 World Series of Poker Main Event champion
- Was married to fellow pro Cecilia Reyes-Mortensen for more than a decade
- Loves to bowl and rip around on ATVs
- Is most comfortable speaking in his native tongue of Spanish
- Legal name is Juan Carlos Mortensen but became known as Carlos when he moved to the United States