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One of the most aggressive
and feared professional players on the felt is the 2001 World Series of Poker Champion, Carlos Mortensen. Always making his presence known
with his fearless style and charming smile, Mortensen is truly a self-made player who learned to play poker the old-fashioned way.
Juan Carlos Mortensen was born in Ambato, Ecuador on April 13, 1972. When he was 15, his family moved to Madrid, Spain, where he
finished high school and went to college, eventually receiving a degree in mathematics and physics. During his studies, he married
Cecelia Reyes, now a poker professional as well. The young couple struggled, both working hard to pay the bills. At one point, Carlos
held three jobs and was searching for something better.
Unlike most players, Mortensen remembers the exact day that he first discovered poker. "It was April 15, 1997, in Madrid, Spain.
I was a bartender at a private club called Montera, and I usually played chess and pool. One day, they started playing Texas Hold'em.
I was waiting for my wife, Cecelia, and I said to myself, I want to try. I took out $100 and lost it all. That night, I couldn't sleep.
I was very upset. What mistakes did I make? I came back the next day and doubled my money. For the next four days in a row, I won consistently.
I decided to leave my job and start playing poker.” Although poker in Spain was not legal, it was often overlooked because the club would
claim that the games were not played for money. Mortensen continued to play at the private club every night and usually booked a win.
Because he was beating his opponents so badly,
the action soon dried up and Mortensen travelled to America in October 1997 in search of greener pastures. When he arrived in Atlantic
City, he didn’t know much English and spoke very quickly. When asked his name, he would say “Juan Carlos” but because of the language
barrier, he was often misunderstood and everyone started calling him only “Carlos.” Mortensen grinded it out in smaller games than he
was used to, trying to rebuild his bankroll that had been depleted from travel expenses. When his visa expired after three months, he
returned to Spain with an extra $10,000 in his pocket. In 1999, Mortensen bought in to the World Series of Poker Main Event with the
help of his fellow Spanish players, who were eager to bankroll him after seeing his increasingly impressive skills. Although he only
made it about halfway through the field that year, Mortensen persevered and reportedly profited $50,000 over the following few months
in the Las Vegas and Los Angeles cash games.
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Although 2000 brought Juan Carlos Mortensen several impressive tournament cashes, it was 2001 when “El Matador” burst onto the scene with an
amazing run. Beginning the year with a Limit Hold’em victory at the LA Poker Classic, Mortensen went on to win the Main Event at the
Bay 101 Shooting Star just a month later. Included with his prize money at the Shooting Star was a $10,000 World Series of Poker
Championship seat, which he put to good use that May when he outlasted over 600 players to find himself heads-up with fellow
professional Dewey Tomko. Mortensen defeated his seasoned opponent and became the first Hispanic main event champion, taking home
$1.5 million in prize money and a gold bracelet. He earned another WSOP title in 2003, this time in the $5,000 Limit Hold’em event.
Mortensen continued to impress, winning his first World Poker Tour event and $1 million at the Doyle Brunson North American Poker
Championship in 2004. At the 2006 World Series of Poker, Mortensen made three final tables, taking 9th in two No Limit Hold’em events
and just missed capturing a third bracelet when he finished 2nd in a Razz event. Then, in April 2007, Mortensen became the first
player to ever win World Championship events at both the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour when he won nearly $4 million
at the Season Five WPT Championship. In 2010, Carlos finished ninth
at the WPT event at Commerce Casino and then one month later, he won the WPT event in Lawrenceburg making him the WPT all-time money
Mortensen is known for his aggressive and often loose play, as well as his strategic bluffing abilities. He always plays for first
place, explaining, "Anytime I can bust someone, that is the right thing to do. If I smell weakness, I attack. Either I bust them or
they bust me.” Although he is famous for his unpredictability at the tables, Mortensen knows what is important to maintaining his
success, saying that staying focused is the most essential part of being a winning player. Mortensen also claims that a major
contributing factor to his success is his ability to remember opponents’ betting patterns and tells. Mortensen is known to fight his
boredom at the tables by building dazzling chip pyramids and playing chess or Sudoku on his PSP. After being married to Cecelia Reyes
for more than 10 years, the couple divorced in 2006. Mortensen lives in Las Vegas and continues to play in the biggest tournaments in
Click for a report on
Carlos Mortensen's Season 2 World Poker Tour appearance.