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Mortensen Wins WPT 2007 Championship

Best out of 639, and a few records broken, too.

Carlos "El Matador" Mortensen of Team Full Tilt Poker showed true grit and skill at the Bellagio in Las Vegas this weekend to win the World Poker Tour championship bracelet for 2007, along with a winner's prize of almost $4 million and a $25 000 seat at the World Series of Poker later this year.

In a long and bitterly fought heads up with the highly experienced pro Kirk Morrison, El Matador was at one stage lower in chip count by a factor of three in the tense final chapter of this year's highly successful championship, yet he managed to prevail. In the process he became not only the first player to win both a WPT championship and a World Series of Poker main event crown...but a few other records fell, too.

He became the first winner to pass $5 million in career earnings at the Bellagio; his winner's check was the highest yet in a WPT championship that boasted the biggest ever prize-pool; his incredible recovery at the final table is being hailed as one of the most exciting and spectacular yet and he became the fourth largest monetary winner in a single event in the history of the game - only WSOP champions Gold, Hachem and Raymer have won more.

To do it, Mortensen had to fight his way to the top through 638 other players - many of them classy world aces in their own right. The roll of big names who fell by the wayside in this exciting seven days of truly champion level poker (see previous InfoPowa reports) included almost every respected and recognised player on the planet.

Mortensen adds his latest victory to an impressive total of major wins. In 2001 he was WSOP champ, he has two other WSOP bracelets and has achieved final table status at two WPT championships, including a North American Poker title in 2004, again at the Bellagio. His career tournament earnings prior to the current win totalled $4.4 million.

His final opponent, who took home a hard-earned second place prize of $ 2 011135. was the veteran poker pro Kirk Morrison, who won a WSOP bracelet in a no limit hold'em event in 1994, and another in the seven card stud event back in 1998. After a seven year break from tournament poker he returned in 2006 and has been proving a tough and competent man to beat ever since.

But before that final confrontation, spectators were treated to some heady final table poker from exceptionally skilled and bold players like initial chip leader Paul Lee (Los Angeles), Guy Laliberte (Beverley Hills) Mike Wattel (Phoenix) and Tim Phan (Westminster CA)

After a fairly tentative start as the players probed each other's weaknesses and strengths things moved up a notch when Wattel hit the rail at hand 21 - an early victim for Morrison. For his 6th place finish Wattel picked up $309 405 in prizes money. Morrison also eliminated Tim Phan in 5th place, who was paid $464 110 for his efforts.

Lee played a disappointing game bearing in mind his significant chip lead, and he paid the price for it, seeing it whittled away in some aggressive plays by Mortensen and Morrison. Throughout the game Mortensen and Morrison clashed, often with costly results for the former. At hand 52, for example a confrontation between the pair left Morrison with $16 million in chips against Mortensen's 1.15 million. However, he managed to recoup his losses as Morrison continued to demolish the opposition, knocking out Laliberte in 4th place and sending the Californian home at hand 73 with $ 696 220. By then Morrison had a two to one chiplead of $22 million over Lee and Mortensen combined.

Lee's challenge came to an end at hand 87 in some million dollar and more action and betting that saw him fall to Morrison and depart with $ 1 082 920 for his third place.

At that stage it looked as if it was going to be all Morrison, who had displayed impressive aggression and talent to hold the chip lead with $19.45 million against Mortensen's $12.8 million. Many expert onlookers were putting their money on El Matador, however, citing his experience and skills in heads up mode. However by hand 7 of the heads up they must have been worried, because Mortensen seemed to be in trouble on a $4 million bet that Morrison won.

It became worse around hand 106 when Mortensen trailed Morrison by $22 million vs. $9.8 million, but continued to play with spirit and daring as the big bets went back and forth. By hand 135 Morrison's stack stood at $24.5 million and Mortensen was down to $7 million, with both players going hammer and tongs at each other in ever increasing blinds. With pots of the order of $3 million, spectators were enthralled but it couldn't last, and at hand 182, starting with a $5 million raise a series of moves left Mortensen the winner - the ultimate "come back kid" and a match that will go down in poker annals as one of the greats.


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