After an epic three hour heads-up battle with Kirk Morrison, Juan Carlos Mortensen won the WPT Championships, becoming the first person to add that title to a WSOP Main Event victory.
Mike Sexton and Vince van Patten were in their seats promptly at 5:00, and the cards were in the air for the six finalists:
Seat 1 Kirk Morrison (4.194M) from Topeka, Kansas and New Zealand.
Seat 2 Guy Laliberte (4.690M) from Beverly Hills
Seat 3 Juan Carlos Mortensen (6.501M) from Las Vegas, Madrid, and Ecuador
Seat 4 Mike Wattel (2.587M) from Phoenix.
Seat 5 Paul Lee (11.828M) from Los Angeles.
Seat 6 Thien "Tim" Phan (2.162M) from Westminster, California
Blinds resumed at 80k/160k with a 15k ante, and it took an hour to play twenty-one hands and lose the first player. After Tim Phan doubled through Guy Laliberte with vs. , Kirk Morrison raise a hand 425k. Mike Wattel was down to less then 1M in chips and moved all-in for another 432k. Morrison called with to Wattel's . He hoped both cards were live, but neither player hit the board and Morrison's king kicker was good. Mike Wattel was out in 6th ($309,405).
Blinds moved up to 100k/200k with a 20k ante, and the next player left after a couple more orbits. Paul Lee limped, then Tim Phan moved all-in for 1.72M. Morrison checked his cards in the small blind then moved all of his chips into the pot. Lee quickly folded, and Phan knew his was way behind. Morrison showed , and the aces held up to send Thien "Tim" Phan home in 5th ($464,110).
The quartet exchanged pots for the next twenty hands, each player winning four or five hands as they jockeyed for an incremental advantage in chips. Kirk Mortensen mucked his hand to an all-in move by Juan Carlos Mortensen on a board of , then the two tangled on the next hand.
Morrison raised to 700k under the gun, and Mortensen made it 2.7M from the small blind. Morrison called, and the flop came . Mortensen moved all-in for 6.6M, and Morrison called with 5.4M. Mortensen had top pair top kicker with , but he needed help as Morrison flopped a set of jacks with . Mortensen stayed alive with on the turn, but the gave Morrison a full house and a 16M pot.
Blinds increased to 150k/300k with a 30k ante. After a few orbits, Morrison sat in the chip lead with 15M, with Paul Lee (8.1M), Guy Laliberte (5.86M), and Juan Carlos Mortensen (2.36M) in pursuit. Mortensen showed patience as he folded his blinds then doubled through Morrison with vs. .
Morrison then tangled with Laliberte in a hand. Laliberte raised to 1M, and Morrison called from the big blind. The flop came , Morrison checked, Laliberte bet 2M, and Morrison moved all-in. Laliberte called for his last 5.44M with for a flush draw, and Morrison showed for an underpair and a worse flush draw. on the turn brought more outs to Laliberte as he could now counterfeit Morrison's underpair with queen or a six. fell harmlessly on the river, and the Cirque de Soleil CEO's performance was done. Guy Laliberte left all smiles amid a raucous ovation in 4th ($696,220).
Morrison had a commanding chip lead of 22M over Paul Lee (7.1M) and Juan Carlos Mortensen (3.3M). Mortensen quickly pulled even with Lee as he doubled through Morrison after a few hands to set the stage for the last hand before the cash was brought out. Lee raised to 1.3M on the button, and Mortensen called. , and Mortensen bet 1.1M. That was small enough to entice Lee to move all-in, and Mortensen called with . Lee didn't like the nine or the ace as he turned over , and there was no miracle ten for Lee. He was left with 1.2M and got it in with Morrison on the next hand. seemed good for Lee, but Morrison held . Paul Lee didn't hit, and the longtime LA grinder exited in 3rd ($1,082,920).
Some heads-up battles are finished in a flash, and the WPT blind structure often leads to a quick finish. This would be a truly epic battle, one of the best heads-up battles ever seen on the World Poker Tour. Morrison started with 18.825M to Mortensen's 13.8M, and it took almost one hundred hands to decide a champion.
Morrison extended his chip lead early making a tough call which showed Mortensen this wouldn't be easy. On a board of and a pot of 5.2M, Mortensen bet 4M. Morrison went into the tank, then called with A-J. Mortensen showed K-2 as the dealer pushed the pot to Morrison.
Mortensen dropped down to 4.35M then doubled through Morrison with , while Morrison called with . The blinds moved up to 300k/600k with a 75k ante, and the chip swings heated up. Over the next twenty hands, Mortensen's stack stayed between 8M-12M as Morrison maintained command.
Mortensen limped on the button, and Morrison checked. The flop came , and both players checked. again brought two checks, then brought some action. Morrison bet 1M, and Mortensen raised to 4M. Morrison deliberated for several minutes then made another tough call, but this time he was up against the nuts. Mortensen had the straight with 6-5, and for the first time tonight he had the chip lead to boot.
It didn't last long. Mortensen extended his lead, then he again limped for 800k after the blinds moved to 400k/800k with a 100k ante. Morrison checked, and the flop came . Both players checked, then the brought the fireworks. Morrison bet 1M, Mortensen raised to 2M, then Morrison went into the tank for several minutes. Most of time a fold or call follows, but Morrison moved all-in for his last 9.4M. Mortensen instantly called as he showed for two pair on the flop. Morrison turned over , and the WPT river wait brought the anticipation of an end to this match. The on the river brought all of the hooting and hollering you expect from the river suckouts of the WPT, and Morrison went from done to the chip lead.
For most players, this kind of beat would be a crippling, tilting blow to the gut. Juan Carlos Mortensen isn't most players. He is as focused and intense a player as there is in today's game, and it was unrelenting drive that kept him on top of this match regardless of where his chip stack was.
After chipping away, Mortensen moved all-in with and Morrison called with pocket tens. The flop brought a straight draw with , then the on the turn doubled Mortensen up to 27M and the chip lead. Now Morrison sat on 5M. He moved all-in a few hands later with , and Mortensen called with . again brought the match down to the river, and again the card of survival came for Morrison with .
Morrison regained the chip lead after Mortensen moved all-in with vs. Morrison's . The board of again brought everyone to their feet, but kept the flush away and pushed the pot to Morrison.
The blinds then moved up to a whopping 800k/1.6M with a 300k ante, bringing the pot to 3M before any cards were dealt. With blinds so high, it was a matter of willpower and aggression as the only moves were fold, limp, or shove. Mortensen kept up the pressure and built a slight chip lead. When Mortensen just raised in a hand, it brought an all-in move from Morrison that yielded a champion.
The clock struck midnight as Morrison moved all-in after Mortensen's 6.5M raise. He called and showed , with Morrison slightly ahead with . The flop solidified Morrison's lead, but sent an uproar through the room. ended the WPT Championships as Mortensen's jacks and threes was too much for Morrison's fours and threes.
Kirk Morrison (2nd, $2,011,135) had completed an exhausting evening after an hour of sleep Thursday night. It was by far his greatest achievement in poker, and he was already looking forward to the Mirage and the upcoming WSOP events as he reveled in his great finish. "(Juan Carlos) is a champ, he's an absolute bull," said Morrison. "I'm happier than a little girl right now. I'm over the moon!"
Juan Carlos Mortensen (1st, $3,970,415) didn't need this win to gain the respect of his peers, but this win put him into a select group of one as the only WSOP Main Event champion to also take down the WPT Championship. A WSOP Main Event bracelet is the crowning achievement in poker, but Mortensen's cash was more than double than the $1.5M he won in 2001.
"Even when I was down to 1M in chips, I think positively," said Mortensen. "You have to work and work and work in poker, so you can't let the bad beats bother you." This quiet champion from Ecuador via Madrid has been called The Matador, but he truly resembles the bull more. Regardless of the odds, Juan Carlos Mortensen won't give up the fight until the last chip has been pried from his hands. Tonight, he holds the last chip and the WPT Championship.
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