Morten Mortensen’s annual poker pilgrimage to Las Vegas has brought him much success over the years. Deep runs in the World Series of Poker Main Event added to final table finishes in both his first and latest WSOP appearances in 2012 and 2017 respectively, have given Mortensen a rose-tinted view of Vegas. The young Dane, a compatriot of Peter Eastgate, openly states his intention to follow his countrymen into the history books and has returned to Sin City after a few years away with a burning desire to win big at the poker felt.
“I’ve been here two and half weeks. Time just flows together in Las Vegas - it really is a bubble. It’s so different from anywhere else, even the mentality of the locals is different. Everyone is chasing the American dream and the glory that comes with it. It’s the mentality and the buzz around the poker that attracts a lot of recreational players who find the chase so exciting. It’s pride, dignity, there are so many feelings attached to the dollar here in Vegas. I don’t feel like we have that same thing in Europe.”
While Mortensen has cashed for over a million dollars in lifetime tournament winnings, his biggest result remains the 4th place he achieved here in the Rio in Las Vegas, back in 2012. But Mortensen came into this World Series in great form and has taken down the $1,000 Wynn Summer Classic for $88,608 just a week ago. As he explains, part of what keeps him excited about the WSOP, is the part the popular festival has in poker folklore.
"There’s a bunch of tournaments all the time, and all of them are quite soft."
“It’s history. There are a lot of different people coming out here to play it, it’s aired on ESPN and everybody knows the World Series. The Americans do it big and it's exciting. It so much bigger and better, and it’s exciting to be a part of. I think this is my fourth time, but I took a break for a couple years when-when I wasn’t out here. I didn’t realize how much I missed Vegas until I walked back into the Rio. You have the poker, good restaurants, great weather; it captures everything that appeals to a poker player’s lifestyle.”
As he proved with that win at the Wynn, it’s not just bee the Rio that has grabbed Mortensen’s enthusiasm. For poker players of any level, there are tournaments starting seemingly every hour of every day.
“There are five main casinos that have their own tournament series. The Wynn has the Summer Classic, Planet Hollywood has the Goliath, the Rio obviously has the WSOP. There’s a bunch of tournaments all the time, and all of them are quite soft, way softer than any in Europe I have found. There are so many recreational players, so there must be a skill gap somewhere. Most Americans don’t play online either, which is where a lot of the European players really improve.”
Taking your seat in the packed Amazon Room at the beginning of a bracelet event is a feeling many players who love the game all over the world have never experienced. As Mortensen tells us, that feeling of excitement never goes away.
“The atmosphere is unlike anywhere else. It’s difficult to compare to the European scene because it’s like an EPT but ten times as big. It just is. People here are playing with emotion. Whenever they lose a pot, they slam the table, whenever they win, they clap and yell. It doesn’t happen so much in Europe. The essence of American players are here, they’re still wearing cowboy hats and they’ve been dreaming of playing these events for several years. Some of them qualify, some of them save throughout the year. They are really excited to be here and that makes their presence more exciting.”
Mortensen has made the main stage twice and played under the bright lights of a WSOP final table. He first broke through for that career-high score of $210,793 in 2012 but returned to the TV final table earlier this series. He told us about another unforgettable experience.
"Everybody knows about the Main Event, even people who don’t play poker in this city.
It’s so popular, it’s iconic."
“I was there a few weeks ago when I came seventh in a $3k short-handed event. I was not there for too long! It was enjoyable, but I didn’t have many people on the rail, it was my very first tournament out here this summer. A lot of my friends from Denmark weren’t out here at that point. I had five guys, four of whom who didn’t even play poker. They were railing me and it was fun but I had 90 minutes or so. I’m more attracted to the competition and the card game itself than the media. Everything is blocked when I’m at the table. I’m thinking theory and taking one hand at a time.”
The younger, more naive Mortensen of 2012 has been replaced by an upgrade, a more competent player in tune with reigning in his emotions at the table. As Mortensen describes, that change didn’t come from time spent at the poker table. Youth may appeal to so many people in the world, but knowledge and maturity have given the young Dane a greater sense of perspective with which to enjoy the game.
“When I was younger, it was more intimidating, now I’m used to the cards and big money swings, I’m able to block the whole media circus out. It’s taken some years to reach that point. I remember reaching a final table in my second year out here. I came fourth for over $200,000 and back then I felt like it was an intimidating scene, so close to all the media coverage. Now I’m able to chill.”
Like everyone here, the WSOP Main Event draws a special interest, but Mortensen is focused on the next tournament just like he is the next hand when he’s at the felt.
“When you reach a certain age, you’ve experienced a lot of stuff and don’t get as affected by emotions. It’s still very exciting and you strive to get to that final table. I enjoyed the ones I reached. But I’m not thinking about only the Main Event. There are tournaments every single day here. It captures the essence of poker in America. Everybody knows about the Main Event, even people who don’t play poker in this city. It’s so popular, it’s iconic. From a personal perspective, Peter Eastgate [who won the 2008 Main Event for $9.1 million] is a friend of mine and a lovely guy who I’d like to join in winning the Main Event. He’s retired from poker now so I don’t see him around too much now but if I win, it would be nice!”
Morten Mortensen clearly has a lot of love for Las Vegas and has already enjoyed a winning series. Guaranteed to return home well in profit and with a trophy already, the determined Dane could be wearing a bracelet by the end of July too.
|June 14th 2017||WSOP||$3,000||No Limit Hold'em - 6 Handed (Event #27)||7th||$53,569|
|June 24th 2017||Wynn Summer Classic||$1,100||$200,000 Guaranteed||1st||$88,608|