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Spanish pro takes home first WSOP bracelet

25 June 2018

Mario Prats Garcia

Mario Prats Garcia (photo by WSOP)

Name: Mario Prats Garcia
Nationality: Spanish
Birthplace: Barcelona, Spain
Current Residence: Prague, Czech Republic
Age: 31
Profession: Professional poker player
Number of WSOP Cashes: 8
Number of WSOP Final Table Appearances: 2
Number of WSOP Gold Bracelet Victories (with this tournament): 1
Best Previous WSOP Finish: 2nd in 2017 $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em for $244,611
Total WSOP Earnings: $536,757

With 30-minute levels for the entirety of the tournament, the $1,000 big blind ante no-limit hold’em was expected to move a little quicker than a normal structure at the World Series of Poker.

Mario Prats Garcia took that idea to another level on Saturday afternoon. He won the event in impressive fashion, scoring the final five knockouts of the event in just 13 hands to best a huge field of 1,712 entries to win his first bracelet and $258,255.

“I’m super excited, I’m super happy,” said the Spanish poker pro. “I finished second last year in one event and I thought I could never get back here. The final table was hard. I sucked out on a couple guys and I got all the chips. I’m super excited and I’m nervous.”

Last year, Garcia lost heads-up to Artus Rudziankov in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em. While Garcia wasn’t sure if he’d ever get back to a spot to earn a WSOP title, he was able to just focus on the cards in front of him and block out any painful memories of last year’s close call.

“I just try to stay confident,” said Garcia. “Stay positive and any result that would come would be good for me if I play good. That’s what happened.”

Garcia’s run from six-handed play down to his win was one of the most impressive heaters in recent poker history. Even Garcia himself couldn’t believe what was going on. He was so immersed in the rush, some of the details of the final table escape him.

It all started with when he three-outed Gregory Worner in sixth place when Garcia’s ace-deuce bested Worner’s ace-seven.

Two hands later, Garcia eliminated Mark Schluter in fifth place. This time, Garcia had the best of it against Schluter. An ace on the flop left Schluter drawing thin and he was dead on the turn.

Garcia won a flip six hands after that to eliminate the only previous bracelet winner, Michael Wang, in fourth. Garcia got all in preflop with ace-king against Wang’s pocket threes. A king came on the flop and Wang was gone just a few spots shy of his second bracelet.

The very next hand was where Garcia started to lose himself in the moment. He busted Sebastian Dornbracht in third when his ace-four made the wheel against Dornbracht’s pocket kings.

“I don’t know either. I was like ‘What?!’” said Garcia about his run to the title. “I shoved ace-four and the big blind had kings. He had to call, obviously. I flopped the five-three and the deuce came on the turn. From that moment, I don’t recall anything.”

That gave Garcia a 7.5-to-1 chip lead heads-up against Matthew Hunt. Hunt doubled up on the second hand of heads-up play but busted in second on the third. Hunt rivered a straight, but Garcia rivered a flush. They got all the chips in the middle on the river and there was no sweat in crowning a champion in this event.

Garcia was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain, but moved to Prague with some poker friends to play online, avoid Spanish taxes and flourish playing the game they love.

“In Spain, you have to pay a lot of taxes. Like 40% and things like that,” said Garcia about Spain’s tax policy on gambling winnings. “Also, you can’t play on dot com. It’s got its own liquidity. So, you could not grow there. We tried to go [to Prague] and try to see if we could live off this. Five years later, here we are.”

The 31-year-old started playing poker a while back and had a knack for it right from the beginning. After finding out it was possible to play for a living, he dove right in and took a shot.

“I started playing with friends when I was like 15 or something,” he said. “I liked it. I was always taking their money. So, I learned that there were people living at poker and I found out how they did it. Then, I met some friends, we moved to Prague and they taught me everything that I know.”

Garcia credits his coach and friend, Pablo Fernandez, for most of his success. He was one of the players that moved with Garcia and showed him the ropes. They lived and grinded together with Garcia soaking up all of the information he could gather about the game.

“This guy, Pablo, is my coach, and is one of the best players,” said Garcia. “I wouldn’t be here without him and without all my friends that went to Prague.”

The final three players in the event, and more than half of the final table, were European. With Europeans having greater access to online poker, it’s not a surprise that the majority of the final table was from outside the U.S.

“Since we play a lot of turbos online, we’ve studied a little bit more,” said Garcia about online players have an edge in the field because of faster structures and shallower stacks. “We have at least a little edge, I think.”

There were a ton of events so far in this year’s WSOP that have gone to an unscheduled extra day of play to finish the event. This one, however, moved fast enough to avoid that situation.

The 41 players that came back for the final day of play were trimmed down to the final nine in just under four hours. Jonathan Tamayo bubbled the final table, finishing in 10th.

Lander Lijo busted in the second orbit of the final table when he ran his ace-deuce into Wang’s ace-queen. 2011 WSOP Main Event runner-up Martin Staszko busted in eighth at the hands of Garcia and well-known east coast grinder DJ MacKinnon busted in seventh to Hunt.

Six-handed play went on for about 90 minutes before Worner busted in sixth and Garcia started his crazy run of cards.

Final table results
1st: Mario Prats Garcia - $258,255
2nd: Matthew Hunt - $159,532
3rd: Sebastian Dornbracht - $114,909
4th: Michael Wang - $83,663
5th: Mark Schluter - $61,580
6th: Gregory Walker - $45,828
7th: DJ MacKinnon - $34,486
8th: Martin Staszko - $26,245
9th: Lander Lijo - $20,2020

(Article courtesy of World Series of Poker)

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