WSOP Main Event: Viva Espana

by Mad Harper

Sitting on Table 3 today is a loveable bear of a guy called Carlos Albert Lopez Neira. He and his best friend Iago Lopez Gonzalez are both PokerStars qualifiers and the only two Spaniards left in the WSOP. They grew up six miles apart in Lugo, Galicia and took up playing cards together when they were kids. Back then the game was Spanish poker - a stud-like game played with just over half a deck.

Photo copyright Rob Gracie - IMPDI
Carlos Lopez Neira

But two years ago, Carlos caught a TV re-run of Carlos Mortensen winning the 2001 WSOP - which lured him to the casinos of Madrid and Barcelona to try his hand at Hold'em. At the time he owned a surfwear store called "Distraction" but it was Carlos who got distracted. In the first year, he'd made enough to consider closing up shop. Then he took up playing online - and three months later, that was the end of Distraction.

Now, after only 15 months of playing online, Carlos, 29, is one of PokerStars' biggest players, a Supernova in the PS VIP club. He qualifed for the PokerStars European Poker Tour event in Deauville last February and won a total of three seats for this year's WSOP including a free-roll.

After Level 1 on Day 3, both the Spaniards are in reasonable shape. Iago has just doubled up to $100,000 and Carlos has $110,000 - thanks to a phenomenal bit of make-or-break luck just before dinner on Day 2. Carlos had 6s. Two seats to his left, under the gun, a guy had 7s. UTG made trips on the flop and called Carlos' semi-bluff. The turn produced a 6, giving Carlos what he believed was a winning set. He checked, then called UTG's $10,000 to go all-in. He said: "I only had one outer. But it came. The river gave me quads and I doubled up. The guy had me covered but he was pretty mad. He's still in though - he doubled up a few hands later."

Iago (left) and Carlos

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker