Adrian Mateos made World Series of Poker history on Friday night at the Rio.
On Friday night, the 22-year-old poker pro from Spain won his second bracelet in as many years and third overall. He defeated 129 players John Smith in the final round of the $10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship to win his latest WSOP title and $324,470.
With the win, Mateos becomes the youngest player in WSOP history to win three bracelets.
“[It feels] really good, for sure,” said Mateos after the win. “I think it’s pretty hard to have three bracelets and I have it, so I’m pretty happy.” At the age of 19, Mateos won his first bracelet overseas. He won the WSOP Europe Main Event in 2013 for €1,000,000. Last year, he took home his second bracelet in the $1,500 Summer Solstice No-Limit Hold’em for $409,171.
His first two bracelets forced him to navigate through huge fields, but his third one forced him to play heads-up against some of the best in the world. He acknowledged it’s a different feeling to play a smaller, more elite field to earn WSOP gold.
“It’s different because it’s a special event,” said Mateos. “But it’s an event that I really want to play and I’m really focused every round to win. I like to play heads-up, so it’s really fun.”
The final match of the tournament couldn’t have paired up two players with a more diverse background. Smith is a 70-year-old highway contractor from California that received a Purple Heart. His first cash at a WSOP event came in 1991 in a $1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo event. Mateos wasn’t even born until three years later.
Mateos jumped out to an early lead, but over the course of the two hour and 15-minute match, the chip lead changed a couple times. Eventually, Mateos got all in on the flop with a gutshot and a flush draw against Smith’s queen high. Smith was bluffing, but technically had the best hand against Mateos big draw and live pair outs.
Mateos made his flush on the turn, leaving Smith drawing dead to the river and securing his third bracelet. Despite the 48 year age difference and much different poker background, Mateos was thoroughly impressed by Smith’s play.
“It’s really sick and really impressive because he played really different than the other players,” said Mateos about Smith. “It’s really tough to play against him because he makes different plays every hand. He changed his game every hand, so it was really hard to read.”
This was Smith’s second consecutive runner-up finish in this event. Last year, Smith finished runner-up to Alan Percal for $198,192.
Mateos’ journey through the brackets ended with Smith, but he didn’t have any soft spots along the way. Over the first two days of play, Mateos defeated Daniel Negreanu, Ian O’Hara, Eric Wasserson, Taylor Paur and Ryan Hughes. Those victories moved him into the semifinals against Charlie Carrel. He dispatched of Carrel in just 37 hands before his final duel with Smith.
For many poker players, a bracelet is the pinnacle of poker success. Mateos is in that camp and after growing up watching the action, he’s ecstatic to have moved off of the rail and into a seat at the table.
“It’s like a dream,” said Mateos. “I watched all the World Series final tables and I love poker. When I can play this high, and now I can play this high, so I’m really happy, for sure.”
Mateos’ third bracelet win comes just a day after Frank Kassela added a third bracelet to his collection in the $1,500 No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw.
Aside from age, the main difference between Kassela and Mateos’ three wins is Mateos’ conversion rate on his cashes. Mateos has cashed in WSOP events just seven times and walked away with a bracelet nearly half of the time he makes the money. Every time Mateos made a WSOP final table, he finished it off with a win.
Several other young poker pros with as much success as Mateos engaged in talks about retiring from poker and started calling themselves recreational players. Mateos wouldn’t commit to how long he plans on playing for a living, but his love of the game indicates that he’s going to be around for a while.
“I think day-by-day,” said Mateos. “I really love the game, so probably tomorrow is the same. At the moment, I love the game, so I will keep playing.”
Mateos easily has one of the brightest futures in the game. With three bracelets to his name and only having been eligible to gamble in the U.S. for two years, it’s mind boggling to think about how many he could win over the course of his career. “The total? Infinite,” said Mateos with a smile.”I don’t know. I try to play my best every day and that’s all. I know that I want to play more and keep winning.”
Relive the action with the live updates
Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship Results: