Matt Mendez was overcome with emotion last year after winning The Big Stax XV High Roller only a month after the birth of his daughter. (Parx photo)

Winning poker tournaments can have a contagious effect. Just ask Fedor Holz. There may be no pure way to prove that “momentum” exists in poker but there is an empirical effect of confidence that some players will attest becomes apparent when they put together multiple deep runs.

Matt ‘MattEMenz’ Mendez is one of the believers and pulled off an amazing run last year that spanned two casinos with Mendez ending up $313,000 richer in the process. He wrapped up the Parx Big Stax XV series in February with a win in the $2,500 High Roller event, beating a field of 193 of the toughest tournament players in the Northeast. After making a heads up deal with Nicholas Gerrity to take first place and lock up $100,000, Mendez was overcome with emotion that was heightened with the recent birth of his daughter, Mathai.

“Winning the first tournament at Parx changed my life drastically. Before I could even take the winner’s photo, I had to go take a walk and gather my thoughts and feelings and call my wife,” said Mendez. “My daughter was only a month old at the time, but since meeting her I’ve had a hard time controlling my emotions. When I called my wife I was just crying hysterically in a way that I can’t remember doing before. That’s a feeling in poker that I can’t imagine ever having again and I think about it all the time.”

Fatherhood is something Mendez takes seriously and is prideful about. The 27-year-old grew up without a father and was without his mother after the age of 13. He credits his aunt and uncle for molding him into the person he is today and says that being a father is something he’s always wanted from life.

“Mathai is special to me. The joy I get from being a father makes every part of my life’s journey worth it. My main mission in life is to shower her with all the love I have while also helping to develop her into a strong, happy, healthy, free-thinking woman that no matter what has always felt loved.”

Mendez followed up his victory at Parx with a victory two months later in an event relatively the opposite of the Parx High Roller. The Borgata Spring Poker Open $1,000,000 guaranteed Event #1 drew a field of 2,527 and when the dust settled, Mendez was there once again in the winner’s circle. This time, Mendez earned $213,000 for his win and felt a new set of emotions when playing for another title.

“Winning the second tournament at Borgata, I felt prepared and ready to win. A weird sense of calm that I can’t really explain. I was just in the moment and trusted my gut,” said Mendez. “I study a lot of different games and playing styles, so when playing, I’m comfortable in trusting in my gut when my immediate thoughts have mixed feelings on how to approach different scenarios.”

While he does put in more volume live than online, Mendez says he likes to play the higher guaranteed events that run. Last month, Mendez capped off the PokerStarsNJ Winter Series by winning the $400 buy-in Main Event for almost $21,000. Mendez and his wife, Victoria, are both stay-at-home parents and take great care in raising their daughter.

“As I’ve evolved and eventually had a child, I’ve realized they don’t care what you do for a living they just notice the time spent together so I’ve cared less about my financial goals and more about quality time. My wife and I take Mathai to the mall regularly and we also go to a baby gym class once a week. [We] are basically living our dreams of being stay-at-home parents while also having our own jobs that allow us to have flexible schedules. ”

Mendez thanks Victoria for all the support she has given him from the time the first met and Mathai for “showing me a level of love that I wasn’t sure was possible.”

The success Mendez achieved last year was a humbling experience for him given all the new variables in his life at that point. Nearly a year removed, Mendez is still grateful for his victories and considers himself blessed to have the life he does and be able to be an integral part in Mathai’s upbringing.

“Everyday I’m thankful that I’m good enough at a card game to be able to spend the amount of time I do with her.”