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November Nine Profile: J.C. Tran

by Brian Pempus |  Published: Nov 13, 2013


Age: 36
Profession: Professional
poker player
Residence: Sacramento, California
Career Live Tournament Earnings (Not Including 2013 Main Event): $8.8 million
Career Tournament Wins: 15
Career Tournament Cashes: 125

J.C. Tran is by far the most experienced player at the 2013 World Series of Poker main event final table, and thanks to the largest stack, he is a favorite to win.
Making the final table of poker’s most prestigious event was sort of overdue for the decorated poker pro. Tran has been deep many times before in the main event, finishing 108th in 2009, 117th in 2004, 493rd in 2007 and 561st in 2012. Not many pros have performed as well as he has in the no-limit hold’em championship since the start of the poker boom.
Winning would give him another $8.35 million in tournament earnings and bring his lifetime cashes to more than $17 million, but perhaps most importantly, it would give him the most coveted title in poker.
He came onto the poker scene in 2003, so this November he could put an amazing cap on his 10th year of traveling the poker tournament circuit for a living. All of his opponents should watch out.
Tran’s Road To The Final Table
Day 1 of the main event was pretty lackluster for Tran, as he managed to bring his starting stack of 30,000 to 33,100. However, surviving was most important.
After his second day of action (Day 2C), Tran held 119,300 in chips, which was a crucial heap of ammunition for making a play at cashing in the event.
The third day wasn’t as nice for Tran, but he did manage to double his stack to 217,000. He sat in 376th place out of the 666 remaining at the time.
Day 4 was when he made the moves toward a dominant stack, as he finished with 1,141,000.
Again, on Day 5, he about tripled his stack. He ended with 3,280,000, which was good for 28th out of the 68 left in the tournament.
The sixth day saw Tran put on yet another clinic on how to play tournament poker, but he did get fortunate to hold aces and kings on two separate occasions when short stacks got desperate and shoved. He also got lucky to flop a set and find a crucial double up.
With blinds at 30,000-60,000 with a 10,000 ante, a player opened, another called, and Tran (around 3,900,000) three-bet to 420,000. Jorn Walthaus (around 8,500,000) four-bet to 945,000 from the big blind, and the original raiser and the caller folded. Tran called.
The flop fell K♠ 8♥ 6♥, and Walthaus bet 655,000. Tran made it 1,450,000. Walthaus decided to put 2,245,000 into the pot. Tran instantly shoved, and Walthaus called.
Tran table the 8♠ 8♦ for a set, while Walthaus held the A♦ A♥.
The board ran out 3♣ and Q♦, and Tran had doubled to 8,240,000.
Tran used those chips to bag and tag 11,970,000 at the end of the night, putting him fourth with 27 left.
The Seventh Day Of Action
Tran spent the final day putting pressure on his opponents, and he played almost flawlessly.
With the blinds at 120,000-240,000 with a 40,000 ante, Fabian Ortiz (around 3,800,000) raised to 500,000. Action was folded to J.C. Tran (around 16,500,000), and he called. The flop fell K♠ 9♣ 7♠. Tran checked. Ortiz fired 500,000. Tran called.
The 4♥ landed on the turn, and action went check-check. The 6♠ on the river prompted another check from Tran. Ortiz shoved for 2,780,000. Tran went into the tank before making the call.
Ortiz turned over the A♣ Q♥ for a bluff, and Tran exposed the 9♠ 8♦ for a pair of nines.
He took the pot thanks to the amazing call and knocked out Ortiz in 17th.
Later in the day, Tran was the man responsible for finally putting everyone at the same table.
Matthew Reid was short when he shoved his 5,350,000 into the pot on the button with the K♣ 4♦. Unfortunately for him, Tran woke up in the big blind with the Q♦ Q♣.
The queens held and Reid was gone in 11th, while Tran was approaching 40,000,000.
At the unofficial final table of 10, it was Tran who did the dirty work of knocking out the final player.
With the blinds at 200,000-400,000 with a 50,000 chip ante, Carlos Mortensen raised to 800,000 from the cutoff. It was folded to Tran in the big blind, and he called.
The flop fell 10♣ 6♣ 3♠, and Tran checked. Mortensen bet 800,000, and Tran called.
The 9♣ fell on the turn.
Tran put Mortensen all in for around 3,625,000. Mortensen called for his main event life.
Tran tabled the 8♣ 7♠ for a straight, while Mortensen exposed the A♣ 9♥ and needed a club.
Mortensen received no help against Tran’s straight when the 2♦ landed on the river. He was out in 10th, while Tran used the chips to sit with 38,000,000 for the November final table. ♠
Hands, Chip Counts and Other Info via WSOP
Q&A With The Finalist
Brian Pempus: At this point in your career, did you have pressure to not squander another opportunity?
J.C. Tran: The past few times I made deep runs, I didn’t envision myself getting there. It was like, one day at a time type of deal, without thinking too far ahead. This year I really started to think that I could get to the final nine, and that mindset seemed to help. Before, I just played poker and let it get me to where it got me. This main event I told myself that this event happens once a year and you get this deep every once in awhile…maximize the opportunity.
BP: With family, how does poker fit in with your life in the grand scheme of things?
JC: This is one of my last goals on my list. When I first started playing tournament poker, I wanted to win a World Poker Tour event. I did that. I wanted to win a bracelet. I did that. And the last thing on the list was to make the final nine of the main event, and here I am. I’m going to set one last goal, and that’s to win this thing. If I win this thing, I’m going to take a nice little break, spend some time with my wife and my kids, and watch them grow up. You’ll still see me at the World Series, but as far as traveling, I’m definitely going to cut back. I want to do other things besides just playing poker. Playing poker should be fun and, hopefully, I can win this thing and just sit back and say I did what I did and just enjoy life.
BP: You’ve come a long way since finishing second to Kevin Nathan at the 2006 WSOP. The agony you expressed speaks to your passion for the game. Since then, you have gone on to win two bracelets and millions in tournaments. Do you still carry that passion with you today?
JC: No matter what event it is, when it comes to the World Series, I bring it. The last couple of years have been really distracting. I’ve got a lot of things going on, being a family man. I have a son and other little things here and there. So the last couple of years I’ve come to the WSOP not really having that fire that I used to have. When I look back at the last couple of years, I’m like, “look, these results are not really good.” Now my son is a little older, and I’ve got another baby on the way. I mean, it’s all for them now. It’s not about me anymore, so I’ve got to go out there and play for my family.
All the prelim events this year I thought I played really well. I got unlucky deep in two spots, but it happens, you know? I don’t talk about it, I don’t mention it, and that’s just about it. There’s one last event every year and it’s the main event, and you just save everything and don’t give up. I came in and played hard. At one point, I was down to six big blinds at the 150,000 blind level, and I was like, “look, you can’t give up, a couple double ups and you’ll be right back in it. This is too late to give up.” I doubled up and doubled up, eventually building a stack. Fortunately, here I am. ♠