Join A Poker Community Of 200,000+ Users!

J.C. Tran Wins 2006 WPC $2,500 No-Limit Holdem 7

Young Poker Phenom Sweeps Elite Final Table


Final TableA crowd had gathered on Friday afternoon to witness the spectacular final table of the 2006 World Poker Challenge $2,000 no-limit hold'em event 7. But the there weren't any stands available for spectators, and the steps to the half-moon stage where the tournament took place descended, preventing fans from getting a good look at the action. Still, they gathered, crowding the Fontana Lounge to capacity. One man addressed the tournament director, complaining of the lack of television monitors relaying the action. John Nizminski tried to put things into perspective. "It's a preliminary event, sir. It's just a preliminary event."

The elites had gathered for one last round, and the final table of the $2,000 no-limit hold'em event 7 featured Barry Greenstein, J.C. Tran, Las Vegas tournament veteran Ken James, Men "The Master" Nguyen, David "The Dragon" Pham and two-time 2006 WPC final tablists Justin Bonomo and Englishman Peter Gould.

Tran wiped out a cast of players, fit for an invitational, in less than three hours and walked away with over a quarter million dollars in winnings. The speed in which he swept the event was impressive enough, but the level of competition compounded it.

Recap of Day 1
JC Tran and the Mizrachi Brothers
It was close to midnight on Thursday, when after 12 hours, 352 players had been eliminated and 27 were in the money. Dapo Fadeyi, Mimi Tran, Richard Tatalovich, Davood Mehrmand, Ron Kirk, and Tom Pniak were among those who cashed.

By 2 a.m., while most players were downing energy drinks or espresso to stay alert, Men "The Master" Nguyen was double-fisting his 13th and 14th bottles of Corona. But it didn't seem to have an affect on his game. Nguyen, in great spirits, sang to his miserable victims, while raking in oodles of clay.

One last hand was played before the whistle blew on the end of day 1. It was close to 3 a.m. when they packed up their chips and went home. Nguyen would enter day 2 third in chips with $210,000, while Barry Greenstein had around $165,000, and J.C. Tran went into the final table with $290,000. Justin Bonomo was the young chip leader headed into his second final table at the World Poker Classic, with $305,000.

The Final Table

Seat 1: David Pham
Seat 2: Justin Bonomo
Seat 3: Barry Greenstein
Seat 4: Men Nguyen
Seat 5: J.C. Tran
Seat 6: Mike Vanier with the button
Seat 7: Todd Arnold
Seat 8: Ken James
Seat 9: Alan Sass
Seat 10: Peter Gould

Fifteen minutes into the round, Greenstein eliminated Vanier when Greenstein's pocket kings trumped Vanier's pocket queens. He went home in 10th place with $8,515.

Sass met his fate, when after one round of betting, Nguyen forced Sass all in, then turned over pocket aces. SassJC Tran would need a miracle with his K-Q, but there were none to be found. Nguyen tripped up on the flop and Alan Sass went home in ninth place with $11,355.

Ken James was the next one out when he pushed his last $35,000 into the middle. Gould went all in and the rest of the table folded. James showed Q-10, but Gould had a better queen with an ace kicker. The board paired Gould on the flop and James's hand didn't improve. Ken James went out in eighth place with $14,195.

A short-stacked Arnold made his move on the button and pushed for $40,000. Pham called. Arnold had suited connectors, 7-6, and Pham had 9-7. The flop came Q-4-2 and Pham was ahead going into the turn. A 9 came on the turn, and Arnold was drawing dead to the river. Todd Arnold went home in seventh place with $17,745.

Two-time final tablist Gould was bested by "The Master" when Nguyen put his suited J-9 up against Gould's suited K-Q. Both men held hearts. The flop came 10-9-4 and Nguyen hit right away, but a king on the turn gave Gould top pair, and he was feeling pretty good about it until Pham caught a queen on the river to give him a straight. Peter JC TranGould went home in sixth place with $24,840.

Greenstein and Pham went head on when Pham raised under the gun, and Greenstein moved all in for close to $200,000. Pham called and turned over Aclub Kspade. Greenstein had 6heart 6diamond. The flop came 5club 3heart 2club and Greenstein's hand had held up, but the Qclub on the turn put Pham on a flush draw, and the river brought the win with the 8club. Barry Greenstein went home in fifth place with $31,940.

Bonomo, another WPC final table two-timer, called all in with 8heart 9heart after Nguyen raised with Jdiamond Jheart. The flop came Qheart Tspade 4heart givingJC Tran Bonomo a flush draw. But hearts didn't come on the turn and river and Justin Bonomo went out in fourth place with $42,565.

Only two hours into day 2, seven players had been eliminated. It was three-way action between J.C. Tran, Men "The Master" Nguyen, and David "The Dragon" Pham. They were close to even going into the next round. J.C. Tran had $545,000, Men Nguyen $540,000, and David Pham had more than enough to break the hearts of his countrymen, with $430,000.

The three men chatted in their native language and tournament director Jack McClelland didn't have the heart to enforce the English-only rule. They were animated and laughing, as though it was merely a home game with little at stake. But J.C. Tran had more at stake than just winning the current event, as he was slowly sinking on the POY leader board. If Tran won this event, he'd ride shotgun to Michael Mizrachi, the man in the driver's seat.

The whistle blew on the 15th round. But before they headed into the next level, the players took an extended break so that Pham, the hardest workingman in poker that day, could double up in day 1 of the $2,500 event that started at noon.

JC TranMeanwhile, Nguyen was putting a dent on the Fontana Lounge's inventory of Mexican imported beer. But the bar closed early on Nguyen when he pushed from the button for $330,000 before the flop, Tran folded, and Pham called in the small blind. Nguyen turned over 7club 10club, but Pham had Aclub Kclub and Nguyen was way behind. The flop came Qheart 5spade 4diamond, which did little to help him, and a Qclub on the turn meant that he needed a 7 or a 10 to win. But the river was a Kheart and Pham took down the pot. Men Nguyen went out in third place with $74,525 and his half empty bottle of brew.

Only moments after Nguyen's exit, Tran made his move. Pham, just returning from the "other" tournament, raised before the flop with pocket tens. Tran reraised all in with Aclub Kclub. The board awarded Tran top pair. The tournament was officially over.

Runner-up David Pham went back to the other tournament, promising to hit the cashier's cage on the way out. He just didn't have the time. He had another final table to reach. (Which he did.) He eventually collected his second-place winnings of $149,050.

J.C. Tran won the title, the bracelet, $266,820, and a $25,000 seat into the World Poker Tour Championship next April.

JC TranThere are nights when poker players lay their heads down to sleep and think, "I've had a really great day." Ask J.C. Tran how soundly he slept after annihalating the final table that afternoon. "That was a tough tournament," said Tran as he posed for his winner's photo. "I was exhausted going in, but I felt like I had it." Noticeably weary from enduring 15 hours of intense competition the day before, to return on Friday and face the most daunting cast gathered at any WPC preliminary event, Tran made a beeline towards his hotel suite for some much needed R&R.

It was all in a day's work for the young master, as 2006 will round out the best year of his poker career. Any personal records he set in 2003, he broke in 2004, bested in 2005, and then shattered this year. He's currently seeded in third position on Card Player's Player of the Year leader board, and closing in on Michael Mizrachi, who at the onset of the WPC was ahead by over 1,500 points.

For a review on J.C. Tran, click here to read his bio.