A Father
Last year father of three Kenny Tran won the $10,000 No Limit Hold 'em Heads-Up World Championship (Event 25) on Father's Day. Tran, a cash games specialist, was aiming to claim victory once again in the same event at the 2009 World Series of Poker as the first two rounds of play kicked off Saturday evening.
When Tran accepted his gold bracelet last summer he said he wanted to kiss each of his children and thank them for allowing him to play on Father's Day. The final table won't take place on Father's Day this year rather on Monday, seven days earlier. Tran had already made arrangements to have his children be there to support their father if he outlasted the field for a second year in a row.
Unfortunately for Tran his run at back-to-back wins fell short after he was eliminated in the second round by Evan Roberts.
Winning the event for a second time so close to Father's Day would have held a special meaning to Tran, who was born in Vietnam and is the son of an American soldier whom he never knew.
"It would be the greatest feeling and be very emotional for me because I always wished I could know my father, but I never did," Tran said. "He could be sitting at the poker table next to me, I could be playing him heads-up, so for me it would be very special."
Playing the defending champion may be intimidating to an opponent, but Tran feels the pressure as well. Last year's bracelet was his first and remains his only one so far. "I have something to prove now," he said. "If I fail, if I bust out early, then people will say I just got lucky, they will say that anyone can get lucky and win once."
Tran does not care what people have to say about his abilities but he wants to cement his worthiness as a champion. His strategy for winning the bracelet once again was to study his opponents, stare them down and put the pressure on them.
"I want them to know I am here to play and not giving any pot away easily," he said. Tran admits that he will occasionally say something to an opponent in order to get into their heads but he usually lets his play do the talking for him.
Tran finds it easier to play heads-up versus a nine player table or a tournament. "You only have one person to observe and study," he said. "So for me that is an advantage." The only downside he finds in playing heads-up is that the hands are played and dealt at a faster pace. "Once you play one hand, another one immediately starts," he said.
The heads-up specialist has no preference for an opponent. "It doesn't matter how good or bad they are, I have a medication for them," he said.
Tran started the tournament off on the right foot by beating Anna Wroblewski in the opening round but faltered late in his second round match with Roberts and ended up short of a shot at a repeat.