This year's World Series of Poker Main Event final table is stacked, pretty much everyone will agree. At a line-up with bracelet winners, online hot shots, and top pros from Europe, there is one star that stands out above the rest though: JC Tran. Not only is this Sacramento, CA poker pro a two-time bracelet winner with over $9.5 million in career tournament earnings, he is also our chip leader. It is a familiar situation for Tran, who has won numerous titles before. However, things have changed a lot away from the tables in the past few years. Here is more on a side of Tran poker fans may not be familiar with:
Name: JC Tran
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
Occupation: Poker Pro
Employer/Company Name: Self-employed
Education: BA in Business Management Information Systems from Cal State University
Marital Status: Married
Children: 2 year old son and a daughter due in November
Years playing poker: 15
Years entered Main Event:
WSOP Cashes: 44
WSOP Final Tables: 8 with two bracelets
Best Main Event Finish: 108th in the 2009 Main Event
We caught up with the two-time bracelet winner shortly after the November Nine was set:
WSOP: You’ve come a long way since finishing second to Kevin Nathan in Event 43 at the 2006 WSOP. The agony you expressed spoke to your passion for the game. Since then, you’ve gone on to win two WSOP bracelets and millions in earnings. Do you still carry that passion with you today?
Tran: No matter what event it is, when it comes to the World Series, I bring it, you know? The last couple of years have been really distracting. I’ve got a lot of things going on, being a family man, married got a son and other little things here and there, so the last couple of years I’ve come to the World Series not really having that fire that I used to have. When I look back the last couple of years, I’m like, ‘look, these results are not really good.’ Now my son is a little older, I got another baby on the way, I mean it’s all for them now. It’s not about myself anymore, so I’ve gotta go out there and play for my family and be serious coming in.
All the prelims [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 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, I played hard. At one point, I was down to six big blinds at the 150k blinds and I was like, ‘look, you can’t give up, a couple double ups and you’ll be right back. This is too late to give up.’ I doubled up, doubled up built a stack and fortunately, here I am.
WSOP: With family, how does poker fit in your life in the grand scheme of things?
Tran: This is one of my last goals that was on my list. When I first started playing tournament poker, I wanted to win a WPT 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, watch them grow up. You’ll still see me at the World Series, definitely, but as far as traveling, I’m gonna definitely cut back. I want to do other things besides just playing poker. Playing poker should be for fun and, hopefully, I can win this thing and just sit back and say I did what I did and just enjoy life.
WSOP: You won bracelets in 2008 and 2009. There are a lot of players at the final table who are inexperienced, this is their first World Series. Do you see that divide between the players who are more seasoned and the newbies?
Tran: Nowadays, especially the last few days, I noticed everyone can play. The game has grown so much. People pick it up through videos and books. Even if you came in Day 1 not knowing the best strategy, if you made it to Day 7, you’ve seen enough, by now you should learn and pick up new things. A lot of these guys already came in with a lot of knowledge. I didn’t see anybody making any major mistakes. The one guy I respected the most was the guy that I just busted, Carlos Mortensen. And that guy has got many, many years of experience. Him and I have had many, many good fun battles. He gave me a lot of problems yesterday. I must have lost at least a few million to him yesterday. I like the guy, we’re poker buddies and I’m sad to see him go, but at the same time, I’m happy he’s gone because he’s the one guy that can hurt me the most.
WSOP: What was your impression of the bubble?
Tran: At first, I wanted to come down a be a little aggressive, but then I lost a couple of pots and decided you know what, I’m just gonna let it come to me, I’m not gonna force anything, I mean these guys want to make the final nine. In one hand, Newhouse shoved against me and I had A-7. In any other regular tournament, I’d probably call, but this is the November Nine, this is the Main Event. If he’s shoving there, he’s gotta have A-7 beat. I’m not gonna make a dumb call and lose 5 million. I’d rather put pressure on players and make calls like I did that last hand, peeling off straights and stuff like that. I had a smaller stack, I would have folded the pot preflop. If I had only 10 million behind, [Carlos] would have won that hand preflop.