JC Tran entered the final table of the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event as the chipleader, after eliminating Carlos Mortensen in 10th place to bring the tournament to a pause at the end of the summer. Tran was also the most accomplished player among the final nine with $8.4 million in lifetime earnings, two WSOP bracelets and a WPT title to his credit before ever setting foot in the Penn & Teller Theater.
After a solid start at the final table Monday, though, Tran’s inability to pick up hands or find the right spots saw him slowly tumble down the chip counts. He tried the first three-bet on the second hand of the day with K 7, only for Marc-Etienne McLaughlin, who opened with pocket aces, to four-bet Tran out of the pot.
Tran dropped a pot to Sylvain Loosli on Hand 18 at the final table, causing him to briefly lose the chiplead to Amir Lehavot. They traded the lead several times, and then McLaughlin pulled within a couple of big blinds after taking a big one off of Lehavot. After winning a few small pots, Tran increased his stack to 42 million with a lead of more than 10 million over Ryan Riess in second place. This would be Tran’s high-water mark.
Mark Newhouse and David Benefield were both knocked out at this point, with Jay Farber pulling virtually even with Tran following his elimination of Benefield. Within an orbit Farber, and then Riess, would pass Tran, and he’d relinquish the chiplead for good. Tran treaded water as Riess dispatched Michiel Brummelhuis in seventh place, but he simply couldn’t win a hand at showdown and his stack continued to dip.
Tran slipped below 30 million, and then under 25 million as Riess and Farber started to pull away from the pack. On this day, Farber simply had his number. Things reached critical mass for Tran when one of a half dozen blind against blind exchanges with Farber went the wrong way. Tran opened to 1.4 million in the small blind, Farber three-bet to 3.1 million and Tran four-bet to 6.4 million, which represented over 30 percent of his stack.
Farber elected to click it back with just over a min-raise, making it 10 million even. After thinking the decision over, Tran eventually folded A Q and Farber took down the pot with his 6 6. Tran took down the next three pots to get those chips back, but his resurgence would be short-lived.
After McLoughlin opened to 1.6 million, Tran three-bet to 3.4 million from the small blind and McLaughlin quickly four-bet all in for 8,825,000. After thinking it over Tran couldn’t get away from A 7 and called, trailing McLaughlin and his A K. He never caught up as it ran out J 3 3 6 3 and Tran was back below 20 big blinds.
Tran kept his head just above water in the next few orbits, getting three shoves through uncalled and a couple of walks to boot. He managed to outlast McLaughlin, who ran pocket kings into pocket aces, but as he fell under 10 big blinds he had to make a stand. When it folded around to Tran on the button he shoved for 9,925,000 and Farber, his nemesis throughout the final table, called in the small blind.
Tran once again had A 7, but it was the best hand on this occasion against Farber’s K Q. The flop was unkind, though, coming down K J 9 to put Farber firmly ahead. The 5 on the turn left Tran with just three outs going into the river, and the 6 on the river was not what he needed. Tran’s fifth place finish earned him $2.1 million, the largest cash of his career, but he fell short of his ultimate goal in the 2013 WSOP Main Event.
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