There’s a small group of players with multiple World Poker Tour titles, and a far smaller group that can claim both multiple World Series of Poker bracelets and WPT titles. As of Wednesday evening, JC Tran can add himself to both of those lists.
Tran came back from a severe chip disadvantage at the start of the final table at WPT Rolling Thunder and eventually took home the title after more than 200 hands, becoming just the 10th player in history to own multiple WPT and WSOP titles. He also adds another $302,750 to his career total of almost $11 million in lifetime live tournament earnings.
And Tran did it all at his hometown casino, Thunder Valley – just outside of Sacramento. He also set a record for most time between two WPT titles, with a span of 2,552 days between his World Poker Challenge win in Reno in 2007 and this win. That’s longer than Antonio Esfandiari (2,552 days between titles) and Hoyt Corkins (2,263), the other two longest stretches.
Almost 30 percent of the hands played at the final table were between Tran and Preston Harwell, who pushed back hard. It all fell apart for Harwell in the last five hands of their heads-up match, as Tran dropped the hammer. The hand that swung the match entirely in Tran’s favor saw Howell minraise to 300,000 on the button and Tran call in the big blind, with the flop coming out K 7 2. Tran checked, Harwell bet 350,000, Tran raised to 775,000 and Harwell called. Tran then led out for 1.15 million on the 2 turn and 1.6 million on the 4 river, getting a call from Harwell each time.
Tran tabled K Q and Harwell mucked, leaving himself with less than 10 big blinds. He moved all in four hands later with 8 5 and Tran called with K 4. It ran out 6 4 2 T 9 and Tran’s pair of fours was good enough to send Harwell out in second place.
The final started with Harwell and Quoc Pham as the monster stacks, Benjamin Zamani in the middle, and three shorter stacks battling it out for survival. Mimi Luu got an early double through Pham to give herself some breathing room, but Ken Jorgensen wouldn’t be so lucky.
Jorgensen lasted three orbits at the final table before open shoving on the button for 14 big blinds. Tran found K Q and a call in the small blind, signaling the first but certainly not the last time that hand would come through for him. Jorgensen started with the lead with his A 3, but the K 8 4 flop, 5 turn and 3 river gave Tran the pot and sent Jorgensen, another local player at his first major final table, out in sixth.
That put all five players over the 1 million mark, and Tran continued his upward trend with a big double through Zamani after his A A held against A T, all in preflop. Things remained fairly stagnant as Luu slipped further and further down the chip counts, until Tran hit Zamani hard again. After flopping a gutshot straight draw and flush draw with 8 T on an A 9 6, Tran got all in after the 7 hit the turn and made his straight against Zamani’s A 8. That pot pulled Tran close to Harwell at the very top of the chip counts with over 4 million.
Luu picked up a much-needed double through Harwell to get over the 20 big blind mark by outkicking Harwell with K 7 against 7 3 on a seven-high board. That pulled Tran even closer to the lead but left Zamani, Pham and Luu bunched up together – but not for long.
Pham opened to 110,000, just over a minraise from the cutoff, and Zamani three-bet to 375,000. Pham four-bets all in and Zamani quickly calls with A Q, only for Pham to turn over A K. There’d be no help for Zamani on the T 4 2 2 K board and he was suddenly left with just under three big blinds.
Zamani got his last 140,000 in from the small blind on the next hand and got called by Pham, who raised under the gun, and Tran in the big blind. The two active players checked it down as it ran out 8 8 4 4 A, with Pham tabling pocket jacks only to see Tran show down a full house, fours full of aces. Zamani mucked his hand, and headed to the rail in fifth.
Tran took the lead with that pot and took another major pot off of Harwell to build a significant lead over his three remaining opponents. Harwell quickly came storming back, though, by winning a coinflip with J J against Pham’s A K to retake the lead. Harwell held more than twice as many chips as Tran at his peak, while Luu and Pham battled just to stay afloat.
After an extended period of four-handed play, however, the field was quickly cut in half from four players to two. Tran opened for just over a minraise to 165,000 from under the gun and Luu called in the big blind, bringing a flop of Q T 9. Both players checked to see the 4 turn, with Luu leading out for 200,000 and Tran calling. The river was the J, Luu moved all in for her last 430,000 and Tran immediately called, showing K J for the flopped straight. Luu had an eight for the bottom end of the straight, but that would not save her from going out in fourth.
Just seven hands later, Pham found his spot to push his last nine big blinds on the button. Tran eventually called with Q T in the big blind and he was ahead of Pham’s 7 6. The K T 8 flop put Tran further ahead, and Pham failed to hit his gutshot or runner-runner outs as the 8 turn and 2 river spelled the end for the Bay-101 tournament director’s tremendous run in third place.
Tran started the heads-up match behind, but won seven pots in a row to inch past Harwell into the lead. They traded the lead back and forth a half-dozen times, but only Tran managed to build up a lead as big as two-to-one. Harwell won the first all in of their heads-up match when his A A held against Tran’s 5 5, but he wouldn’t be able to make the gap between them much less than two-to-one. Tran continued to apply the pressure, and when the biggest pots of the night developed, they were shipped in Tran’s direction.
This was the third and final stop on the WPT’s first ever ‘California Swing’. Michael Rocco earned himself player of the series honors for his combined results at the LAPC, Bay 101 and Rolling Thunder, highlighted by a third place finish at the LAPC. The WPT heads down to Florida for back-to-back stops at bestbet Jacksonville and the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, followed by a trip up north for the season-ending WPT Championship in Atlantic City.
- JC Tran – $302,750
- Preston Harwell – $200,030
- Quoc Pham – $127,140
- Mimi Luu – $100,240
- Benjamin Zamani – $80,130
- Ken Jorgensen – $60,180
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