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J.C. Tran: Chip Leader
J.C. Tran is no stranger to World Poker Tour final tables. He's made it to three already as well as bubbling off the TV table twice. So far a win here on the WPT has eluded him, but going into the final day tomorrow as the chip leader, he's within striking distance once again. J.C. sat down to talk with me this evening after he had bagged his mountain of chips.
You've been running great for this whole tournament, and you came into today with a huge stack. Tell us about how this event has gone for you so far.
Well, we started with 20,000 in chips and right off the bat I struggled. I ran into a couple sets and full houses right away. Fortunately I got off cheap, but I was down to like 14 or 15 thousand and I thought, "Man, this is not a good start."
Then I started catching some hands and making correct plays, and my timing was good, and I just built my way up and finished the day with 90,000, which was really strong, in the top 10.
Day 2 was the same thing, just grinding, and then I got involved in a really big pot late on Day 2 with Joe Sebok, and unfortunately for him, he got rivered, and we got all the money in. I had a full house. That propelled me into a major chip lead, and from then on I was able to play a lot of hands, and that helped me out a lot.
Coming into today I was also a huge chip leader by about two million. I took a couple beats, but that's all part of poker you know? Showdown poker isn't my best game. I got it in with A-K against A-Q and the guy hit a queen. I got it in against A-8 with two sixes and he hit an ace on the turn, stuff like that. Then I lost a big pot to Eric [Hershler], I couldn't really put a read on him.
Do you mind telling us what you had on that hand?
I had a pair and a straight draw. I told myself to fold, but the thing was that the way he bet it, he either had all or nothing.
Were you surprised to see that he only had two pair there?
I was surprised; I was actually afraid of a set, and if not, I thought he had nothing. When he called my raise pre-flop, I really couldn't put him on 9-T. He's been playing pretty tight all day, and he kind of over-bet it. I really didn't give him credit. But it was my fault, because when I can't read a guy, I shouldn't make the call. It was one of those guessing calls, and that's not poker.
This isn't your first time at a WPT final table, but so far you haven't been able to take one down. Do you feel pressure coming into these events because of that?
Absolutely. I feel like I'm pressured everyday. Every time I sit down at a main event buy-in, I feel pressure. I'm overdue. People see my face deep a lot, and they say "What's going on?" Last year, fortunately enough, I won a few small tournaments, and proved that I can win, but it's time to win a major. I'm owed a major. I'm overdue for a major, and I think right now I'm playing my best poker. The way the WPT is set-up there's a lot of gambling, so it's not always the best player who's going to come out the winner. It's going to be fun, we'll see what happens.
You talked about not being a showdown player, and we saw a bit of that in that hand with Ben Johnson. You pushed him off his hand with a huge bluff.
Yes, I went with my read. I gave him credit for an ace, and I put out a feeler bet to see what he was going to do, and he made a raise. I put him on an ace. Ben, out of all the players at the table, is the one to make that play against because he's by far the most solid. He gives me respect, somewhat, and I believed I could move him off the hand.
Plus right there, he couldn't just call the raise. He was going to have to put his chips in if he wanted to play the hand, and it was for his tournament life. I don't do that often; I do it once in a while and I pick my spots. He's a good player but he was just caught in a bad spot.
You play really well after the flop, and you seem to play a lot of hands and get people involved in big pots. How big a part of your game is that? For example there was the hand yesterday when you busted Tuna [Hans Lund] with a suited J-9.
Yes, the biggest part of my game is seeing the flop. I make better reads when there's bets on the flop. You can't make a read by what someone does before the flop. At the time, Tuna had the second-most chips at the table, and I had the most. So I know even if it costs me a little more to see a flop or a turn, I know that when I make that hand I can bust him for all his chips.
I had around three million and everyone else had three or four hundred thousand so why would I want to play against them? That's just gambling poker. Tuna had about a million, and I knew if I could make one hand against him I could take the whole million.
Let's talk about the final table tomorrow. Do you feel confident going in? Do you feel like you have a good read on the other players?
I feel confident, because I've been here before and experience is so important. I think I'm just going to stick to playing solid.
Who's worrying you the most right now?
Oh man, there's not just one guy. There's three or four guys now. Eric [Hershler] has a lot of chips and he's fearless. Chau [Giang] is a great player; he's been at a WPT final table before. Paul [Wasicka] is a really solid player, and he's got chips now so it's really anyone's tournament.
Cool, thanks J.C. and good luck tomorrow.
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As J.C. said, with so much talent at this final table, it's hard to give the edge to any one player. The fact that the blinds and antes are astronomical already only increases the variance for everyone. Nevertheless, we wish J.C. luck and hope he's able to take down a long-awaited WPT title tomorrow. For full information on all the hands discussed here by J.C. go to our Live Update pages for this event.