Foto by Larry Kang/ www.flickr.com
Childhood and early years
In his childhood and teenage years, J.C. Tran was constantly surrounded by foreign people from various countries and cultures. This was not always easy for the young Asian, because most conflicts were carried out in fights. In comparison to most of his mates, J.C. did not even think of becoming delinquent and preferred to play football, which was his great passion.
Effort, ambition and determination were three important attributes within J.C.’s family and they made him go to California State University in Sacramento. “I didn’t have a plan in college; I switched majors like five times.”
A poker natural
When he celebrated his 21st birthday in 1998, one of J.C. Tran’s older brothers took him to Sacramento’s “Sundown Cardroom”, where he discovered the game of poker and immediately got addicted to it. The first game he ever entered was a $ 1 - $ 3 Limit Hold’em and he won $ 60. Today the professional poker player looks back:
“I was a broke college student and that money meant a lot to me. From that day, I was hooked.”
The ambition to become a professional poker player was further enforced by the fact he was already earning more money than he would ever have done otherwise - even with a degree. Around that time he was walking home with around $ 10,000 a month, but unfortunately he started to lose a lot of money when he additionally took up sports betting as a hobby. He got i nto the habit of entering poker tournaments in order to compensate the huge losses he had previously made with bookies. Fortunately he managed to win some cash most of the time. For a while Tran even thought of completely giving up studying Business Management Information Systems to become a full-time poker player. In the end he completed his studies after all, but only because he was very close to the degree and he had invested so much energy already. Of course he also wanted his parents to be proud of him, but the young poker player always knew he would never make use of his degree. Instead, he was now able to solely concentrate on his poker career.
Conquering the tournament scene
In 2003, J.C. decided to enter a poker tournament and it quickly became clear that this was his forte. Everybody loves Tran for his friendly, easy-going personality, but as soon as he plays poker he automatically becomes of the most dreaded opponents at the table. He won his first tournament in the Commerce Casino, L.A., after entering the “Heavenly Hold’em $ 300 Limit Hold’em”. He left the casino with $ 74,150 prize money.
J.C. Tran was able to improve and extend his tournament poker skills over the years. At the “L.A. poker classic” in 2004, he finished in seventh place. This meant he missed the opportunity to play at the televised TV table, but he still walked home with fantastic $ 94,000. In the World Series of Poker (WSOP) he managed to reach cash ranks three times, whereof twice he reached the final table. He came eighth in the $ 2,000 No Limit Hold’em and seventh in the $ 1,500 No Limit Hold’em Shootout.
J.C. Tran’s career truly got started in November 2004, when he finished in fifth place at the “World Poker Finals” main event and won $ 353,850.
In 2005, he returned to the WSOP and in the $ 2,000 No Limit Hold’em tournament he came fifth again, whereas in the WSOP Main Event he came second and won $ 250,000. At the “WPT Championship” he earned another $ 200,000 for finishing in seventh place.
The year 2006 turned out to be a very successful one as well: J.C. came fifth in the “WPT Championship” and received $ 265,000. In the WSOP 2006 he managed to walk away with prize money in six different events.
In November 2006, he entered a “World Poker Finals” side event and in December he took part in the “Five Diamond World Poker Classics”. He won both events, which led to his third place in the vote for the “Player of the Year” in “Cardplayer Magazine”.
He also came first in the PokerStars “World Championship of Online Poker” main event and received more than $ 600,000 prize money, which was more than a third of his entire previous winnings in total. The $ 2,500 buy-in tournament was hosted by PokerStars and in slightly more than thirteen hours J.C. Tran was able to eliminate more than 2,500 players. When he was asked how he managed to stay concentrated for such a long time, he replied:
“At the breaks, I ran out to the driveway and shot free throws to keep my blood flowing. But when we got down to two tables, my body went into shutdown mode. I didn’t eat anything all day and was feeling it. I was falling asleep and knew I couldn’t continue much longer.”
The first big win
Whoever was still in doubt of J.C. Tran’s poker skills at that point was probably disabused in 2007 at the latest. In January he made it to the final table of the “World Poker Open” championship event and ended up in sixth place.
In March 2007 he was paid more than $ 1 million for placing second (Eric Hershler came first) in the “L.A. Poker Classics”. Finally Tran won the “World Poker Challenge” championship event in Reno in the beginning of April. This very first victory took a load off his mind, making him feel really relieved. With his ambitious personality, he could never have been satisfied simply by earning a lot of money through reaching final tables. He had never won a major tournament before and he really wanted to become the best player. And so it came.
It was not until he won the “World Poker Tour” title, before his ambitions calmed down a little. Previous to the “L.A. Poker Classic 2007” he declared:
“I’m overdue. People see my face deep a lot and they say 'What is 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.” After his triumph at the World Poker Tour he was thrilled: “It’s just getting that monkey off my back you know? It’s not second, it’s not fifth, it’s not sixth, it’s first and that’s just such a great feeling.”
If you want to play against J.C. Tran right now, just sign-up at PokerStars and claim your exclusive bonus. Go and find J.C. at one of PokerStars’ numerous tables and compete against him!
Funny enough, J.C. Tran received better prize money for finishing second in the “L.A. Poker Classics” than for his victory in the World Poker Tour (WPT), but that never bothered him the slightest bit. In an interview he recalled:
“This victory feels much better than the second place in L.A. Winning a WPT title has always been one of my main intentions since I started playing poker.”
But J.C. has also been a rather unlucky fellow at times. At the “World Poker Finals” at Foxwoods in 2007 he put the cat among the pigeons on the first day. He had been playing confidently and patiently as usual, until he got involved in this very controversial hand:
The flop showed 9-9-5 and Tran and another player both went all in. Tran turned up J-9 and the other player (shorter stack) mucked instantly, but the dealer retrieved the cards from the muck (pile of folded cards in front of the dealer) and turned them face up, exposing A-7. Inexplicably, the dealer finished the hand with an 8 and a 6 on turn and river. J.C. Tran’s opponent now had a straight and pretended he had paid, even though he had folded his cards. Tran of course protested and called for the floorman, who decided that since the folded cards had never physically touched the muck, the cards were still acceptable. The other player doubled his chips while a furious Tran lost the pot.
After season 5 of the World Poker Tour, J.C. Tran was finally awarded “Player of the season”, a well deserved honour.
His favourite poker variants are No Limit Hold’em as well as Pot Limit Omaha. The poker players he admires most are Jerry Patton, John Juanda and Phil Ivey.
Aggressive playing style and a generous heart
J.C. Tran is an extremely aggressive poker player, who knows exactly how to behave as a chip-leader. Nevertheless he always has his aggressions under control. He always seems to know precisely, when it is time to let go. As poker legend Phil Hellmuth once said, the key to a successful game of poker is the knowledge when to stop and J.C. Tran has definitely understood.
But J.C. is not only a successful and very popular poker player he is also very concerned about commonweal. He donates a huge amount of his prize money to charity and still hopes that universal peace will become realistic one day. Success is very important for J.C. Tran, but not for his own sake. His aim in life is to become a respectable poker player in cash-games as well as in tournaments so he can win enough money to continue donating money for as long as possible.
J.C. Tran stays a strategic and fascinating opponent in every game, but also has a very profound and effective personality. This makes him a very interesting person, not only for other players, but also for his fans and audience. His popularity will definitely last for another while. He taught himself to play poker in Sacramento’s casinos and today he passes his advanced knowledge on to other players. J.C. is self-confident, clever and smart and therefore a poker star you love to watch playing.
Lucky love and close friendships
J.C. Tran has a girlfriend called Heather and they have been together for more than ten years now. If the self-assured J.C. talks about her, he completely turns soft and it seems like you can hear a smile in his voice. He believes: “She keeps me grounded.”
But there are other important people in J.C. Tran’s life than just his girlfriend. The professional poker players Nam Le, Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, Chris McCormack and Amnon Filippi are all close friends of J.C.’s. Meanwhile the whole group has become a kind of unit and especially J.C.’s friendship with Nam Le is extremely brotherly.
Tran is surrounded by winners, friends and his beloved ones and therefore he can rely on their support, whenever it is needed. Compared to most of his colleagues J.C. enjoys being a team-player instead of insisting on doing everything himself. He knows that the people around him are responsible for who he is today.
Even though J.C.’s greatest passion is poker, he tries not to neglect his other hobbies. He loves sports and music and enjoys his life to the fullest extent. Whenever he finds some spare time he goes out to party with friends.
Contrary to various people in the poker scene who believe J.C. Tran is nothing more than a flash in a pan, the professional poker player Shane Schleger stood up for the fabulous Vietnamese in an online forum:
“Tran is one of the most consistent players on the tour, a man with few leaks, who loves poker and knows how to make money. Basically, J.C. is the consummate tournament pro and I really can’t agree with anyone who thinks he’s just running good, give him time to cool off. I’ve been waiting for J.C. to cool off for a couple years, but instead he wins every tournament in sight.”
So, why don’t we see J.C. Tran on adverts and banners more often if he is so successful and has already won so much? Tran himself believes:
“I think it’s mainly because I’m an Asian guy and it’s tough to market an Asian guy. I mean, how many Asian guys do you see on TV? Hopefully it’s going to change, but at the same time the whole online (legality) thing has hurt marketing for poker players [...]”
Is there anything else we need to know about J.C. Tran? Well, he simply warned: “Watch out for me in the future!”
PS: For the ladies: It is a well known fact in the poker scene, that J.C. Tran has the most impressive chest of all male poker professionals!
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