J.C. Tran has countless tournament wins in his poker career. But this one was extra special.
In his home casino in Sacramento, Calif., Tran won the World Poker Tour Rolling Thunder to claim his second career title on the WPT. Tran outlasted a field of 465, eventually defeating Preston Harwell heads-up to claim the $302,750 prize, which includes a $15,400 seat into the World Poker Tour Championship in May.
Tran burst onto the WPT scene in 2007 by winning the $5,150 Reno Poker Challenge, where he pocketed $683,473. One month earlier, Tran collected his first seven-figure score with a runner-up finish at the WPT L.A. Poker Classic.
Tran also has a pair of World Series of Poker bracelets on his impressive résumé. And, of course, he finished fifth at the 2013 WSOP Main Event for $2.1 million. In total, the 888poker pro has more than $11 million in live tournament winnings.
Not bad for a guy who is taking a semi-hiatus from the game to spend time with his family.
WPT Rolling Thunder Final Table Results
Mimi Luu began Wednesday's final table as the second-shortest stack with 735,000 (24 big blinds), but she found an early double up after an entertaining confrontation against Quoc Pham that set the stage for a great final table. With the blinds at 15,000/30,000, Luu raised to 65,000 from middle position with the and Pham called from the big blind to see a flop of . Pham checked, Luu bet 100,000, and Pham check-raised to 255,000. Luu went into the tank for several minutes, talking to herself — and Pham — in the process.
"We just started! I just can't fold this," she said. You might recall Luu being in a similar spot at the 2013 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open (here's the video courtesy of Bluff Magazine).
Luu eventually moved all in and Pham snap-called. Luu discovered that her kings were ahead of Pham's for a pair and a straight draw. Luu pleaded for the dealer to let her hand hold up, and he obliged with the turn and river. That increased Luu to more than 1 million in chips, putting her right back in contention.
WPT live stream commentators Tony Dunst and Jonathan Aguiar were highly amused by Luu's antics during the hand. Dunst said afterward that Luu could spark the next poker boom with her personality.
A short while later, Ken Jorgensen became the first player to exit the final table. Jorgensen moved all in from the button for 435,000, and Tran asked for a count on Jorgensen's stack before calling with from the small blind. Jorgensen turned over for a slight lead, but the board gave Tran a pair of kings for the win
Ben Zamani's first WPT final table appearance came to a crashing halt in fifth place. After being crippled by Pham when his came up short against Pham's , Zamani three-bet shoved for 140,000 over the top of Pham's raise. Tran called from the big blind, and Pham called for an addition 30,000.
Both players checked all the way to the river on a board of . Tran rolled over for a rivered aces and eights, and Zamani mucked before leaving the table in fifth place.
The affable Luu held on for a while longer before being eliminated in fourth place. Once again it was Tran who handled the dirty work. Tran raised to 165,000 from under the gun, and Luu called from the big blind to see a flop of . Both checked, and the hit the turn. Luu bet 200,000, and Tran called. The river was the and Luu moved all in for 430,000. Tran beat her into the pot with a call.
Luu and Tran both made a straight, but Tran's king-high was better. Luu graciously exited the final table in fourth place for $100,240.
After losing a crushing preflop race to Harwell (jacks to ace-king), Pham fell by the wayside in third place. He moved all in from the button for 705,000, and Tran called from the big blind.
The dealer spread a board of , and the start-of-day chip leader was sent to the rail.
Harwell (8,415,000) began heads-up play with the lead over Tran (5,535,000), but Tran won seven hands in a row to take the lead. The two battled back and forth throughout the evening, trading the lead several times, before Tran took command and finally finished off Harwell on Hand #211 of the final table.
With the blinds at 75,000/150,000/25,000, Harwell moved all in for 1,125,000 with the and Tran called with the . The last board of the day rolled out , and Tran's two pair secured his second WPT title — the first on his home turf. Meanwhile, Harwell locked up $200,030, more than doubling his career live tournament cashes.
The California Swing of the World Poker Tour is now complete. The tour will next make its way to Florida for the WPT Jacksonville bestbet Open from March 21-25. As always, we'll have recaps from that event at the conclusion of each day.
Photos and data courtesy of the WPT Live Blog.