JC Tran slam-dunks tourney

Mar 22, 2005 5:48 AM

J.C. Tran is proud of his hometown — Sacramento. It shows by what he says and how he dresses. Tran’s image is closely connected to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. He often appears at poker tournaments decked out in full regalia — including a Kings’ hat and team jersey.

Like the Sacramento Kings, Tran has been a solid bet in recent years. In fact, he’s a contender for the championship in every event he plays. Like the Kings, he seems to have no trouble breezing past most of the competition in the early to middle stages of play.

But when crunch time happens and the playoffs begin, many times the Kings have walked off the court in disappointment. Tran, too, has experienced such disappointment. Take, for instance, the fact that he made 13 final tables in 2004, including two final tables at last year’s World Series of Poker. But just as the Kings have yet to win an NBA championship, Tran has never actually stood in the winner’s circle at the World Series.

The World Series of Poker Circuit at the Rio attracted 203 entries for event No. 5 — the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event. On day one, 194 players were eliminated. On day two, 10 players returned for the final table and the last nine were eliminated in the following order:

9th place: David Plastik was the first player to exit. The combustible touring pro melted down when he was dealt Q-Q and was all-in against JC Tran’s A-A. Plastik caught his miracle card on the flop when a Queen appeared. But the exhilaration turned to outrage when an ace fell on the turn, giving Tran a higher set. In the end, Tran’s trip aces beat Plastik’s trip Queens and the hot-tempered Plastik stormed away with $5,905.

8th place: Brian "Bones" Bonacci was eliminated next. Bonacci’s bones were rattled when he was dealt A-A and took a horrible beat. Lonnie Alexander, holding 8-8, faded Bonacci’s all-in move after the flop came 7-6-5. Alexander had an over-pair and an open-ended straight draw. A blank fell on the turn and then ka-boom! A nine came on the river, cracking Bones’ pocket aces. Bonacci took $8,860 back to Georgia.

7th place: Payback is a witch. Lonnie Alexander, fresh off his stinging defeat of Bonacci, was dealt J-J a short time later and found himself all-in against JC Tran’s A-6 of hearts after two hearts flopped. On the turn, the board showed 10-7-5-10 and it looked like Alexander might double up. Then, an ace came and Alexander’s hand wasn’t so great. In fact, it was toast. Lonnie Alexander took home $11,815.

6th place: Steve Crockett, from Costa Mesa, Calif., has made a number of final tables in the past year. He came in third in chips in this event and it looked like he might challenge Tran for the chip lead. But Crockett suffered a bad run in his last half-hour at the final table and tried to stop the bleeding by moving all-in in a draw with A-8 of clubs. Dustin Sitar held 7-7 and his pocket pair held up, Crockett exited with $14,770.

5th place: Brian Ahern, a heavy equipment operator from Illinois, stalled in his tracks. On his final hand of the night, Ahern was short-stacked and was dealt 10-9 suited, which was dominated by Tran’s J-9. Neither player made a pair, and Ahern was bounced off the final table with $17,720.

4th place: Dustin Sitar caught a big hand and seized the chip lead temporarily away from JC Tran. He won a $200K pot and for a moment the final table was anyone’s to win. Scott Epstein’s dreams of victory were dashed when he moved all-in on a heart draw with A-8 of hearts after two hearts flopped. JC Tran had a pair of sixes and the small pocket pair held up. The key hand put Tran back into the chip lead and put Epstein on the rail with $23,630.

3rd place: The biggest leap of the night was made by Jeff King. The Connecticut-based player came in lowest in chips and managed to catapult up six spots and take the third place prize. On his final hand, King, age 30, was dealt A-7 and flopped an ace. However, JC Tran also flopped and ace and his kicker (a king) was bigger. The pro from Connecticut was down to just two outs. A seven failed to come and play was now down to the final two. He collected $29,535.

The heads-up duel between JC Tran and Dustin Sitar began with Tran holding a 3-2 chip advantage. The two players battled for about half an hour before the end finally came when both players flopped top pair and all the money went into the final pot of the night. Sitar was dealt Q-6 versus Tran’s K-Q. The flop came Q-9-2. Sitar moved in and Tran was delighted to call. Two blanks put the final nail in Sitar’s coffin. The 23-year-old poker pro received $23,630 as the runner up.

JC Tran is Vietnamese but was born in Hong Kong. He moved to the US when he was two years old. Tran settled down in the Sacramento area and has since become one of the California capital’s best poker players. Tran finally broke the spell and won a tournament victory. Question is, will his beloved Kings be able to do the same?


Earlier WSOP Circuit
results at the Rio


ANDY BLOCH

Event No. 4

Limit Hold’em

Buy-in: $1,000 (+60)

Number of Entries: 73

Total Prize Money: $70,810


1

Andy Bloch

Las Vegas

$25,495

2

David A. Sternbaum

Houston

14,160

3

Aitan Hillel

Los Angeles

7,790

4

P.T. Hayes

Las Vegas

5,665

5

"Minneapolis Jim" Meehan

Las Vegas

4,995

6

Paul Kroh

Battle Mountain, NV

4,250

7

Naresh "Sunny" Ghai

New York, NY

3,540

8

J.J. Liu

Palo Alto, CA

2,830

9

Sam Lewis

Las Vegas

2,125




YOHANES
MURUZ

Event No. 2

Limit Hold’em

Buy-in: $1,000 (+60)

Number of Entries: 117

Total Prize Money: $113,490



1

Yohanes Muruz

Las Vegas

$40,855

2

Steve Rosling

Portland, OR

22,700

3

J.J. Liu

Palo Alto, CA

12,485

4

Mike Gambony

Scottsdale,AZ

9,080

5

Rod Brown

Lubbock, TX

7,945

6

Frank Ryan

Sag Harbor, NY

6,810

7

Gavin Smith

Guelph, ONT

5,675

8

Mark Gregorich

Las Vegas

4,540

9 Francois Sfeir Canyon Country, CA

3,405




ASHER DEREI

Event No. 3

No-Limit Hold’em

Buy-in: $1,000 (+60)

Number of Entries: 300

Total Prize Money: $291,000



1.

Asher Derei

Los Angeles

$93,120

2

John Barbieri

Atlantic City

51,215

3

James Van Alstyne

Las Vegas

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