Professional player J.C. Tran had an amazing summer. He cashed six times at the 2006 WSOP and almost won a bracelet when he finished in second place in a $1,500 NL event. The pro from Sacramento, California bubbled out of the WPT's TV table on two different occasions. He finished 7th at the Borgata Poker Open in 2005 and took 7th at the L.A. Poker Classic in 2004. Although he had made two WPT final tables and three final tables at the WSOP in his career, Tran had been overlooked during his professional career until he won the most prestigious online tournament in the world.
JC Tran didn't exactly come out of nowhere and it's not a surprise that he took home first place in the PokerStars 2006 WCOOP Main Event Championship. The $2,600 buy-in main event was the pinnacle 2006 WCOOP, which featured 18 events. Players from 89 countries gathered on PokerStars and battled it out for a shot at a bracelet, the prize money, and a WCOOP title. On October 1st, over 2,610 players forked up $2,600 for a shot at the $3 Million Guaranteed NL event. The prize pool ballooned to $6.275M, with a first prize of $1,157,737.50. Both were record-breaking numbers for an online tournament.
Many of the world's most popular pros logged into PokerStars to participate. Several of them cashed including Brandon Schaefer (2005 EPT Deauville Champion) who finished 26th, the flamboyant Marcel Luske who took 32nd, Italian pro Luca Pagano, EPT creator John Duthie, and Kiril Gerasimov from Russia. Online legend JohnnyBax finished 272nd place and also made the money.
Members of Team PokerStars such as Greg "Fossilman" Raymer, Joe Hachem, Chris Moneymaker, Bill Chen, Wil Wheaton, Tom McEvoy, Katja Thater and Isabelle Mercier played but they all finished out of the money. Other pros such as Erik "Erik123" Sagstrom, Brett "Gank" Jungblut, Noah "Exclusive" Boeken and Eric "Rizen" Lynch bought in but they failed to cash as well.
Twelve hours later after the tournament began, J.C. Tran playing under the screen name "area23JC," emerged as the champion. Tran survived 2,609 other players and a difficult final table that featured British pro Ben "milkybarkid" Grundy and players representing the U.S., Canada and Norway. Unfortunately, milkybarkid lost a big hand and finished in 8th place when his 10-10 ran into Q-Q. With six players left, they chopped up the remaining prize pool based on the chip count. They played out the coveted bracelet and for $50,000 which was left on the table.
Tran had been quiet most of the final table until he found 9- 9 and busted a player. After calling a raise preflop, Tran flopped bottom set on a board of K-10-9. He check-raised Numie2, who pushed all in with Big Slick. Numie2 was drawing dead when Tran turned quad 9s and finished in 5th place.
Tran lost the chip lead for a while but gained it back when he flopped another set on a board of 10-8-2 with pocket deuces. The river paired the board to give Tran a full house which beat Lefort's Jacks up. Lefort busted out a few hands later and Tran found himself heads up with hannibalrex. Tran held a 3 to 1 advantage with 18 million in chips to hannibalrex's 6 million. The final hand took less than thirty seconds to play after hannibalrex raised preflop with A-4 and Tran called with K-9.
Tran flopped top pair while hannibalrex turned a weak pair and picked up a gutshot straight draw on a board of K-5-4-2. When hannibalrex bet out on the turn, Tran moved all in and hannibalrex called. A blank on the river didn't help him and Tran won the pot along with the 2006 WCOOP Main Event championship.
Tran won $670,194 for his efforts in the most prestigious online tournament in 2006.