There once was a time where JC Tran one of the most feared players at every World Poker Tour stop. And he was at every WPT stop. From Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Atlantic City to Mashantucket, if there was a WPT event going on, Tran was there, usually building stacks on his way to a deep run.
Between 2004 and 2007, Tran made five official WPT final tables, winning once and finishing runner-up once. He also narrowly missed out on three other final tables, posting seventh place finishes three times. In 2007 he was named WPT Player of the Year and he sits sixth on the tour’s all-time money list.
These days? Tran’s more interested in free kicks and ground balls than combo draws and bluff catchers. He didn’t pivot to daily fantasy sports during the boom like some poker players did and he’s not running some sports betting syndicate out of his home just outside of Sacramento, California.
“My week is usually soccer practice, soccer games, baseball practice, baseball games, getting the kids to school,” said Tran, who has two kids, a six year old and a three year old. “Believe it or not, I’d rather be out watching my kids play soccer than sweating my friend at a final table. It’s awesome. I’m that dad out there that’s screaming for my kids, “go go go”. It’s something I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
When Tran got married in 2009, he knew that becoming a parent was the next logical step and that would mean playing far less poker and traveling much less.
“Before we had kids, I’d go on the tour and see a lot of dads out from stop to stop to stop. I did it because I didn’t have any kids,” said Tran. “I’m okay with that, but I see a lot of father’s doing it and I’d scratch my head, ‘when do you spend time with your kids?’ and I told my wife that if we’re ever going to have kids, this is not going to happen. Poker will always be a thing for me, but I’m not going to do it on full time.”
He now limits himself to events on the West Coast so that he can get back home quickly and spend more time being a father. He still plays a lot of the World Series of Poker schedule each year, but he’s managed to make that a family-friendly event.
“Vegas we always rent a house, bring the family out and keep us together for a little bit out there. As far as travelling, I try to stay mostly on the West Coast. From LA or Vegas. Anything that has a connecting flight, no thank you,” said Tran. “ I love to see my kids grow up. It’s sad when you see a lot of these “poker dads”, that are out there and they blink and they’re kids are a year or two older.”
This past five days he’s been in Los Angeles playing the WPT Legends of Poker event and it’s clear he hasn’t lost a step at all. Tran carried the overnight chip lead into Day 3 on Wednesday and credits his experience in playing live poker. While a number of the world’s best players have begun utilizing a game theory optimal approach to the game, Tran plans on sticking to what’s always worked for him.
“I’m a live poker player, that’s what I’ve been doing for over ten years. So I stick to my live reads and my feelse,” said Tran. “It’s hard to play GTO when there’s an amateur opening for 6X or a guy that’s overbetting pot. How do you adjust to that? For live players with the live feels, you can make big laydowns or big calls that doesn’t happen with math involved.”