After a long week, and an especially long night, JC Tran is heading home to Sacramento, Calif., with big plans and a lot to look forward to in four months.
“I’ve got a daughter coming in November,” he said. “There’s going to be two great things coming in November, and hopefully I win this.”
Tran is leading the way to the World Series of Poker Main Event final table, which was set at 2:32 a.m. Tuesday, when he eliminated Carlos Mortensen before a small but loud crowd at the Rio Convention Center.
A field of 6,352 is down to the final nine players, who advance to competition Nov. 4 and 5. The winner will earn $8.35 million.
The seventh day of play in the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Texas Hold ’em World Championship started at noon Monday with 27 players and continued until Tran knocked out Mortensen, the 2001 Main Event champion.
“I dream every year when I buy in to this tournament to win it,” said Mortensen, who earned $573,204 for finishing 10th. “Hopefully I can make it next year.”
The two most accomplished players at the table on the ESPN stage collided on a dramatic hand. Tran played 8-7 after a 10-6-3 flop and a 9 on the turn. Mortensen, the short stack with more than 5 million in chips, shoved all-in and showed A-9. Tran hit a straight, and a 2 of diamonds on the river sunk Mortensen, who needed a club to survive.
“The one guy I respect the most is Carlos,” Tran said. “I’ve played with him for many, many years.”
Tran holds the chip lead with 38 million, putting him more than 8 million ahead of his nearest competitor.
“My last goal is to win this thing. This is the November Nine. This is the Main Event,” said Tran, who has 44 previous WSOP cashes and two gold bracelets. “Words can’t really describe it right now. The next few days, seeing my family and friends at home and the smiles on their faces, then it will hit me really hard.”
Tran, 36, has a 2-year-old son, and he said his poker results suffered the past couple of years because he was “distracted” by personal issues.
“I’m a family man. It’s not about me anymore,” he said. “I’ve got to play for my family.”
A look at the other eight faces at the final table (chip counts in parentheses):
-- Amir Lehavot (29,700,000) - A 38-year-old Israeli residing in Weston, Fla., he has one gold bracelet from the $10,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha championship in 2011. Lehavot has cashed 12 previous times at the WSOP for more than $800,000. He holds an engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin and is the oldest player remaining in the field.
-- Marc McLaughlin (26,525,000) - A tattoo artist from Brossard, Quebec, Canada, he has played in the Main Event five consecutive years, finishing 30th in 2009 and 86th in 2011. McLaughlin, 25, can become the second French Canadian champion.
-- Jay Farber (25,975,000) - A 28-year-old Las Vegas VIP host originally from Doylestown, Penn., Farber plays poker as a hobby and never had cashed in a previous WSOP event. He is a University of California Santa Barbara business graduate.
-- Ryan Riess (25,875,000) - A professional player from East Lansing, Mich., who resides in Las Vegas, Riess, 23, is a Michigan State graduate with a degree in business. The youngest player remaining, he has cashed in four WSOP events this summer.
-- Sylvain Loosli (19,600,000) - A native of Toulon, France, who resides in London, Loosli, 26, is the least-accomplished tournament player left in the field. He had zero WSOP cashes before this event and only $3,198 in recorded earnings worldwide. The Main Event will mark his first cash in an event outside of France.
-- Michiel Brummelhuis (11,275,000) - The 32-year-old poker professional from Amsterdam, is expecting his first child in September. Brummelhuis has seven previous WSOP cashes for $174,170. This marks the first time a Dutch player has made the Main Event final table.
-- Mark Newhouse (7,350,000) - A 28-year-old professional player, he has been in the Main Event every year since 2006 and has $152,725 in WSOP earnings. His total live poker tournament winnings are $2,004,277. Originally from Chapel Hill, N.C., he resides in Los Angeles.
-- David Benefield (6,375,000) - He is currently studying political science and Chinese at Columbia University. A 27-year-old part-time student and part-time poker professional originally from Fort Worth, Texas, he resides in New York City. Benefield has 12 previous WSOP cashes for $455,713 and career live tournament winnings of $633,243.
The Cinderella story in the field is Loosli, who was labeled a “complete unknown” by Seth Palansky, vice president of corporate communications for Caesars Interactive Entertainment, which owns the WSOP.
Loosli said he debated whether to enter the Main Event for the first time.
“Why not me?” Loosli said. “I thought this year I should play in it once in my career. Good decision.”
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.