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April 16, 2014

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J.C. Tran aggressively surging into summer’s final day of WSOP Main Event

Carlos Mortensen, Yevgeniy Timoshenko and Steve Gee also still alive

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Jason of Beverly Hills

The 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event champion’s bracelet made by Jason of Beverly Hills is valued at $500,000.

Chip counts for the final 27 players in the WSOP Main Event

  • Anton Morgenstern 21,955,000
  • Sylvain Loosli 14,125,000
  • Chris Lindh 12,035,000
  • J.C. Tran 11,970,000
  • Fabian Ortiz 10,810,000
  • Carlos Mortensen 10,790,000
  • James Alexander 9,445,000
  • Jay Farber 8,975,000
  • Matt Reed 7,705,000
  • Jason Mann 7,505,000
  • Amir Lehavot 7,385,000
  • Clement Tripodi 7,135,000
  • Sergio Castelluccio 6,560,000
  • Alexander Livingston 5,800,000
  • Mark Newhouse 5,785,000
  • Marc McLaughlin 5,415,000
  • Jan Nakladal 5,360,000
  • Yevgeniy Timoshenko 5,310,000
  • Ryan Riess 3,830,000
  • Maxx Coleman 3,830,000
  • Bruno Kawauti 3,580,000
  • Benjamin Pollak 3,230,000
  • Steve Gee 3,160,000
  • Rep Porter 2,675,000
  • Michiel Brummelhuis 2,245,000
  • Jorn Walthaus 1,900,000
  • David Benefield 1,840,000
  • Blinds start at 60,000-120,000 with a 15,000 ante on Monday.

2013 WSOP Main Event final table payouts

  • 1st: $8,359,531
  • 2nd: $5,173,170
  • 3rd: $3,727,023
  • 4th: $2,791,983
  • 5th: $2,106,526
  • 6th: $1,600,792
  • 7th: $1,225,224
  • 8th: $944,593
  • 9th: $733,224

Players notoriously, and quite literally, fold under these lights.

When the WSOP Main Event reaches its last couple days before the final table, the tri-colored beams spotlighting the ESPN stage and camera bulbs surrounding the outer tables seep through players’ minds and alter their decision-making.

They tighten up their games, getting involved with fewer hands in an effort to increase their chances of earning the vaunted status as a member of the November Nine final table. Any experienced gambler knows there’s value to responding in a contrarian manner and mixing it up as much as possible.

“I’m playing plenty aggressive right now,” said two-time WSOP bracelet winner J.C. Tran at the end of Sunday’s Day 6 at the Rio.

Tran is one of 27 players, out of a starting field of 6,352, returning at Noon Monday for a shot at advancing to the final table of poker’s world championship. All the remaining players are guaranteed a payout of at least $285,408, but salivating over the first-place prize of $8.36 million.

Tran took a stride in the right direction Sunday, rocketing from the middle of the pack to the top with eight hours worth of sharp reads and relentless bets. At the epicenter of the whole tournament, the ESPN featured table, there was never 10 minutes that went by without Tran raising or re-raising to pressure his opponents.

“Any time you do that, there are going to be players that want to step in and try to take a shot here and there,” Tran said. “But, at the same time, I’m picking up hands and their timing has been off.”

Tran, who’s 32nd all-time in tournament earnings with $8.3 million and cashed in six of the last 10 Main Events, sits fourth in chips after 56 hours of poker. He’s far from the only big name left in the running, as this year’s Main Event looks heavier on star power than the last few were at this juncture.

Carlos Mortensen, who won the Main Event in 2001 and sits 16th on the all-time money list, is right behind Tran. Yevgeniy Timoshenko, former winner of both the World Poker Tour championship and the World Championship of Online Poker, captured the chip lead for a while Sunday before falling below average.

Steve Gee, who finished in ninth last year, could become the first player to make back-to-back final tables since Dan Harrington nine years ago.

“It’s not about cashing any more,” said the 36-year-old Tran, who hails from Sacramento, Calif. “Before, I would be like, ‘hey I cashed in the Main Event and made a deep run.’ It was cool, but now it’s about going all the way.”

The decorated professionals, of course, weren’t the only ones who played like they were unaffected by the moment Sunday. Germany’s Anton Morgenstern and France’s Sylvian Loosli acquired enough plastic to build elaborate chip castles.

They enter the last day as the two leaders. Chris Lindh, a local pro with only $13,659 worth of previous WSOP earnings, was the first one to reach the 15 million chip threshold a few hours into play on Day 6.

“I’ve had a goal for myself every day and just crushed it,” Lindh said.

Lindh carried a calm temperament out of the Rio before the final day of play. Instead of going to get some rest, in fact, he planned to celebrate getting this far by joining friends at a pool party at XS Nightclub and “splash dancing.”

After busting out of the Main Event on Day 3 before the money bubble in each of the last two years, Lindh understands the rarity of the opportunity in front of him.

“I want to enjoy it,” Lindh said.

Everyone left is playing at a high-level, according to Tran, and the competition has exceeded his expectations.

That being said, his game plan might continue to alter from the rest. Tran will stay on the attack.

“But it can all turn,” Tran said. “As long as I know when it’s turning, I’ll slow down a little bit and let it come to me. I’m not trying to force anything right now. But if things are working out, then I’ve got to maximize.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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