Poker legend JC Tran gets deep about Asian poker pro’s and his proudest moment

Poker sensation JC Tran owns over 100 NY Yankees hats – and has almost as many tournament cashes to his name

How did you get started in poker?

On my 21st birthday my brother took me to the local cardroom in Sacramento, California, as he was already playing poker regularly. He introduced me to Texas Hold’em, broke down the basics for me, and from there I just picked it up through playing and putting in the hours. I started off at small stakes limit Hold’em and grinded my way up. I certainly wasn’t an overnight success – for years I was playing small stakes where I’d make a few hundred a week. Limit poker tournaments helped build my bankroll and then I played no-limit, realised I had a talent for that as well, and began to focus more on those tournaments. I still play limit but more in cash games. I definitely consider myself more of a tournament player than a cash game player.

As a tournament player you put up incredibly consistent results. What do you put that down to?

I believe my style is very effective and that it works. And I think that I’m fortunate with my image to get a combination of respect and fear from players. I also feel I can adapt to all styles that my opponents may have, which is key because the game changes all the time. Also, I’m careful about my tournament selection. Previously I used to just play every tournament and burn myself out. Now I play less, but make sure I’m more focused in the ones I enter.

Everyone keeps saying the $ 10,000 buy-in tournaments are getting a lot tougher. Is that true?

Yes, very much so – especially in the last year or so. The economy is bad so there’s not as much dead money in the bigger tournaments any more. Also, there aren’t as many satellite winners as there used to be; most of the players in the $ 10k events are pros. Even the $ 2,000 and $ 3,000 events are tough – you recognise nearly everyone in the room. And even if you don’t know them, it’s likely that they’re very good online players. The young internet kids are very good, they learn very fast and they play like they’ve been doing it for years.

You were sponsored by PKR for the recent Premier League Poker, and you’re an ambassador for the Asian Poker Tour, but there does seem to be a lack of Asian players with deals. Why do you think that is?

For a while being Asian was definitely a disadvantage when it came to the media and getting invites to televised tournaments. And this definitely applied to endorsements too. Now it’s a little better. I’m honoured to be an ambassador for the tour and I think I can be a positive role model.

You seem to be one of the pros who like to ‘get it quietly’. Do you consciously like to keep a low profile?

I’ve always been the type of player who comes in, plays my game and then leaves when I’m done. I’m not the type to yell across the room or jump up and down or get in confrontations with other players. I just act myself and I come to play poker. That’s what I’m there for.

What’s your proudest achievement in poker to date?

My World Poker Tour win [in March 2007]was a great feeling because I’d come up short so many times. The same goes for winning my WSOP bracelet [in 2008] – I’d made final tables before but not gone on to win one.

Asian players are generally assumed to be crazy, loose and always looking to gamble. Yet you seem far removed from that stereotype. Does that help you against unknown players who think you’re looser than you actually are?

Yeah, the majority of players and the public categorise me as an aggressive player, some even as a very aggressive player. The reason is that I sometimes play aggressive or hyper-aggressive, but only when the table conditions are right. I’m just as comfortable playing very solid, which is how I played a lot during Premier League Poker. Every day it can change.

You travel with a group of friends on the circuit, including fellow APT ambassador Nam Le and recent WPT winner David ‘Chino’ Rheem – is that important to you?

It’s always good to be around friends, and it’s not only important to have their support but to discuss poker. It’s always good to get different people to express their thoughts on how they’d play in a certain situation – getting a perspective other than your own can help you learn. We try to avoid talking about poker over dinner or away from the table though. Often the first person to bring up poker has to pay for the bill.

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