Comeback King: Tony Tran Rallies from Short Stack for WPT Rolling Thunder Title

Mar 10, 2020

Champion Tony Tran

By Sean Chaffin

506 days. That’s how long it’s been since Tony Tran and Jake Schwartz played heads-up for a WPT title. The setting was the WPT bestbet Bounty Scramble in Jacksonville, Florida, and Schwartz was seated at the final table as chip leader. Tran entered fifth in chips and went on a massive run – completing the comeback and adding his name to the WPT Champions Cup.

On Tuesday at Thunder Valley, a comeback was again in order for Tran. This part-time player brought the short stack to win the WPT Rolling Thunder and proceeded to put together another huge rally. His foe again was Schwartz, who faced a 4-to-1 chip disadvantage when heads-up play began. It was deja vu for Tran, who again came out on top and is now a two-time WPT champion.

“I feel really good that I’m actually a champion again,” he said after the win. “It just shows that the first one was not a fluke.”

For the win, Tran takes home $279,270 after topping a field that included 250 entries over four days of action. He not only earns the cash, but also 1,000 points in the Hublot WPT Player of the Year standings. Tran now has two wins in his two WPT final table appearances. How does this win compare to his title in Jacksonville?

“I don’t think it compares to the first one,” he said. “But the second one is definitely good because I think there are only a few that actually have [at least two] WPT titles.”

Tony Tran

A native of Philadelphia, the 32-year-old married father of two works as a real estate investor when not playing cards. He now has almost $1.2 million in live tournament winnings. Last season, he scored seven cashes on the tour but couldn’t find a final table appearance beyond his win. This season he now has both and is happy to have found the winner’s circle after being so low on chips.

“I just told myself that I was going to put up a fight and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “I wasn’t just going to wait for big hands, although I did get quite a few big hands, and quite a few coolers. I actually think I play better when I have a bigger stack, but I manage a short stack well.”

For his part, Schwartz has his second WPT runner-up finish and takes home $177,680. This was his sixth final table appearance and he now has $1.4 million in WPT winnings. The heads-up matchup became the first time in WPT history that two players have met again in a rematch for a title. Tran was complimentary of his opponent afterward.

“Being heads-up with Jake is tough,” Tran said. “He knows ranges very well. There were a couple times Jake actually called me with third or fourth pair. To have a chip advantage on him was big.”

Champion Tony Tran

Away from the tables, the two men are friends and even shared a couple of shots at the table while playing heads-up. Schwartz and Tran will actually be rooming together at the Bay 101 for the event there this week. A bit of scoreboarding may be in order for the new champ.

“I’m probably going to needle him some tonight,” he said. “We’re going to dinner after this and he said if he beat me that he was going to rub it in my face about the bluff he pulled on me.”

In that hand from earlier in the day, Schwartz moved all-in on the river with Club KHeart 9 and no pair with a missed flush. Tran held Spade AHeart 4 and ended up folding his pair of Aces. Another big hand that stood out late was when Tran flat called a raise on the button from Kevin Rabichow with pocket queens. Erkut Yilmaz, who was gunning for back-to-back titles at Thunder Valley, then reraised from the small blind with two jacks and Tran moved all-in.

The hand gave Tran a huge pot and helped propel him up with counts to work with. He never seemed to look back.

Despite the win, Tran still considers himself a part-time player and has no plans to change that. He doesn’t travel for events as much as some other players on tour. Nor does he have any plan for his winnings as of now. But he’s thrilled with his accomplishment – and now has another fitting goal on the horizon.

“I will definitely be shooting for a third WPT.”

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.

Photography by Joe Giron /

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