On any given day, tournament crusher J.C. Tran can be found making breakfast for his kids, taking them to school, playing golf with his buddies, or even getting some fishing in when the weather cooperates. And when all of that is done, rather than make his way to the poker tables, he’s much more inclined to take a nap than to see a flop.
“I play maybe 20 percent of what I used to play,” Tran says, speaking about his status as a full-time poker player.
J.C. Tran, the longtime, well-respect MTT pro with more than $13.2 million in earnings, simply has other priorities over poker at this stage in the game. And that priority is family.
“Since I’ve had kids, I cut back on traveling a lot. Mostly because I want to see my kids grow up,” Tran said, “So whenever there’s a tournament [near his home in Sacramento], I try to make it out. Mostly just for the Main Events, I don’t like the prelims. And I don’t do anything past Las Vegas, just some events for the World Series [of Poker].
“I mostly try to play some cash here at home and be involved with my kids, I don’t even have a full schedule anymore. I actually don’t even know what event I’ll play next.”
While Tran may have cut way back on his volume, he’s still reaping the rewards of being an elite talent. In 2022, on his limited schedule, he notched 5 five-figure scores including a deep run in the Wynn Millions Main Event in March for more than $31,000 and a 10th-place finish in the $1,500 Mystery Bounty at the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas for $41,425. Buy-ins not considered, Tran’s 2022 earnings were that of a six-figure salary.
Pulling back from poker doesn’t mean he doesn’t still have a passion for it. It’s just that the game has to know its rightful place in his life.
“Lately I have been [passionate about poker]. Once I get into a tournament, I enjoy it more so I try harder. But before, if I busted out, I get to go home and see my kids. But now it’s a different mentality. My kids are a little older so they’re cool with me being gone for a little longer. But the thing is, they’re old enough to count days….nowadays after three or four days, they’re like ‘daddy, you’ve been gone for this many days.’ And it’s something that I don’t want to miss out on, watching them grow up. Whether it’s sports, stuff at school, or just doing stuff with their friends.”
Watching Tran at the poker table, his part-time status doesn’t seem to have him missing a beat. Putting players to a tough river decision, dragging a big pot, having a laugh with the table, it’s natural for him. But according to him, it’s been some time since the poker table has been his core community. Nowadays, he says he’s tight with a community of parents, attending holiday parties, playing pick-up basketball, and the like. He no longer jumps out of bed ready to play poker, he jumps out of bed eager to spend time with his kids.
That said, he still has his sights on a few major events. He plays WPT events when they come around and he’ll make the journey to the WSOP Main Event, “it’s something that I always got to show up for.” But ultimately, there’s one thing that’s on top of mind.
“I lost a lot of interest in poker because my mind was like ‘family, family, family.’ But now I know that I do need to get back and be serious about [the game of poker]…or else I shouldn’t even be playing.”