LAS VEGAS – Youth and online skills dominated as the final table of World Series of Poker was set, but it was an experienced grinder who won the day.
As Monday night bled into Tuesday morning, the most veteran player of the final 10 gamblers competing for a seat at the nine-person final table worth $8.4 million for the winner was defeated by the second-most respected player.
Deep into the 14th hour of play on the seventh day of the world’s biggest no-limit Texas Hold ‘em competition, well-known Sacramento, Calif., grinder J.C. Tran went head to head with Carlos Mortensen, a Spanish pro known as “El Matador,” who won the main event in 2001 and was making a second run.
Tran was holding a seven and an eight, while Mortensen had an ace and a nine.
The flop, the first three common cards, came down 10, six, three. Tran went all in on the turn, the fourth card, and Mortensen called, pushing all his chips in.
The turn was a nine, giving Tran a straight. Mortensen would have needed a club on the river, or fifth card, to make a flush but got a two of diamonds instead, costing him his spot in the championship.
As that card was dealt, whoops went up from the increasingly swaying and song-prone crowds in the bleachers at the Rio casino off the Strip.
“The guy that I respected the most was the one guy that I just busted,” said Tran, 36, grinning and bleary-eyed moments after Mortensen busted out. “It’s kind of sad to see him go. But at the same time, I’m happy he’s gone because he’s the one I respected most.”
Tran, who holds first place in the chip count, might have reason to think he can beat the other finalists to take the diamond-encrusted bracelet. After all, six finalists are 20-something newbies.
The $10,000 buy-in competition, which began July 6 with 6,352 entrants, now takes a break until Nov. 4, when the gamblers will reconvene to determine a champion on live television. Each finalist is guaranteed at least a $700,000 payout.