- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 16, 2013

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 carried 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 of the makeshift ESPN stage 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, many of them are newbies.

Jay Farber, 28, fourth in the chip count, has a lifetime poker winning of just over $2,000. That’s the smallest lifetime earnings of any of the “November nine” since 2008.

The Las Vegas club host acknowledged he was flagging as the tournament entered its 70th hour Monday, despite the steady cheering from a horde of his club friends in the stands that chanted “Oh, Jay” to the tune of an Italian soccer song as 3 a.m. Tuesday neared.

“I’m not a tournament player. It’s frustrating coming from being a cash-game player to playing 12 to 14 hours a day,” he said. “But I really enjoyed the main event because it’s like playing a deep stack cash game.”

As the field narrowed to 11 and then to 10, some players hoping to avoid bad beats and roller-coaster chip swings simply refused to gamble.

The conservative play seemed to annoy tired fans who began urging players in heavily accented English to “double down” and bet all their chips or, once players went all in, yelling out the card that would ensure a loss.

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