The youngest of the six 20-somthings who make up the final table is Ryan Riess, 23, of Las Vegas, who was playing in his first world series.
He reflected on his coming celebrity as he took in the ESPN cameras swooping and diving above the tables where the field of 27 was whittled to nine.
“Not only is it a ton of money, which is obviously life changing, but I feel like so many people know of me that did not know me.” he said, adding, “I’ll still be the same person.”
Also new to the ranks of the tournament champions was Sylvain Loosli, 26, who dubs himself an “online poker cash game specialist” but had never made the money at the world series.
“I’m quite impressed I didn’t feel any pressure,” the Frenchman said, still wearing the gray hoodie he’d used to hide his eyes during play.
Among those coming back in November are tattoo artist Marc McLaughlin, of Brossard, Quebec, and Columbia University student David Benefield, of Fort Worth, Texas. The rest of the finalists are pros, including Amir Lehavot, of Israel, Michiel Brummelhuis, of Amsterdam, and Marc Newhouse of Chapel Hill, N.C.
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 player is already guaranteed at least a $700,000 payout.
For Tran, the final table could confirm his hopes that tournament poker is not only a young man’s game.
“The past couple years, I’ve been really distracted with a lot of things going on — I became a family man, married, I have a son,” he said. “I came to the world series not really having that fire that I used to have. And when I looked back on the past couple years, I said, look, these results are not so good.”
Tran said he is expecting a daughter and hopes that his shot at the final table may help him realize a long-held dream before retiring.
“I’m going to set one last goal, and that is to win this thing, and then I’m going to take a nice little break, enjoy my wife and my kids and watch them grow up. Poker should be for fun from here on out.”