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Every year, thousands of poker players
dream of earning the game's most prestigious title, World Series of Poker Main Event Champion. In 2007, the honors went to Xao "Jerry" Yang.
He beat out 6,357 players, including second place finisher, Tuan Lam, to win $8.25 million dollars and the coveted gold bracelet.
Similar to Chris Moneymaker, Yang won his way into the Series
through a satellite. But, unlike Moneymaker who won an online satellite, Yang won his seat at his local card room, Pechanga Resort and Casino.
His total investment was $225. Not a bad return for a person who has only has been playing the game part-time for two years.
On the final day of the Main Event, he was the second to shortest stack. Regardless of his tenuous position, he had a game
plan. He said, "I had a strategy. …The only way that I could win this tournament was by being aggressive from the very
beginning and that’s exactly what I did." He was responsible for knocking out all but one player at the final table, winning
more than 50% of the total hands played. While he might receive criticism for his unusual playing style, most would agree
that aggression is often the key ingredient to winning tournaments and he was the most aggressive player of the nine by far.
Whenever Yang found himself in an all-in situation, he would kiss the picture of his children and would often say a prayer.
In one instance he found himself involved in a hand where he had a pair of fours against an
overpair. He said, "I kept saying 'Lord, give me
a set."’ And there was a 4 on the flop." In another situation he said, "Lord if you want me to win this, put the ace or the
4 on the river." He got that four he prayed for on the river! After winning the tournament, Norman Chad (the commentator for ESPN) asked
whether this was the most tournament poker that the Lord has ever watched. That remark drew applause and laughter from the large crowd and from Yang.
His prayers were answered on the final hand too. He raised on the button and Tuan Lam moved all in. Yang thought for a few
seconds before calling with his pocket eights. Lam showed AQ. The flop was Q95 and Yang needed some help. The turn was a
seven giving Yang some additional outs if he made the gutshot straight draw. The river was a 6 and Jerry won the tournament
with a nine high straight!
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Jerry Yang was born in Southeast Asia, in the country of Laos. When the communists invaded his country back in the seventies, his family escaped
to Thailand where they spent four years in a refugee camp. He said he lost a brother and sister while living in the camp. He moved to the United
States in 1979, at the age of 13. He said the biggest obstacle for him to overcome when arriving in this country was learning the language. He said
that having to learn ABC…123 at the age of 13 was very difficult. His father encouraged him and told him, "Son if you can just graduate from
high school, I will be a very proud father." Yang did better than that. He graduated from high school, college and grad school - with honors.
Yang is a psychologist and social worker by trade. He originally wanted to go to medical school. He applied and was
accepted, but decided to become a missionary for a couple of years because of the time he spent in the refugee camp. He
eventually earned his Master's degree in health psychology. His degree helped him make decisions while playing the Main
Event. He said he would study his opponents very carefully for the first couple of hours of play. He would observe anything
and everything he could (from the table up) and would create a mental picture for each opponent and use it as a weapon. When
facing a player, he would go back to that mental picture he created and base his decisions on that.
At the time of his WSOP victory Yang lived in Temecula, CA with his supportive wife and six children. As a man who places
great emphasis on family values, Jerry makes it a point to eat meals as a family and to spend individual time with each of
his six children every day. Seeing his parents in the stands supporting him during his historic run at the final table, it
is easy to see where his deep commitment to family comes from.
Jerry Yang has a firm faith and a deep respect for his fellow man. In one interview he mentioned that he works with foster
kids and said, "I am very happy to be who I am. I just try to give something back to the community and to the kids." He
continued, "The very least thing we can do as human beings is give things to others. Is to give a little of ourselves."
He certainly does his part. When asked whether the bracelet or money was more important, he said, "I would say the money.
The bracelet to me is a title where you get the notoriety. However, with the money, you can do a lot of good. You can help a lot
of people." He pledged to donate 10% of his winnings to children's charities, including the Make a Wish Foundation, the
Ronald McDonald House, and Feed the Children.
He said the WSOP was among one of the biggest moments in his
life in terms of joy and happiness. "I am living the dream and all my credit goes to my God." During his victory speech, Yang was very appreciative
and thanked Jeffrey Pollack and his staff for all their hard work during the series. He also thanked his wife and said that she does not have to work anymore.
He plans on using some of his money to buy his wife a much-needed new car, and then will make sure that all six of his children receive the best education.
Along with the title of World Champion, Yang will also be thought of as an ambassador to poker. By the way, this is not the same Jerry Yang that founded Yahoo.com.
Jerry Yang: English,