by Bogdan Fechită
There are few players of Asian origin who managed to secure habit and repute for themselves in the poker industry. Of these, the most eloquent example is Jerry Yang, winner of the 2007 WSOP Main event.
Before becoming a poker player millionaire, Jerry has had a difficult life. He was born in Laos, in 1967, but not dwelt too much in this country. After the Communists took control, his family managed to flee into Thailand where they stayed for four years in a refugee camp. During these years he lost a sister and a brother, both deceased.
From Thailand, his family managed to flee to America and they settled in California. “The day I arrived in America I felt what freedom means. It was the most beautiful day of my life”, Jerry would say later. In the U.S., he began to study and he obtained a diploma as psychologist and social worker. These studies would help him also in the poker world. “I carefully studied the opponents and when I felt something, when I saw a trace of weakness, I was playing my chance!”
The step towards poker
Yang started to play poker quite late in his life, in 2005, when he was 37 years old. In his first year as a player he was unable to obtain any money ranking. The first amount gained was to come in January 2006 in an event within the L.A. Poker Classic. He ranked on the 18th place and he earned $404 for a buy-in of $ 500. By the end of the year he checks three more cashes, the most important result being the 3rd place in an event of National Championship of Poker, receiving $ 6,985. Note that during this period he only played on relatively small amounts and enters only the tournaments with buy-ins that do not exceed $ 500.
Moment of glory
Before the start of the 2007 edition of the WSOP, Yang joined in a satellite tournament competition. For a buy-in of just $ 225, the winner of the tournament received a place in the WSOP Main Event, where the entrance was $ 10,000. Jerry wins the tournament and obtains the right to participate in the WSOP Main Event.
Maybe it was a lot of good luck too, but what is certain is that from an amateur player he was unable to reach the final table. Moreover, in the last day of his event, Jerry started as the eighth player by the number of chips. He attacked the remaining seven opponents one by one and managed to increase its number of chips.
After 12 hours of play, he played the final hand with Tuan Lam, another player of Asian origin. Lam has risked all the chips he had left on a hand with A♦ and Q♦, while Jerry stayed in the game with 8 ♣ and 8♦. The table came with 5♠, Q♣, 9♣, 7♦ and 6♥. A straight for Jerry, which brought the Grand Prize of $ 8,250 in his bank account, with an investment of only 225 $ !
Nicknamed “the Shadow”, the player who was born in Laos, continued to remain active as a poker player, but has failed to live up to the performance of the summer of 2007. Its participations in poker tournaments resulted in general in awards of a few thousands euros. The most notable results were: $ 75,000 for fifth place at an event at the National Heads-up Championship in 2010; $ 30,380 for an event at the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza, also in 2010 and $ 11,449 for an event at the 2014 Edition of the WSOP. As for the rest, his prizes were under $ 10,000.
Conflict with Joe Hachem
Jerry has not kept all the money he earned in poker for himself, but he donated part of his earnings to charity associations. After the success in 2007, he donated over $ 800,000.
His style as a poker player did not impress Joe Hachem, winner of the 2005 WSOP, who attacked him hard in 2014 accusing him that he destroys the legacy of the world champions and that he is not a good Ambassador of Poker. Joe said that Yang, Jamie Gold, and the younger players are concerned only by the money, but not the notoriety and glory offered by the title of world champion.
“I was a little shocked. To be honest, I don’t know Joe so well. I haven’t even played with him, so when I heard his comments I was shocked. Joe’s a good guy and I have the utmost respect for him. He’s a great champion and a great poker player, and I’m not going to go into the debate with him. But when I heard what he said I was really shocked”, defended Yang.
Problems with the IRS
Another blow for Jerry Yang was when he learned that the IRS is on his trail. U.S. authorities allege that the poker player owes to the State a huge amount of his poker winnings, including a federal tax lien in the amount of $ 571,894. The total amount that Jerry still owes is not known and will be determined by a trial. As an example, the 2012 winner of the WSOP, Greg Merson, was forced to pay to the IRS, 43% of the total amount of $ 8,531,853, being left with only $4,838,327.
– 48 years old
– born in Laos
– residence in Temecula, California
– winner of 2007 WSOP
– one gold bracelet
– 6 money rankings at WSOP
– biggest prize: $8,250,000 (2007 WSOP)
– total winnings: $8,421,749
– total money rankings: 25
– married with 6 children