- Nickname: The Shadow
- Facebook: Jerry Yang
- Birthdate: 1967
- Birthplace: Laos, Vietnam
- Residence: California
- WSOP Bracelets: 1
- Biggest Win: $8,250,000
- Total Winnings: $8,416,758
- Sponsored by: Ex Full Tilt Poker
Xao “Jerry” Yang was born in Laos in 1968, when the Communists invaded in 1975, he and his family fled to Thailand. He remembers being captured and having AK47s pointed at him. Eventually, the Yangs did make it across the border but all that awaited them was near starvation in a refugee camp. A sister and brother perished in Thailand and Jerry was there four years until one day in 1979. He has said this was his happiest day ever, when his father told him the family had been accepted into the United States.
Soon the Yangs were settling down in their new homeland. Jerry struggled with the language at first but, with his father’s encouragement, he proceeded to graduate, with honors, from high school, college and grad school. He was accepted into medical school but postponed his place for two years to work as a missionary. Finally, he got his Master’s degree in health psychology and began working as a psychologist and social worker.
Jerry had only being playing poker for two years before his 2007 WSOP triumph and began by tutoring himself from books and watching poker on television. Soon he was entering tournaments at local casinos and it was at the Pechanga Casino where he won his seat into the WSOP event through a $225 satellite tournament. He had the second shortest stack when he reached the final table but Jerry had more than prayers to fall back on.
Using his experience as a psychologist he studied his opponents’ demeanor and had had the opportunity to watch some of his final table opposition, ‘I saw they played a little tight’, he said afterwards. With this information, Yang played an aggressive and at times reckless game but his tactic paid off as by the time he had reached the heads up, he had knocked out seven of his eight rivals and had four times as many chips as Lam. Jerry Yang got the bracelet and $8,250,000.
As a socially conscious Christian, Jerry Yang donated a large proportion of his winnings to children’s charities and also bought his wife a new car. He has proved to be a great ambassador for the game and made many friends. In the 2007 WSOP, his humility shone through and after the aggressive psychological battles he had with many of his defeated opponents, he shook their hands and told them in all sincerity, ‘I want you to know you have a friend for life’.
Yang’s 2011 autobiography, All In, From Refugee Camp to Poker Champ, traces two journeys, his family’s move from a Thai refugee camp to America and the subsequent success he enjoyed at the poker tables. In February 2012 he said his autobiography, All In, could be set to be made into a feature film. He said “I’m very excited and I’m praying, I’m really praying right now, We have a scheduled meeting already. My father and I will fly out and meet with this particular (film) company. This is my third meeting with them by the way, so hopefully we’ll be able to put something together that is agreeable with both sides.”
Throughout the 2007 WSOP tournament, Jerry Yang had been praying. Sometimes out loud, ‘Lord, put the ace or the 4 on the river’ and at other times quietly with his hands together. In the final hand of the final table, heads up with Tuan Lam.
Yang had just a 14% chance of winning the hand. His 8♦ 8♣ was looking weak against Lam’s A♦ Q♦ with 5♠ Q♣ 9♣ 7♦ on the table. Yang was pacing and mumbling into his clenched hands, as the river card was turned. Amazingly, it was a 6♥ and Yang had won $8.25 million with the 9 high straight. His family mobbed him as the crowd chanted ‘U.S.A!’
When interviewed afterwards however, Yang had to concede that though the win was important to him it was a day from his childhood that ranked as the ‘happiest day’ of his life.
Last updated May 2013