Xao “Jerry” Yang, winner of the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event, owns an exceptional place in the history books of the professional poker community. Unlike most poker pro success stories, Jerry did not spend years playing the game of poker; did not learn to play as a young boy, developing his talents over the years; did not seek out a professional career playing poker. In fact, Jerry Yang only began playing poker just two years prior to his tremendous victory.
Born in 1968 in Laos, a small mountainous country in Southeast Asia. In the 1970′s, Laos became a communist country, provoking the Yang family to escape to Thailand. Four difficult years were spent in a refugee camp, where Jerry both lost a brother and a sister. In 1979, the family made their way to the United States. Jerry went on to earn a Masters Degree in Health Psychology from Loma Linda University in Southern California, which lead to a fruitful career as a psychologist and social worker.
Married with six children, Jerry had no intention of quitting his day job to play poker professionally. Yang merely played in occasional small tournaments in the California area. Prior to Yang’s 2007 WSOP victory, Jerry had only cashed in four local events.
Jerry Yang currently holds only two live poker tournament cashes and one WSOP Bracelet, yet his poker career earnings total higher than most professional poker players who’ve been studying the game for years – $8,251,324. His 2007 WSOP victory invoked instant fame for this highly aggressive poker player, jumping Yang from unknown and unranked, to world famous and ranking in the 8th position in all time money for live tournaments.
Jerry Yang and the WSOP
There is an amazing history leading up to Jerry Yang’s 2007 WSOP Championship. Yang entered a satellite event at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in his hometown of Temecula, California, investing a mere $225 USD to eventually come out on top, winning a seat in the 2007 WSOP Main Event.
As the final table of the WSOP got underway, Yang sat precariously with the 8th position in regards to chip count. As the match progressed, Yang aggressively sent seven of his eight opponents to the rails, quickly turning his low stack into a chip-lead that was never relinquished.
Eventually – on July 17, 2007 – Yang went heads-up again Tuan Lam, coming down to the final hand – Yang’s 8c-8d versus Lam’s Ad-Qd. Lam caught a Queen on the Flop, but Yang found a 9-high Straight on the River. After lasting nearly 16-hours at the final table, Yang had done it – he won the 2007 World Series of Poker Championship, claiming his first (and thus far only) WSOP Bracelet and a massive prize purse of $8,250,000. The event ended at local time 3:35am, landing Jerry Yang in the 8th ranked position in the all-time money list in live tournaments.
As the Main Event had progressed, before Yang’s victory came full circle, he made a heartfelt decision. As soon as he knew he would finish in the money, Jerry Yang declared that 10% of his winnings – no matter what they turned out to be – would be donated to charity. Yang stayed true to his promise, donating 10% of his multi-million dollar prize money to three charitable organizations – the Ronald McDonald House, the Make A Wish Foundation and Feed The Children.
Jerry Yang’s Other Achievements
Yang has only cashed in one major poker event aside from his 2007 WSOP victory. Three months after his championship, Yang was seated at Binions Poker Open in Las Vegas, Nevada. Yang finished in 14th position playing Event #21 No Limit Hold’em Championship, for a small prize of $1,324.
Jerry Yang Outside of Poker
When he’s not playing poker, Jerry Yang is usually found at his favorite place, home. Yang continues to serve Southern California as a psychologist and social worker. Yang enjoys many hobbies in his spare time, including hiking and camping, water sports, golf, dancing, reading, working for charities and “anything that is fun”. Yang enjoys Jazz and Pop music, and is a huge fan of Oprah Winfrey.
Jerry Yang currently resides in Temecula, California with his wife and six children, whose pictures he makes sure to kiss just before going all-in in a poker hand. It is Yang’s ambition to one day own his own business (or businesses), while also becoming one of the professional poker communities most successful and respected players.