Tuesday, June 14, 2011


 Good day all,
From time to time I meet people who in addition to being successful are doing things that inspire me. Jerry Yang is such a person. You have to hear his story of hardship and life threatening struggles to understand what I mean. In-spite of all the fame he has never forgotten his roots, and is constantly helping his community and charities around the country. He is truly an inspiration:

AJ: Let’s get started. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Jerry Yang. He is the 2007 World Series of Poker Champion, and I wanted to go into how he has transformed that success into being a great business man, and also helping the community, doing Charity work, everything that you would expect from a great business man and a great person in general.
Thank you for giving me your time today Mr. Yang, let’s start with a little bit of background for people who are not familiar with the poker scene and may have some preconceived ideas of what makes a poker champ. They may think you come from a background of being born with a silver spoon in your mouth and all you do all day is just practice poker. That’s not really your background is it?
Jerry Yang (JY): No not all, in fact I grew up in a very poor family in Laos. As a little boy I was always, always hungry. With very little food I remember I didn’t have any shoes, I didn’t have any balls to play with. Basically no toys. As a little boy I was very poor. Even though my father was an accomplished hunter, there are years where Mother Nature can really do things to you and your family that there is nothing really that you can do. For example there was one year where a whole bunch of grasshoppers devoured our farm and our rice field. We were very hungry that year. I remember walking door to door with my grandmother to basically beg people for rice. In my country, and I think in any country when everybody is hungry it’s hard for you to go to somebody’s store to beg for food. I remember people were shutting doors in my face, and things like that. So even worse the communist invaded my country. My family attempted to scape to our neighboring country Thailand, and we got caught by the communist soldier. At one point I remember a communist soldier pointed his AK-47 right at my forehead. For a minute I thought I was going to be shot. Due to the grace of God we were let go and few weeks later we made it to Thailand. Living in the refugee camp in Thailand for almost 5 years, I witnessed my brother and my sister die. Just, just, in a nutshell no I didn’t come from a family with allot of wealth you know. My father had to work very hard just like any other low income family just to put food on the table. I was just fortunate to win. I won a satellite (competition) at an Indian casino in Southern California in 2007, and I had the option of taking the $10,000 home or take a seat in the World Series. It was a tough decision when you have 6 kids like me. It was a tough decision. Thank God I took the seat and I came to Vegas, and played in 2007 and won the whole thing. To answer your question, yes I came from a very poor background.
AJ: Let’s dig a little bit into your time at the refugee camp. I can’t even imagine what you went through. What was it that kept you going day in and day out?  What gave you the strength to keep going?
JY: You know I have to use the word Hope. (Emotional)  because you know in life if you don’t have hope you are not going to get anywhere. I gave my thanks to God and also you know to the American people, especially the government of this great country for giving  me and my family the opportunity to come to America and to really taste that freedom. That’s what I wanted.
AJ: I can hear the emotions coming through your voice. I am glad you mentioned that because most people who come and immigrate to this country have a greater appreciation for what we have than allot of the people that were born here. I can really hear the emotion coming through your voice, and if you need to take a few minutes please by all means just let me know.
JY: Thank you.
AJ: So as far as getting into the poker scene you mentioned you won a satellite championship at an Indian casino. How long did it take you as far as playing poker to reach that level to be offered a seat at the championship? Was it the first time you played poker, or was it something you were doing for a while.
JY: I discovered poker in 2005. One evening I was sitting on the sofa with my wife and I saw the year that Joe Hanson (?) won. Being a psychologist I watched the body gestures very closely and I watched how they you know play each other, not necessarily the cards, but the way they played each other mentally. That really fascinated me, and I remember pointing to the T.V. and telling my wife honey you know I can do that and if I win, I will use the money for good. So to make a long story short I discovered poker in 2005, and playing $25 buy in on the weekends you know the tournaments, and to my surprise I started winning and again I used some of the psychological skills that I have at the table. So in 2007 I won the satellite (tournament) with 225 participants. I beat 187 players that day so they gave me a seat at the World Series. So I took the seat instead of the $10,000 and came to Vegas and won the whole thing. So I have been playing since 2005.
AJ: Did you ever consider giving up?
JY: Oh no, not at all. You mean Poker?
AJ: Yes
JY: No not at all. Because Poker really fascinates me. I really love playing poker, and although when you have 6 kids you can’t really gamble your food money or your mortgage money or your car payment money. I made a promise to my wife I would only take 5% of my paycheck every month and play with that. I kept my promise to her and I communicated with her throughout my whole career as a poker player (laughs). Not really a career, but whatever I did back then I would open up to her and I would let her know what was going on. I think that is one point I want to make, I think it is very very important for people who are married to be honest with their spouse and to really disclose what ever winning or whatever loss that you have. That in itself will also improve your game because the less pressure, the less problems, the less hardship you have at home, the greater of a player you will become at the poker table. Because you don’t want all these stresses to go with you to the poker table and one way to eliminate those stresses is by being honest with your family and just be open with them. I think that is important.
AJ: Excellent, and having the discipline to stick with the rule of 5%. That is what usually gets people into trouble as far as gambling isn’t it?
JY: Oh absolutely. That is I mean, I know players now days, players, I am not going to name any names, but they win $250,000 in one week and then they lost $300,000 the next week. You know it’s just, I don’t think I can do that. You know it really takes discipline to really play the game that you love. You know sometimes, if you don’t practice discipline and patience you can lose all of it in one day. So I refuse to be like that.
Be sure to visit Jerry's website at:  

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