Jerry Yang, the (Poker) World Needs You Now

by Lou on July 20, 2007

Congratulations Jerry Yang. You played aggressive poker and won the Main Event at the 2007 World Series of Poker. You embody the American Dream. An ethnic Hmong from Laos, you came to America and built a successful life. You’re a family man with six children who took up poker only two years ago and won the biggest and most prestigious tournament in the world.

You won it despite starting with a short stack of chips when the final table began. You won a hand destined to go down in WSOP lore when you reraised Lee Childs and caused him to fold his pocket queens face up, on a board of 7-4-2.

You won more than $8 million and a bracelet emblematic of poker supremacy for 2007.

You won the hearts of millions when you said you would donate ten percent of your winnings to charity.

But if that bracelet feels a little heavy, it’s the responsibilities that come with it. You have inherited the mantle of poker leadership for 2007. You are poker’s public face for the next 12 months. You are its poster child.

Poker needs leadership. It needs leaders that people can look up to and respect. Too many people who haven’t dug deeply enough, and have no idea what the poker community is all about, still see our game as a nefarious activity. Poker is mainstreaming with each passing day, but it cannot survive the kind of blows pro football has taken in past months. Poker doesn’t need a public face who cavorts like Pac-Man Jones, or behaves as Michael Vick is alleged to. Pro football can and will survive these scandals. Poker couldn’t.

In recent years Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem did much to advance the public image of poker. Last year’s champion, Jamie Gold, didn’t do much of anything as poker’s ambassador. He was caught up in problems of his own that began when he failed to honor an agreement to split his $12 million winnings. A court case loomed. Gold settled a case he should never have let go as far as it did. He was hired by Bodog as their representative. Then Bodog abruptly dropped him. These sorts of things hurts poker’s reputation.

Gold, who is probably a better guy than his press and persona would have one believe, became the heavy rather than the hero after last year’s WSOP.

Jerry Yang, so far you’ve done everything right. You are humble. You did not rave about your poker skills. You thanked God and your family. You said you plan to put your children through college, allow your wife to quit working, and give back to the community.

You vowed to give 10 percent of his winnings to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Feed the Children, and the Ronald McDonald House.You said, “I had a strategy.” And that “The only way that I could win this tournament was by being aggressive from the very beginning and that’s exactly what I did.”

Jerry Yang, you said all the right things as you begin your reign as poker’s ambassador and public face for 2007.

Keep it up. Please. The responsibilities that come with that bracelet may be heavy, but we’re counting on you to do the heavy lifting. The poker community needs you.

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