The Amazing Story of Jerry Yang

by Lou on November 2, 2007

Sometimes success and wealth can change someone for the worst, almost overnight, or so it seems. But not everyone. Not Jerry Yang.

Amy Calistri and I had Jerry Yang on Keep Flopping Aces, our Internet radio show that is webcast on every Thursday night at 6 p.m. Pacific Time. He became an instant millionaire eight times over when he won the World Series of Poker’s main event last summer, and promised during his victory speech to give a portion of his winning to charity.

He also told us that ten percent of his future winnings will go to charity. Jerry and his wife have both quit their jobs, and when I asked what he plans to do with all his free time, he told us that he plans to spend much more time with his family and plans to do more charity work. It’s not like he is a stranger to helping people. He was a social worker until very recently, and his life’s focus has always been on good work and helping people.

He has six kids and has already set aside money to pay for their college education. He said he doesn’t want his kids to have to do what he did when, as a poor immigrant attending college, he had to sweep out the gym and do other jobs to keep him in books and food while he attended classes.

Some people are quick to deny their roots and forget where they come from once they make it. Others—and it seems like it’s far fewer—reach back and offer a hand up the ladder to those who are facing the same struggles they did.

We spent nearly an hour on the air with Jerry Yang. He is down to earth, humble, grateful for his blessings, and a strong family man with a conscience.

The interview with Jerry Yang will be on the website in a few days, and will be able to be downloaded as an i-Tunes podcast too.

Jerry Yang is the real deal. He had a very focused strategy in mind for the final table at this year’s WSOP. He followed it and he won. He also has a strategy for his life. And he’s following that too.

Yang is an amazing guy with an immigrant’s story that embodies the American dream. Along with his family he escaped the horrors of Southeast Asia, spent four years in a refugee camp, came to this country with nothing, learned the language, put himself through college and graduate school, and was an American success story. The WSOP win is merely the icing on the cake. All the hard work and heavy lifting was done earlier.

Each of us has an immigrant’s tale in our family history. My great-grandfather walked across Europe to Amsterdam—a journey of three years—at the beginning of the Twentieth Century to sail in steerage to America. The story of poverty, privation, and struggle is similar to Jerry’s. Only the time and locales differ.

Spending an hour talking with Jerry Yang brought it all back home. Maybe each of us needs to be reminded of our family roots every now and then to see our own lives with fresh eyes. It’s nourishment for the soul.

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