2007 WSOP Main Event Champion Jerry Yang has been through a lot in his life.
He fled Communist-occupied Laos, lived in a refugee camp in Thailand, won the WSOP Main Event for an epic $8.25 million, opened two restaurants, suffered the loss of his father, and had to deal with the IRS. Through it all, however, the 51-year-old has kept his priorities of family and faith forefront in his life.
Since his 2007 victory, Yang is among the most talked about and controversial former champion. So, what has Jerry Yang been up to since his win?
Restaurants and family first
In 2009, Jerry Yang opened his Merced, California restaurant Pocket 8’s Sushi and Grill with around half a million dollars of his poker winnings. Then, in 2015, Yang opened his second eatery, Dynamite Grill, in Las Vegas.
Sadly, however, after Dynamite Grill opened, Yang’s father was diagnosed with colon cancer. Family was and continues to be very important to Laotians, and especially to Yang whose father was a key figure in his life.
In fact, in Yang’s autobiography, All In, he described his life in Laos during the communist Vietnamese invasion during the 1970s and how his father took his family to Thailand where they stayed in a refugee camp for four years. The Yangs then came to the US. Because food was scarce, Yang always had the dream to open a restaurant and satisfy his own love of food.
After his father’s diagnosis, Yang became his father’s caretaker full-time, and he was subsequently forced to close Dynamite Grill. Then, tragically, his father passed. His dad’s death impacted the deeply-religious Yang, who skipped the WSOP that year (2016) altogether.
Following the loss of his father, Jerry Yang wanted to give back and enrolled in a two-year missionary program to help others in Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand who are struggling now like Yang did in the past. He hopes that when his kids are older, the family can participate in missionary activities together.
The mild-mannered refuge has been assailed for his public displays of his faith at the poker table. During his final table, Yang prayed aloud to win multiple hands, and this rubbed many people the wrong way.
Yang’s problems with the IRS
Back in March 2013, the IRS posted that it would be auctioning Jerry Yang’s belongings to pay delinquent taxes. Among these items were his 2007 WSOP Championship Corum bracelet, the Corum watch he also won at the Main Event, and several other expensive pieces of jewelry and watches.
Rumor has it that the bracelet was auctioned off in April 2013 to a 50-year-old male sports collector who paid $30,000—less than half the amount that Jamie Gold received for his 2006 Main Event bracelet and nearly five times less than what Peter Eastgate sold his 2008 bracelet for. Jerry said the possibility exists for him to get his bracelet back.
In an interview with Fifth Street Radio, Yang stated that in 2008, he paid his state taxes—over $900,000—but, thanks to poor financial advice for which he blamed himself—when time came to pay his federal taxes, the financial crisis that affected most banks—including Bank of America, where Yang had his money—resulted in Yang’s assets being frozen.
In addition to a federal tax lien of nearly $572,000, Yang found himself owing nearly $170,000 in back taxes. He admitted that he donated some of his winnings to several charities but should have paid his taxes first.
Has Jerry Yang played poker since his WSOP win?
Jerry Yang hasn’t played much poker since winning the Main Event. His biggest tournament payout since his heralded world championship was 5th place in the 2010 National Heads-Up Championship where he took home $75,000.
He managed several more cashes until 2016 in WSOP, World Poker Tour (WPT), Heartland Poker Tour (HPT), Bay 101, and various other Las Vegas-based events.
For posterity’s sake, take a look at his epic final hand from the 2007 WSOP here:
Jerry Yang today
The 51-year-old Yang has been working hard managing his successful—and busy—restaurant. Pocket 8’s has been doing well. For the past several years, it has been named Merced County’s “Best Restaurant” and “Best Japanese Restaurant.”
Yang loves being a businessman and restaurateur and interacting with his customers. While poker was fun at the time, he is relishing his family businesses. He has even recruited a few of his six children to help out. Yang also dabbles in real estate investing.
Jerry Yang seems like a genuinely nice guy with strong family ties and faith. Hopefully he can rebound from his problems, continue to operate a thriving restaurant, and return to the felt in the near future.
Until next time.
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