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Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! A World Champion speaks
Although it's not unusual to see poker players finding a way to use their success to help others, few are as committed to that goal as Jerry Yang, this year's WSOP Main Event winner. Before the final table had even begun Yang pledged 10% of whatever he ended up winning to charity.
With each player that hit the rail, the amount of money that 10% represented continued to grow. When he took down the championship and the $8.25 million, Jerry Yang wasn't the only one celebrating.
Let's start with the obvious question. How have your lifestyle and the way people treat you in the poker world changed since you've become World Champion?
Overall it's been great. I've been meeting a lot of people, a lot of fans. Everyone in the poker world and everyone in general have been great. I'm very grateful and my life has changed tremendously, obviously for the better. My wife and I have both quit our jobs and so we've been able to spend more time with our kids. So my life in general has been great.
When you won you made it very clear that you were interested in using your success to help other people. Tell us about what you've been able to do since we last heard from you.
[Since] I won I've made arrangements to donate the 10% to the Ronald McDonald House, the Make a Wish Foundation and Feed the Children. But I've been really busy moving my family to our new home in central California.
I participated in a charity tournament for the Make a Wish Foundation and another one in San Diego with Matt Vasgersian, the announcer for the San Diego Padres.
In general I just try to spend as much time with my family as I can but it's been difficult with everything that's happening. I've been talking to the press and giving interviews and everything but it's been great.
What made you choose those three charities?
Well, I have six kids and children mean a lot to me; they have a very special place in my heart. Growing up as a young boy I was very poor so I do know what it means to be poor and to suffer and to be malnourished and so all of these three charities are designed to help these children.
Not only in America though, especially Feed the Children. Dr. Jones, who is the CEO of this organization told me that he is putting together a project in Kenya. So I really believe that this money will go a long way to help children not only in America but in other countries as well.
Are there any new projects in the works in terms of charitable works you'll be involved with in the future?
Absolutely, that's a great question. I made a promise to God that 10% of all future winnings would be donated to charity. Mainly it will be going to help children in this country and other places around the world.
Speaking about the future, how do you see yourself adapting to and handling your new role as poker ambassador for the next year?
I think I'm just going to have to take it one day at a time and see what comes my way. I want to be a good ambassador and try to protect the rights of poker players and the poker community in general, not only in America but overseas as well.
I'll do my best as a champion this year and, if I happen to win again next year I'll continue to do so. But obviously more likely I won't win again but I will still do my best to be a good ambassador for the game.
I have one final question. You've made it very clear that religion plays a big part in your life so how do you think poker and gambling in general can be reconciled with religion and what are your thoughts on that contrast?
You know, I think it really depends on the person. For me poker is a way to socialize with other people. Some people play to make a living, other people play for entertainment. Obviously all of us want to win and it's how you use the end results of that win. If you use it well and you find in your heart that you want to help the less fortunate then follow your heart. So it really is how you use the end result if you are able to win.
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While it's hard to believe that a man like Jerry Yang would even be allowed into a city like Las Vegas, it is refreshing to see someone who's not likely to refund the casino the $8.25 million win at the Main Event. With the pledge to donate 10% of his future winnings to charity, we can only hope that Yang continues to take down the world's biggest and best tournaments.