- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 19, 2007

LAS VEGAS — Jerry Yang, a 39-year-old psychologist who uses his professional training in his card-playing arsenal, won the $8.25 million top prize yesterday at the World Series of Poker.

Mr. Yang vaulted quickly from eighth to the chip lead soon after play began Tuesday afternoon.

He knocked out seven of the eight other players at the final table, reminiscent of last year when Jamie Gold ran over his opponents. The main difference, Mr. Yang did it from the back of the pack.

“The only way I would win this tournament is to be aggressive from the very beginning and that’s exactly what I did,” he said.

An ethnic Hmong who grew up poor in Laos, Mr. Yang said before the final table began that he would donate 10 percent of his winnings to charity, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Feed the Children, the Ronald McDonald House and his alma mater, Loma Linda University.

He won his way into the main event from a $225 satellite tournament at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif., and began playing poker only two years ago.

Despite his 5-foot-3-inch stature — often standing up from his seat to move chips or stare down opponents — Mr. Yang was an intimidating force at the table from the beginning.

He aggressively raised pots and became the first player at the table to go all-in. On the ninth hand, he forced Lee Childs, a 35-year-old software engineer from Reston, Va., to fold pocket queens, face up, on a board with a seven, four and deuce.

Mr. Yang began heads-up play with a giant chip lead against Tuan Lam, a 40-year-old professional online poker player from Mississauga, Ontario. Mr. Yang had 104.5 million in chips to Mr. Lam’s 23.0 million.

On the last hand, with a huge mound of cash deposited on the felt, Mr. Lam moved all-in with an ace and queen of diamonds and Mr. Yang called with pocket eights.

When a queen, five and nine came on the flop, it looked like Mr. Lam, waving a Canadian flag, would be on the verge of a miracle comeback, making a pair of queens for the lead.

But a seven on the turn and a six on the river gave Mr. Yang a straight, sealing a win in which he dominated the final table from the moment the nine finalists sat down.

“I’ve seen the miracles of God with my own eyes,” Mr. Yang said. “I did a lot of bluffing, also.”

Mr. Lam, who earned $4,840,981 for his second-place finish, was also a refugee who found his way to Canada from Vietnam. He said he would be returning to his village, Bao Trinh, to help those who need it.

“I was patient and waited for the big hand, but the cards came out different,” Mr. Lam said. “I have been through a hard life. And I will be going back to Vietnam and giving back.”

Play at the final table began at noon in Las Vegas and didn’t finish till nearly 4 a.m.

The finalists ranged in age from 22 to 62, and hailed from five nations: the United States, Canada, Russia, England and South Africa. By birthplace, players also were from Laos, Vietnam and Denmark.

Nine players who began the day were all that remained from a field of 6,358 players who began to play down in stages July 6. Everyone paid or won $10,000 to enter the main event, the biggest poker tournament of the year.

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