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Hand History Time Capsule: Jerry Yang

Hand History Time Capsule: Jerry Yang

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Jul 13, 2011


The World Series of Poker main event has historically been home to some of poker’s most infamous and interesting hands. 2007 was no exception, as an amateur player named Jerry Yang, who entered the main event after winning a $225 live satellite, outlasted a massive field of 6,358 to take home $8.25 million in prize money.

Remarkably, Yang entered the final table as the second-shortest stack, but by implementing a hyperaggressive playing style, the Californian was able to mow through his competition, en route to eliminating all but one of his opponents in the grueling 12-hour contest. His full-throttle mindset started the moment he was dealt two cards, as his opening raises were typically massive relative to the blinds. For example, one hand with pocket eights, with the blinds at 120,000-240,000, Yang opened the action to 2.5 million — good for more than 10 times the big blind.

Yang’s aggression was able to help him get his opponents to make ill-timed bluffs, as well as fold the superior hand on numerous occasions. Yang didn’t have much to work with when he made it to the final table in 2007, but his playing style turned out to be the perfect strategy for him to overcome the chip deficit and make a run toward the title.
Here is a brief look at a series of hands in the early stages of the final table that helped Yang build momentum and confidence in his fearless pursuit of the bracelet:

Jerry Yang Shoves, Gets Lee Childs to Fold an Overpair

The Hand

With the blinds at 120,000-240,000, Childs raised to 720,000 with pocket queens. Yang, on Childs’ immediate left, looked down at a pair of jacks and three-bet to 2.5 million. Action was folded back to Childs, and he made the call. With 5.6 million in the middle, the flop came 7Club Suit 4Diamond Suit 2Club Suit. Childs bet 3 million into his aggressive opponent, and Yang quickly announced all in for 7.78 million more. Childs had him covered, and went into the tank. He eventually folded the ladies faceup, and Yang, looking visibly shaken, raked in the pot of nearly 20 million.

Jerry Yang Bets Big, Sets Up Aggressive Table Dynamic With Phillip Hilm

The Hand

With the blinds at 120,000-240,000, Yang raised to 2.5 million from the cutoff, and Hilm made the call from the big blind with the KHeart Suit QSpade Suit. The flop was awesome for Yang, as it came AHeart Suit 10Diamond Suit 8Spade Suit. Hilm checked, and Yang didn’t slow-play his set. He bet 3 million, and Hilm called with just a gutshot-straight draw. The turn brought the 3Diamond Suit, and Hilm checked once again. Yang shoved all in for 12.92 million. Hilm had his opponent covered, but gave up on his draw and mucked. Yang raked in the pot and was building steam, as the hand catapulted him to the chip lead with 25 million.

Jerry Yang Keeps Firing, Eliminates Phillip Hilm in Ninth

The Hand

Less than one orbit later after the previous hand with Hilm (with the blinds still at 120,000-240,000), Yang raised to 1 million with big slick, and Hilm called out of position again, this time out of the small blind with suited connectors. The flop came KDiamond Suit JDiamond Suit 5Club Suit, and Hilm checked. Yang fired 2 million, and the bet was quickly called by Hilm. The 2Heart Suit fell on the turn, and Hilm checked again. Yang bet 4 million, and Hilm moved all in for 12.4 million more. Yang made the call and flipped over the AHeart Suit KSpade Suit. Hilm showed 8Diamond Suit 5Diamond Suit, and the crowd reacted with a mix of glee, disappointment, and excitement.

The river brought the 6Club Suit, and Hilm was eliminated in ninth place. He played an aggressive game early, but Yang was more aggressive and had position in the key spots, as the Scandinavian went from the largest chip stack at the start of the day to the first player to be eliminated. After the hand, Yang was the overwhelming chip leader, as he had a third of the chips in play with more than 44 million. The title proved to be all his after gaining the massive chip lead with the elimination of the former chip leader.

How the Hand Histories Look Now

It seems likely Yang would have been eliminated early from the final table if he was just in the business of surviving and trying to move up the payout ladder. However, the amateur clearly had one thing in mind — scooping up all the chips in play. His hyperaggressive style was perfect for his seat position, chip stack, and experience level against a tough final table that also included Lee Watkinson, Hevad Khan, and Alexander Kravchenko.

So, where do you think Yang’s performance ranks among those of other main-event winners? Could Yang have won with a more conservative, survivalist strategy? Could you argue he was just the beneficiary of bad plays by his opponents, such as the blowup of Hilm? Should less experienced players implement his style of raising large preflop in order to make post-flop decisions easier? Those questions are for you to answer. ♠