World Series of Poker Winner

***SPOILER ALERT. The name of the tournament winner appears below.***

After 6,358 players began the World Series of Poker on July 6, a winner has emerged.

Jerry Yang took home a cool $8,250,000. You feel good for the guy, especially when you hear his story. When he was 13, his Hmong family fled war-torn Laos to come to the USA.

“The communists invaded my country back in the ’70s,” he said. “My family immigrated to Thailand. In fact, we escaped. We got caught by the communists once. It was either be killed or try to escape again. We managed to escape to Thailand and I spent the next four years in a refugee camp.”

“I started doing the A-B-C’s and (counting) 1-2-3 at age 13, and with God’s goodness and love I graduated from high school with honors, went to college and graduated with honors,” he said.

“I lived in the mountains, very, very poor,” he said. “I didn’t own a ball or marbles. Whenever my parents killed a pig, we would use the bladders and blow it up and use it as a fell to play. That’s how poor I was.”

“Children mean a lot to me. I have six kids of my own. I remember being a child myself when I came through the refugee camp,” he said. “I understand how bad it is to suffer nutritionally, physically. I used to have a big old stomach when I was in a Thailand refugee camp because we didn’t have good nutrition.”

You also have to respect that he’s donating 10% of his winnings to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Feed the Children and Ronald McDonald House.

Interestingly enough, Yang was thanking God at every turn. (Apparently, God doesn’t have a problem with that gambling thing anymore…)

Yang didn’t have to pay the $10,000 entry fee for the tournament because he won a satellite tournament (entry fee: $225) where the prize was a seat at the main event.

“So my total investment at this point is $225,” he said. “I’m living a dream, and all the credit goes to my God.”

Jamie Reidy writes at the Huffington Post about the WSOP final table:

Jerry Yang rose above this motley collection with a nearly saintly aura, which wasn’t surprising considering he is a fulltime member of the God Squad. We’ve all seen athletes “Give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ” after winning a big game, but I’ve never witnessed a competitor bear witness during the actual competition. JY spoke to JC frequently.

During one tense “all in” versus Lee Watkinson, Mr. Yang promised that if victorious, “I will glorify your name, Lord.” Apparently, God hates Lee Watkinson. Later on, Jerry declared, “Your power is the greatest, Lord.” I don’t have to tell you how that hand turned out.

Yang also knew what he had to do to win:

“I had a strategy last night. The only way that I could win this tournament was by being aggressive from the very beginning and that’s exactly what I did,” he said. “And thank God I was also able to pick up some good cards at the same time.”

One of the best or worst parts of the WSOP, depending on your perspective, is that there is so much luck involved in the game that most of the “big names” in poker get knocked out well before the last hand is dealt. The final table tends to consist of a lot of random people who had a combination of incredible luck and good enough skill. Someone in that 6000+ crowd is going to win. It’s not a miracle that any particular person does. And everyone has a story to tell.

To win, you just need to know when to fold, when to raise, how to bluff… and you hope the cards you need will show up at the right times.

Last year’s winner, Jamie Gold, attributed his victory to his style of game:

“I was just lucky sometimes, and sometimes I outplayed people,” said Gold, a 36-year-old Malibu, Calif., resident. “I just feel really fortunate. I was playing some great poker. The best poker of my life.”

That makes much more sense.

Obviously, God didn’t help Yang win. I wonder what Yang would’ve said if the cards didn’t go his way after he said, “I will glorify your name, Lord” when he needed a winning hand. I wonder when people will realize that the rules of probability say that sometimes, things will go your way; other times it won’t. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Poker is all about playing the odds.

As an atheist, it’s frustrating to hear athletes (or whatever you call poker players) talk about God when there’s no way to respond to it. If the person wins, God wanted it to be so. If the person lost, God wanted it to be so.

Why bother invoking God’s name in the first place?

And what is the proper response?


[tags]atheist, atheism, World Series of Poker, Jerry Yang, Thailand, Hmong, God, Jamie Reidy, Huffington Post, WSOP, Jesus Christ, Lee Watkinson, Jamie Gold[/tags]

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    The response is “Unholy Lord Lucifer, I will glorify your fetid name even more if I win and if this little shrimp loses. Further, I’ll give 20% to Ronald McDonald House because of all they do to promote heart disease!”

  • http://skeptigator.com Skeptigator

    I don’t think there is a “proper” response because no one is asking us (I mean atheists in general) what we think.

    Honestly, you can’t point to the Christian bible for teachings against gambling. You can find references to the evils of the love of money (Hebrews 13:5) but not gambling. You can even find all kind of Christian apologetics against gambling but the biblical basis is very tenuous and very open to interpretation (surprise!!!).

    Personally I think god did help him. I mean the way some of those hands played out, man, there had to be some kind of intelligent design behind the way those cards were dealt ;) Just kidding.

    Best overheard quote from WSOP:
    “My god, My god. Why have you forsaken me.” — Chris “Jesus” Ferguson after getting knocked out.

  • http://mollishka.blogspot.com mollishka

    “My god, My god. Why have you forsaken me.” — Chris “Jesus” Ferguson after getting knocked out.

    Ha!

  • Polly

    Pretty much what Skeptigator said.

    There’s no biblical injunction against gambling.
    The proper response is to be happy that he’s come so far from such a disadvantaged background and for donating part of his winnings. The End.

  • James

    Personally I would like to think that Yang was supposed to win over the others because of his history. You know, a little positive karma for his family and those who will benefit from his donation.

  • http://misanthropic-bastard.blogspot.com/ Rasputin

    “So my total investment at this point is $225,” he said. “I’m living a dream, and all the credit goes to my God.”

    The credit certainly doesn’t go to his playing ability. He got the aggression thing right but holy hell did he call with some crap.

  • Maria

    Pretty much what Skeptigator said.

    There’s no biblical injunction against gambling.
    The proper response is to be happy that he’s come so far from such a disadvantaged background and for donating part of his winnings. The End.

    I agree. I mean, you can think it’s silly, but if people like him want to thank their God, that’s their thing. Personally, I really don’t care either way, and I guess I don’t see why it’s such a big deal.


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