LAST YEAR'S World Series of Poker winner, Hollywood producer Jamie Gold, cheated during the tournament (he flashed one of his cards to an opponent) and later went to court in a squabble with a business partner over his winnings. This year's champion seems a less contentious sort. Jerry Yang, 39, is a churchgoing Christian who snuck into a Binion's Horseshoe bathroom to pray after nearly busting out of the WSOP on Day Three. Yang (above), who was raised on a rice farm in Laos and is now a social worker in Temecula, Calif., said he would donate 10% of his $8.25 million prize to charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
His family fled the Laotian Communist regime under cover of night, and after four years in a Thai refugee camp, they moved to Memphis in 1979. "It was the happiest day of my life," Yang says. "Like heaven." Yang, who learned to play poker two years ago from books and television, could be a fine ambassador for poker websites—if he ever used them. "I try to be there for my six kids," he says. "I hear horror stories about addiction and about playing four online games at once. If I go online, that would take me away from them."