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"All In: From Refugee Camp to Poker Champ" Review

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TitleAll In: From Refugee Camp to Poker Champ
AuthorJerry Yang with Mark Tabb
Skill Levelany (history) / Beginner (poker strategy)1
ProsFascinating stories of Yang's escape from Laos and success at the poker table.
ConsYang's luck at the poker table is extraordinary,2 leaving his poker journey inspirational but nearly irreproducible.

Table of Contents
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1Prologue: The Longest of Long Shots
13In the Shadow of Vietnam1
29The Hmong Tom Sawyer2
43I Can Do This3
51Vegas or Bust4
63A Not-So-Distant Thunder5
85Two Tournaments, One Prize7
95Between the Rio and the Roach Motel8
109Through the Jungle9
137Across the Mekong11
151I Actually Belong Here12
163An Impossible Climb13
171Next Stop: The Final Table14
187A Place Where People Went to Die15
197The Happiest Day16
207Free at Last17
217On the Cusp of a Dream18
229Landing in Paradise19
241I'm All In20
253This Is America?21
265The Jerry Yang Show22
279Reaching for the American Dream23
291It All Comes Down to This24
299Postscript: The Heart of a Champion
305Appendix: Jerry's Winning Poker Strategies
3078 Things Beginning Players Need to Know
311Top 8 Rookie Mistakes
315Top 8 Tells
319Top 8 Hands to Play
321Basic Tournament Strategy

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Poker player Jerry Yang, not to be confused with the founder of Yahoo!, defied the odds to capture the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2007.

Most Main Event winners need an extra dose of luck, but for Yang, it's the story of his life. In his autobiography, All In: From Refugee Camp to Poker Champ, Yang (or more accurately, his ghostwriter Mark Tabb) deftly jumps back and forth detailing his two treacherous journeys, in poker and in life, where a single misstep could be fatal, one literally and the other figuratively. The book opens with the Californian heads-up at the World Series of Poker Main Event but then flashes back to the separate tracks of his childhood in Laos and the start of his poker career.

Although the title cleverly rhymes "camp" with "champ", Yang's beginnings were so humble that reaching the refugee camp was already a major accomplishment. Before leaving his birth country, he was so poor that he had never worn shoes or underwear and played soccer with pig-bladder balls and marbles with carved rocks. He, his family, and his entire village are in constant danger from North Vietnamese soldiers, crop failures, and Mother Nature, so his father decides to risk everything, as little as that is, to leave the country and hopefully relocate to the United States. Carrying just some food and a few of their meager belongings, they try to use the cover of darkness to reach the Mekong River, where they hope to find a way to cross into Thailand.

Meanwhile, Yang's poker story begins on his sofa, where he is enchanted by the World Series of Poker Main Event final table playing on ESPN. He quickly realizes that Texas Hold 'Em is about much more than the cards and is immediately hooked. He starts with a meager $50 bankroll, plays small tournaments in local casinos, and dreams of satelliting into the WSOP Main Event.

Yang needs significant amounts of good fortune to survive his two difficult journeys, but he's an intelligent, quick learner who goes from ESL3 classes to high school valedictorian. He also has the courage and ambition to rise from his impoverished youth to a successful career as a psychologist and family counselor and winner of the most coveted WSOP bracelet and $8,250,000 in 2007.

Sometimes you need to make your own luck.

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