[Interview] Yang Zhang experiences health scare before winning a bracelet


Chinese poker player Yang Zhang won the WSOP $3,000 No Limit Hold’em (Event 44) for a career high payout of $717,789. Somuchpoker had a chance to chat with Zhang about his thrilling WSOP adventure. He shared the ups and downs, and his heart condition that subdued the milestone moment.

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Yang Zhang – Photo by WSOP / Pokernews

SMP: How many years have you been coming to the WSOP? 

Yang Zhang: This is my sixth year. I was here 2015 to 2019 then I came back this year. Before 2019, I was a full time poker player, but after 2019, I actually retired. I found it was very hard to improve my skills. I knew my play was not very good. I felt I could no longer compete with others because they were younger and they were more energetic. I was also doing financial investment at the time and couldn’t dedicate time to poker. Then this year, I decided to start playing poker again. So I came here to the WSOP. I was playing very bad at the start then I found there were parts where I could improve. I improved a lot, here at the series, for the month that I’ve spent playing poker.

SMP: That’s great to hear! Can you elaborate?

Yang Zhang: I’ve been able to read tells, get an idea of what players are thinking by looking at their eyes and face. I do it based on statistics. If you have some symbols (signs), I can mark it as you are nervous. People usually have five or six symbols (signs) to indicate that they are nervous, but if there are ten of them, then they are just pretending to be nervous. Also with some statistics, you can deviate from the GTO. If you find others that deviate then you can exploit it. I found that I can improve and have improved a lot in that area.

SMP: That must have helped you win a bracelet. How did it feel to see your improvement turn to gold? 

Yang Zhang: I think my answer will disappoint you. On Day 3, I had a heart attack at the table. I had a heart disease before but not severe. Usually it will speed very fast for two to three minutes but this time it lasted for two hours. I could still play poker so I looked at it as not very severe. But the bracelet wasn’t so important anymore. When I won it, I was very calm. I had to stay calm. Everyone else was so happy for me, my family, even my son’s teacher texted to congratulate me. Actually the whole high school found out.

SMP: I’m glad to see you are much better. That seemed to be quite a scare. How did you continue?

Yang Zhang: When I came back on Day 4, the final day, there were 15 players left, I was ranked 3rd in chips. A lot of friends helped me, supported me, and they would give me information on my opponents. That was very memorable for me. But I wasn’t playing my normal game. Players were tight, even me, because of the ICM pay jump. It was big. I decided to go back to playing my normal way, keep staying calm. I started seeing my chips grow and then I won it.

SMP: Does this mean you will slow down in playing poker or play more now that you’ve won? 

Yang Zhang: The most important thing to me is knowing that I can improve. That’s the most important. I now feel I have an advantage over some of the younger players and so I will continue to play. But this year I’m not sure about poker. Next year I plan to do two EPT stops and maybe WSOP, but probably not from beginning to end.

SMP: What is your favorite poker destination?

Yang Zhang: If there is no tax, then the WSOP. Otherwise I think Barcelona because Monte Carlo is too expensive.

SMP: One more question. How about revealing one of your poker secrets, what’s your favorite hand?

Yang Zhang: Around 2017 it used to be 5-4 suited. Now my favorite hand is Ace-5 suited. You should shove Ace-5 suited but not with Ace-Queen suited. With Ace-Queen you should always just call. When you are up against a big hand like Queens or Ace-King, shoving with Ace-Five suited is much better than Ace-Queen suited.

SMP: Thanks for the tip!

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Tricia David

Tricia David has long experience as a recreational poker player and has been covering poker events since 2010 for numerous outfits in Asia. She spent one year working part time with Poker Portal Asia then became editor and lead writer for all event coverage of the Philippine Poker Tour (PPT). Under the PPT, she overlooked content for their website, and produced live updates on all their events. In addition, she served as the live and online events website content writer for the Asian Poker Tour. Currently, she does live events reporting in Asia for online news site Somuchpoker and is also one of their news contributors.

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