Jerry Yang’s 2007 WSOP Corum Watch on eBay
If you want to own a piece of poker history, you have until Thursday night (EST) to go for it. The Corum Admiral’s Cup watch awarded to Jerry Yang for winning the 2007 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event is being auctioned off on eBay.
The watch is not actually being sold by Yang himself, but rather a third party who came into possession of it last year. Last spring, Yang had sixteen pieces of jewelry, including the watch and his 2007 WSOP Main Event bracelet, seized by the Internal Revenue Service and auctioned off because he owed back taxes. According to the Notice of Encumbrances posted on the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website, Yang had a massive federal tax lien of $571,894.54, plus a few thousand owed to the state of California.
On April 4th, 2013, the items were sold at auction by the IRS. The eBay seller apparently bought the Corum WSOP watch, a Movado watch, and a Wittnauer watch, lots four, five, and seven of the auction, according to documentation he posted with the eBay listing. As this article is being written, there have been 38 bids on the Corum watch, with a top bid of $1,500. The auction ends at 8:14pm EST Thursday. The seller wrote in the listing that the watch “retails by Corum for more than $9000 and that is without the provenance of having been won during the World Series of Poker Main Event.” Looking at listings for similar Corum Admiral’s Cup watches on online jewelry retailer Ashford.com, full retail price seems to be anywhere from $6,550 to $22,000, depending on the specific watch. The prices listed for sale on the site, though, range from $3,115 to $11,000. There does not seem to be an exact match for Yang’s watch (it was, after all, awarded seven years ago), but it perhaps looks most like one on the least expensive end of the scale. As the seller said, though, its historical significance could add to the value, depending on the prospective buyer.
Jerry Yang’s tax troubles were, according to the Main Event champion himself, the result of unintentionally poor decision-making after his $8.25 million victory. In an interview with Fifth Street Radio in March 2013, Yang explained the mess:
I did pay my state taxes, over $900,000. Unfortunately, I’m not going to blame anybody but myself, but I encountered people that I thought I could trust and would give me good advice, but unfortunately some of the people that I hired or got on my team were advising me in the wrong way, if you will. So I did make some mistakes, and what made the matter worse was that in April of 2008, when it was time to pay the federal tax, there was a financial crisis with the Bank of America, and that’s where I put my money in. Unfortunately, all my funds were locked away, were frozen if you will, and so I wasn’t able to pay my federal taxes on time. Due to penalties the amount that I owed at that point, after I paid everything, I owed roughly between $150,000-$170,000 due to penalties and things like that. That’s why I owe the IRS a little bit more than that today. That is basically the story. Again, I don’t have anybody to blame but myself.
When he won the World Series of Poker Main Event, Jerry Yang pledged ten percent of his winnings (in sum) to three charities: the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Feed the Children, and the Ronald McDonald House. He made good on that promise, though he said he made the mistake of making the contributions before paying taxes, thus leaving himself with less money in the bank.
Yang also put $540,000 down in 2009 to open Pocket 8’s Sushi and Grill in Merced, California, a restaurant he named after his Main Event winning hand. In the Fifth Street Radio interview, he said that the restaurant was doing well, so he wasn’t worried about his future well-being. The restaurant has gotten mediocre reviews on Yelp, being reviewed 99 times and earning just two and a half out of a possible five stars. Negative reviews tend to focus on the service and the quality of the sushi. Reviews of non-sushi items are mixed, but are generally positive, even if not glowing. While some customers are turned off by the abundance of poker and Jerry Yang-centric décor, those who have met him at the restaurant have said he is extremely nice.
No matter his tax problems or what one thinks of him as a poker player, it would be an extremely rare occurrence to hear someone say an unkind word about Jerry Yang as a person. He was generally criticized by poker fans for being a luckbox who just got hit by the deck at the final table, but at the same time, he has never made himself out to be the poker gods’ gift to the game. No, his face won’t be on the Mount Rushmore of poker, but he enjoyed his moment and remained humble and most poker fans were able to appreciate that.