Joseph Cheong’s Winning and Generous Ways!
By: Jan Fisher
It was approaching November and the Final Nine had been interviewed, photographed, and celebrated with all the hype befitting royalty. While all of the players are, no doubt, fine young men, one in particular stood out to Poker Gives. We first heard about Joseph Cheong from Gene Castro, one of his agents, at Poker Players International. Gene let us know that Joseph had agreed to do us the honor of wearing a PokerGives.Org patch at the WSOP main event final table, thereby promoting our fundraising efforts and helping to get the Poker Gives name out to the public. We were doubly pleased when told that, Joseph, had pledged a cash donation to Poker Gives from his winnings. He really showed his colors when, after finishing in third place, he doubled the amount he’d originally pledged to us. On behalf of Poker Gives, I thank you Joseph for your generosity and wish you continued success in your ventures. At such a young age and with such maturity already in tow, we know you’ll go far in the poker world or in whatever endeavors you choose to undertake.
I’ve been around the poker world for more than 30 years, and watched my first WSOP main event in 1977! At that time, there were 34 entries. There was no hype or TV and if you check the record books, there isn't even a reliable account of the final five players! The tournament was winner-take-all, and Doyle Brunson, the victor, took home the total purse of $340,000. In 2010, you could have made that amount by finishing in 18th place… my how times have changed! Doyle wasn’t even called Pappa or the Grandfather of Poker at that time; he was a young man and Joseph Cheong hadn't even been born.
I have witnessed many live productions of “made-for-TV poker” over the years but never have I felt the electricity or excitement that I felt during the 2010 WSOP final table taping. I had been reluctant to go to the Rio for the final table but wanted to meet the gentleman who surely would be a great promoter/ambassador to and for Poker Gives. I not only found Joseph to be a laid back, kind, and humble man, but I had the great pleasure of also meeting his parents – who certainly were witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for their family. Unassuming, they were sitting in the high balcony section until Gene Castro saw them and escorted them to the main stage to sit behind their son, who was about to make history.
While the players battled on the felt, I watched as Joseph’s quiet demeanor and aggressive style allowed him to stay afloat while one by one the others fell. Maybe it was his first six years in Seoul, South Korea or his upbringing in Southern California that taught him the discipline he showed throughout the grueling event? Perhaps it was a combination of the three degrees he earned at the University of California, San Diego that included mathematics, economics, and psychology? Not a bad resume to bring to the poker table. Whatever it was, Joseph continued the style that got him to the Final Nine, finishing third and taking home in excess of $4 million.
Poker Gives extends a huge standing ovation to this fine young man along with a most sincere thank you for his generous donation and for bringing to the poker table the type of class and demeanor we could only have dreamed our champion would show. Joseph, you are an honorable man and please know that you have helped not only to spread the word about the Poker Gives charity, but you have already learned what making a difference is all about. We always will be in your corner.