PokerUpdate.com contributor Robbie Strazynski caught up with PokerStars Pro Jennifer Shahade at the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas and talked about a wide variety of topics including being at the PCA, being an ambassador for PokerStars and Mindsports, her love of chess, her charity Nine Queens, and much more. Check it out for yourself!
And be sure to stick with PokerUpdate here and on Twitter @PokerUpdate to get all the updates at the 2016 PCA!
Hi everybody, this is Robbie Strazynski here for PokerUpdate.com at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure 2016. I’m here with the lovely Jennifer Shahade. How are you?
Hey! I’m great.
So Day 2 is about to start. I’m excited.
Day 2 of the Main Event?
Yeah, that’s right.
Are you going to kick some butt?
That’s the plan.
What’s your chip stack at the moment?
It’s like 45,000.
And the average is?
I think it’s about that. I actually didn’t even check.
Okay, but we know you’re an above average poker player, so it’s just a matter of time until we see you in the winner’s circle.
That’s right! Of course.
Well, thank you very much for joining us here. Our audience here at PokerUpdate is very interested in the personalities behind the game, not just the chip counts, but the type of stuff you do away from the table, why you’re with PokerStars, and that sort of thing. So let’s ask you some interesting questions that I think 3 years from now, or 5 years from now people are going to be like: “Oh wow, that’s really cool. She’s a really great lady.”
You mean they don’t care that I have 45,400 chips? It’s not going to matter in 5 years?
Well, if you win then they’ll know that on Day 2 that’s exactly what you started with. Then when we play poker trivia, that’s going to be the question that wins someone a flight to the PCA.
How long have you been coming to the PCA?
I think this is my 5th year, but I used to come and play in these PokerStars women packages. I think they still have them actually, where you have a seat to the women’s event and come for a few days. So this is only my 3rd trip where I played the Main Event.
Oh, okay, that’s interesting. What other events do you play while you’re here? Do you have a plan when you go for it?
I will usually have some kind of plan but I also don’t like to plan too many side events that require me to bust the Main Event first, because I feel like that’s negative thinking.
So, I do like to plan in terms of bankroll but I don’t like to count on that $2k turbo that I really want to play in but makes me bust the Main Event in Day 1, right?
Right, of course! Well, I mean, as a professional poker player, the world is your oyster. You can play as many events as you want each year. How do you decide which ones you’re going to go ahead and attend? It’s pretty much up to you, to a certain extent, right?
To some extent, yeah! Obviously as a PokerStars Ambassador I try to go to as many EPT stops as I can. Then there are some stops that are kind of unmissable. Obviously I like to go to the WSOP Main Event.
Of course! It’s not like you can miss that, right?
Then a lot of time I have a lot of things going on in chess. I do a lot of hosting and commentary for these major events in St Louis, and then I also do speaking events sometimes. So I kinda work it around that as well.
What do you enjoy most about each of these things? With playing, you obviously enjoy winning, but what do you enjoy most about speaking, doing commentary and so on? Why do you do those sorts of things?
Oh, I love connecting to more people. That’s what’s fun about it. I especially like speaking events to college kids of high school students. It’s really rewarding because you show them about these different worlds – poker and chess – that maybe they didn’t have any clue about. So I really love that. Commentary is fun because you get to watch the best chess players in the world face off.
So you just look in the mirror when you want to, right? What is it that attracted you to chess, and to poker in the first place?
Well, I wasn’t really attracted to chess in the beginning. I didn’t like it that much, but then I started getting passionate about it. I just like the flow experience, where you get so engrossed in the game that you forget what else is going on. Of course, we try to reach that in poker as well.
For sure. I hear that. Well, you are also a Mind Sport Ambassador for PokerStars.
Was exactly does that mean, as opposed to a regular ambassador?
I just think it’s a bit more specific because it’s so important to show the connection between poker and other games, because that can get a lot more people into our game, which is very important right now. Also, I think it shows just how multifaceted poker is. It’s a very skillful game and it can also be a fun way to try to double your money, for some people. It just depends on how you want to approach it.
Do you find that since taking on this ambassadorial role, that you’ve sort of been a specific ambassador for women? You walk into most tournament rooms and you see 90-95% men, so what sort of effect do you feel you already had, and want to have as a goal for women to join poker?
Yeah, I’d love for more women to join poker. I think it’s a great place for women and there’s a lot of growth that they can make in the game. Of course, it’s also kind of like chess – if a woman shows a lot of talent and skill in poker, it’s probably going to be a little bit easier for her to get attention and sponsorships. I still think there’s a lot of opportunities out there for women, even if it’s not like the boom time, there’s still something there. Also, even for pride and for ego, I think a lot of women want to show other women that they can do it too.
I’m a poker fan myself, and I’m sure a lot of people at PokerUpdate love watching everything that has to do with poker. I can’t remember seeing a table – let’s say, a final table – where you have 4 men, 4 women. That would just be incredible. Right? Wouldn’t you say? Just have a completely mixed gender, half of one side and half of the other. Usually it’s like: “Oh, the only woman to make the final table.” I just think that it would be really cool.
It would be cool. I think there was an EPT Side Event in Malta where there was a Heads Up between two women.
No, no, two!
And it wasn’t the ladies’ event, so that’s what was cool about it.
Oh! That’s very special. Well, hopefully we’ll get to the point over the next few years where it won’t be special because it happens all the time.
Exactly, exactly! I mean, I think it will be hard to jump from what we have now to a 50:50 ratio.
Slowly, slowly, you’ve got to build that step.
Exactly. I guess what I’ve always noticed is that it seems like so many of the women in poker tend to be on the glamorous side. I’m not really sure what all the reasons for that are, but I think that it’s also important to just welcome all women.
Totally. I hear you. Ladies’ Events are a great way for someone to start I’m sure.
Yeah, I think so! I think ladies’ events really are good. I’ve always been a fan. I think that they’re really fun and it’s a good way for other women to meet each other and potentially share hotel rooms. I actually, honestly think that it’s insane to think that it’s some kind of negative or regressive thing. I don’t even understand the rationale. Because obviously they come and play the ladies’ event and then they also almost always additionally play a mixed event.
That’s good! That’s exactly what we need to see more of.
Well, one thing that we clearly see more of, especially because of your excellent efforts is charity work. You founded this organization called 9 Queens, in 2007. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about it here at PokerUpdate, and its goals, and how your fellow poker players and poker fans can contribute and do more for this organization?
Well the idea with 9 Queens was – similar to what we were talking about women in poker – that in chess there aren’t a lot of women and girls who play. It’s based in Tucson.
That’s Arizona, for everybody who doesn’t know.
We also have classes in Philadelphia and one of the big projects behind 9 Queens that I was involved in is a book called ‘Play Like A Girl’ which is a collection of chess combinations and tactics all executed by female chess champions.
Wow, that’s a great title. We have a copywriter opening if you’re interested.
Really the idea is to inspire more girls, in another field where there’s really not enough of them.
Interesting! So what is the charity aspect of that?
Giving chess workshops to girls.
Oh! That’s very cool. I like it!
Then my brother (Greg Shahade) and I also do these girls’ workshops as part of the US Chess School, so then we’re like bringing the most talented young girls in the country.
That’s really cool!
And make them into superstars. There’s definitely been some progress. I mean, not only because of that, but because of a lot of different factors. There’s really a lot of up-and-coming young women chess players in America.
That’s wonderful! Hopefully we’ll be seeing a little bit more of that, maybe in poker as well, right?
Well, we’ll give you one last question which is here on the script, and then we’ll go off script a little bit. PCA is a time to obviously play, and you’re great at doing these interviews, – thank you again for your time – what do you do for fun? We’re in Paradise Island in the Bahamas, there’s obviously something. Maybe fun in the sun, water slides?
Yeah, I like water slides and I like the beach. That’s my favorite, just being at the beach in January.
Oh my God, for sure!
Running in the sand.
Usually you’re up in the Northeast, right?
Wow, that’s very cool. Okay, we’re going to go off script, and we are going to ask you to pick a question from the hat.
Don’t worry, I wrote them all. Go ahead and read it to our audience.
Okay: “If you were to be a character on Friends, who would you be?” God, I don’t really remember.
Oh, we’ve totally dated ourselves!
I think I’ll just go with Jennifer Aniston. I really am impressed by some of her latest work. She’s been in a lot of comic roles.
So I think it just goes to show how you can have all these different twists in your career. She was pretty serious on Friends.
Oh no, she was quirky and fun as Rachel, right?
Okay, I guess you can tell I haven’t watched many episodes, but then there was this recent show where she was a MILF and she did this strip dancer teen. What was that? The Millers or something?
Oh I don’t remember.
So, that was good!
I’ve been playing too much poker – I don’t watch TV. That’s very, very kind of you. Jennifer, thank you very much! Jennifer Shahade just joined us here on PokerUpdate.com. We hope you like it. We hope you subscribe to our YouTube channel, and enjoy all the other great videos we’re doing here at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure 2016. Again, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it.
Yeah, you’re welcome! Thank you.