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Shannon Shorr’s Recommitment To The Game Has Yielded Huge Results In 2019

The 34-Year-Old POY Contender With $1.1 Million In Earnings This Year Attributes His Resurgence To An Improved Mental Game

by Erik Fast |  Published: Nov 06, 2019

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Shannon Shorr was one of the brightest young stars in the poker world during the boom times of the mid 2000’s. The Alabama-native exploded on the scene in 2006, and managed to finish sixth in that year’s Card Player Player of the Year race, with two titles and more than $1.2 million in earnings. Shorr was just 21 years old at the time of his breakout, but he managed to follow up his initial success with another top-20 finish in the POY race in 2008.

In the decade that followed Shorr’s hot start to a career as a poker pro, he did manage to put together a few big scores, but he was never quite able to achieve the same level of consistent success that he enjoyed during his initial run on the circuit.

Late in 2018, Shorr and his fiance decided to relocate from Alabama to Las Vegas, with the idea that consistent access to tournaments in Shorr’s backyard would be a boon to his career. The move, combined with a rededication to studying tournament poker and working on his mental game, helped Shorr start 2019 off on the right foot.

Heading into the fall, Shorr has made nine final tables and won two titles, with several scores in large-field main events. As a result, Shorr currently sits in sixth place in the 2019 POY race standings, with more than $1.1 million in year-to-date earnings accrued along the way.

Shorr’s resurgence on the scene has helped bring his career live tournament earnings to nearly $8 million. Card Player recently caught up with Shorr to discuss his impressive run in 2019, how he worked his way back to being a top POY competitor, and much more.

Erik Fast: Would you say that this is your best year ever as a tournament player?

Shannon Shorr: I had two big years early on, ‘06 and ‘08, but this certainly feels like the best for me in terms of the timing… of when it came. The last three years or so, things hadn’t been going too great in tournament poker. To totally rededicate myself and to have all of this success, it’s just been awesome to have it all come together.

EF: As you mentioned, you had that breakout run in 2006, but obviously the game has changed a lot since then, and most agree it’s tougher these days. Does it mean a lot for you to get back to this place of being a consistent performer in the modern tournament climate?

SS: It really does, especially to do it in my mid-30’s now, when I know there’s just so many guys that are a lot more hungry than me, perhaps living a little more one-dimensionally. Like how I lived when I was that age, where poker was everything. Now, I’ve got a little bit more going on, and I’m trying to balance my life. But yes, it means so much to be able to compete in these really tough fields against the young guys that I know work hard all the time. I should say that I have been working hard as well, but yeah, it just feels great.

EF: What do you think is the main reason for your recent results?

SS: Moving to Las Vegas from Alabama was definitely huge for me. In the past I was just always traveling to tournaments and just spending so much time on the road that I was just totally exhausted all of the time. I realize that now, but I didn’t realize at the time because it was just the state of mind that I knew. Being able to be in one place now, and dive deeper into my mindfulness routine has been a huge part of my success. Every morning I wake up and do 30 minutes of stretching and 15 minutes of meditation before playing. Being in the right mindset to play these tournaments is critical. I’ve taken that to a whole new level and I totally rededicated myself as opposed to just like, showing up and thinking I had all the tools where I was ready to play every day. I think diving deeper into mindfulness and being as still as possible and capable of just picking up on all the little nuances, the little technical things that I can further sharpen my game on… it’s has been everything to me, and I intend on continuing that.

EF: When and how did you go about making those changes?

SS: I’ve been increasingly becoming more fit, being more mindful, over the last few years, but it was just so much of my time was spent on the road. I was just so exhausted that I didn’t have the energy to be on a consistent routine. Also, I should mention just how much time I’ve spent actually studying poker and talking with friends about the game and strategy. I feel like, just from a fundamental standpoint, my game has improved drastically.

EF: Can you talk a little more about what studying and training looks like for you?

SS: I’ve been doing a ton of studying over concentrated periods of time. It would be like three weeks, where I focus on studying, including using solvers and talking with other players about hands. Then I’ll get into a routine, like during the World Series of Poker, where I didn’t spend much time studying at all. There is just so much poker to be played, and then trying to do the mindfulness routine, and be at the gym and stuff, and I felt like that’s more important. I’ve been using solvers, watching training videos, and discussing hands with friends. I think it’s super important to have a technical baseline to make all of your poker decisions from, but that’s not enough, though. You have to be willing to make adjustments exploitatively, especially when playing live, you can’t just play what PioSOLVER tells you to do every step.

EF: You’re currently sitting in sixth place in Card Player’s Player of the Year race and are one of very few players inside the top 20 who isn’t a super high roller regular, having done it with final-table finishes in large-field tournaments.

SS: This year has just been an absolute dream come true, especially with all the work that I’ve put in over the last few years. Tournament poker has put me through some pretty dark times, I have to admit. To have it all come together and to be where I am in my personal life, my amazing relationship with my fiance… I’m just all together over the moon. I’m back to where I want to be as a tournament poker player, so, yeah, it’s been amazing.

EF: You started the year off with making a final table right away in January, finishing second in the World Poker Tour Gardens Poker Championships. Can you tell me about that experience?

SS: It was really cool, because I had just moved to Vegas and I had already told myself I was going to commit to working harder. When I got here I started playing like 100 hours, late night cash games, just an insane schedule. I told myself I would just make those sacrifices, to just get a ton of repetition in. So, I did that and then had some success in the Bellagio tournament series in December. I then went down to LA and just really felt like I was sharp from a mindset standpoint, as well as technically sound. It was just so awesome to make that delayed final table, which had a benefit in that I was studying then really incentivized to do a bunch of study and stuff in the interim before that table played out. It was awesome to start off the year like that.

EF: So, you secured two more big scores in the spring and summer. You had big final-table finishes at the Borgata Spring Poker Open and in the $5,000 no-limit hold’em at the World Series of Poker, which is considered one of the tougher events of the WSOP. So what are your takeaways from those two runs?

SS: The Borgata was pretty insane, because I didn’t intend on even playing that tournament. A couple days before, I made a final table down in Florida. My fiance’s family lives like 20 minutes from Atlantic City, so I found out I could fly in to Borgata and jump in on day 2 of their main event. I was partying until 2 am local time in Florida, and caught a 6 am flight up and just kind of like ran like god in that tournament. I ended up finishing second there, so that was just like one of the most wild experiences of my career.

At the WSOP, I was in such a flow state going into the summer, I’d been doing tons of mindfulness work and treating myself really well, eating well, and made a final table in Omaha eight-or-better and I just felt like everything was going great. That final table did have so many tough players, but I just really felt at the top of my game. I felt like I could play with anybody, and I ultimately came up just short of the bracelet, but was thrilled at that result as well.

EF: You just had a deep run in the main at European Poker Tour Barcelona, finishing 15th. Then you won a side event for your first title of the year. That was a smaller event, but still, it must always feel good to secure the win. Can you talk about Barcelona?

SS: The EPT Barcelona was a really great experience. It was the largest ever main event field on that tour, and they just run those tournaments so well. I really felt I had played well. I battled with so many of these young European guys that are studying around the clock. Poker is their lifestyle, so it felt good to be able to feel super comfortable playing against them in that environment. In the main event I was a little bit disappointed to finish 15th, because I was sitting in second place with 48 players left, but still, it’s a nice result. To win the small side event, like you said, a win’s a win, especially when you have about four second places, like I think I’ve had this year. So yeah, it’s nice to win one, hopefully I can carry that momentum forward. I just want to play poker and try to keep crushing through the rest of this year, and who knows, maybe win the Card Player Player of the Year Race.

EF: What’s your proudest accomplishment as a tournament player?

SS: I’d say that it is hard to be proud of any one tournament. I would say just the fact that I’m still here, and like in the best mindset of my life. I’m so grateful for everything I’ve gotten to experience in this game, all of the travel and all of the people I’ve been able to meet. I’m just incredibly grateful for all of that.

EF: You said earlier that tournament poker put you through some rough times. If somebody else was down on themselves because of their tournament game, would you have any advice for them?

SS: I would try to underline the importance of ‘trusting the process’ and doing all the things that you know are right. Those times when you really don’t feel like going to the gym, or putting in like those couple of hours of study. If you can be objective and step outside of yourself and be like, ‘What is it going to take to get to where I need to be?’. You just have to do all the right things and just know that you have to accept that in tournament poker there are going to be vicious downswings. Just try to be in the best mindset and not worry about the results, although I can attest that this is much easier said than done.

EF: You can’t worry about the results, but do you think about your career as a poker player in terms of goals? Are there any certain benchmarks that you’re trying to hit moving forward?

SS: All the awards and accolades and the Player of the Year type stuff, that’s for other people to look at and decide, a lot of other people really shoot for those types of things, but for me it’s like, if I can sit down and work hard on being mentally tough and try to figure out these tough spots… If I can dedicate that kind of time and effort to my career, then I know that I can handle anything that life throws at me and I’m gonna be happy. ♠