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Poker Stories Podcast With High-Stakes Chess Queen Jennifer Shahade

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Oct 05, 2022


Poker Stories is a long-form audio podcast series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.

Age: 41
From: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Twitter: @JenShahade
Live Tournament Earnings: $330,000

Jennifer Shahade grew up in Philadelphia. Her father Mike was a master chess player and her mother Sally a professor at Drexel University, but at night the two would count cards at the blackjack tables in Atlantic City. Jennifer and her older brother Greg each took up chess as well, and both excelled at the master level, competing against the best all over the world.

The NYU graduate was the first woman to ever win the U.S. Junior Open, and was also a two-time U.S. Women’s Chess Champion. She is the director of the women’s program at the U.S. Chess Federation and is also a board member of the Women’s Chess Hall of Fame.

But Shahade is also a top-notch poker player, and has been competing as a mind sports ambassador for PokerStars since 2014. She has numerous scores on her tournament résumé, most notably taking down the $10,000 high roller open-face Chinese pineapple event in Prague.

Most recently, she authored Chess Queens: The True Story Of A Chess Champion And The Greatest Female Players Of All Time. She is also the host of The Grid podcast, which analyzes key hands played by professional poker players.

Highlights from this interview include the body goes to the potty, card-counting parents, a sibling rivalry, competing in Brazil, Spain, Iceland, Russia, and India, luck in poker, sweating a $50,000 chess match with Tom Dwan, a big win in Prague, working as a bridge caddie, using Ms. Pac-Man to flirt, a seven-hour game, hula chess, gambling in yoga class, Lake Bell, omelet salad, a fortunate couch landing, waking up in a fire in Belize, going to NYU during 9/11, and crushing on Vanilla Ice.

A Family Of Gamblers

Julio Rodriguez: You were born on New Year’s Eve. Was that a crazy situation?

Jennifer Shahade: Yeah, it was actually. My dad was a blackjack player… so was my mom. They both liked to count cards back in the days when the rules of blackjack were very favorable for the players. So the legend is that after I was born, and everything looked all good, he went over to Atlantic City to win the baby a new pair of shoes.

JR: New Year’s baby, gotta ride that wave of good luck I guess.

JS: They did make some money from blackjack in those years. They told me that the rules were so favorable that if you purely counted cards, knowing whether the deck was hot or cold, you could [do well].

JR: But of course, your parents weren’t some degenerates. Your dad is a master chess player and your mother is a professor at Drexel University. So I’m assuming there was an importance placed on education growing up.

JS: They loved having this combination of being very serious about some things but also degenerate about other things, which I feel is really like the poker player mentality as well.

JR: There have been some notorious high-stakes chess matches that have taken place alongside some poker tournaments. Your brother famously beat Tom Dwan for $50,000 in a match. What was the handicap in that one?

JS: Greg started without a rook, which is the second-most powerful piece. So that was a pretty big disadvantage.

Playing Chinese Poker Everywhere

JR: What was the best shot you ever took?

JS: I love that I won the open face high roller championship.

JR: This was the $10,000 buy-in open face pineapple Chinese poker championship, right?

JS: Yeah, I had flown into Prague that morning and I wasn’t really thinking about playing in it. But I stopped by the tournament room to check out the scene, as they had a $1,000 event running the next day. But after looking at the field and talking to a few people, I just ended up hopping into the tournament. I was up all night and ended up winning it at around 3 a.m. the next morning.

JR: Did you play a lot of Chinese poker?

JS: I used to play high-stakes open face on my phone in the most random places. I remember that I was taking a yoga class but I was so excited about the open face hand that I had going that I had to take a break from the class. So actually, that was like a wake-up call that maybe I should play less.

Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Patrik Antonius, Justin Bonomo, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Galfond, Nick Schulman, Fedor Holz, Barry Greenstein, Dan Smith, Scotty Nguyen, Mike Sexton, Maria Ho, Brad Owen, and many more. If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to get the latest episodes automatically when they are released.

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