Shannon Shorr has been a profitable poker player since the early days of the poker boom. Over the last 15 years, he racked up just shy of $9 million in live tournament earnings and much more from his pre-Black Friday online grind playing under the screen name “BLUFFforRENT.”
In slang terms, he’s an OG poker pro. Somebody who has been around for a long period of time while achieving success at a high level.
But despite his long list of accomplishments in the game, the Alabama native seems to have recently taken his game to another level. On the now-reopened tournament circuit, Shorr has thrived.
Through the first nine months of 2021, the first full year with live tournament poker since the pandemic, Shorr has cashed for $940,505, with three victories and nine final tables.
“Obviously, one of the nice things about winning is it sort of loosens you up down the stretch in these things,” said Shorr about his wildly successful year thus far. “There’s not as much pressure when you’ve been there recently. You can really get into a nice flow state and just try to make the best decision and not worry about the money so much.”
The rhythm he found himself in couldn’t have come at a better time – just before the start of the World Series of Poker. While in theory, past results aren’t necessarily indicative of future success, Shorr is riding high on confidence.
“I definitely think there is something to [momentum],” said Shorr. “You see it so often in the tournament world, a guy just go off for a huge streak. And then often people will just have really bad streaks because, I mean, it’s real. I’ve done a lot of losing in the tournament world as well. I know how it affects you even though you try not to get affected by the swings. Deep down, I feel that you are often affected subconsciously and might not pull the trigger in a big spot when you’re running bad.”
Shorr has had no problem pulling the trigger lately, and is playing at a level he hasn’t been at before. In early September, Shorr was a regular in the high roller Poker Masters events at the Aria, a series that features smaller, elite fields playing buy-ins of no less than $10,000.
He won the first event of the series, a $10,000 no-limit hold’em event for $205,000, defeating his good friend David Peters, a high-stakes legend who sits sixth on poker’s all-time money list, to earn the trophy. A few months earlier, Shorr spent his summer months grinding U.S. Poker Open events with the same caliber of players.
To be clear, it’s not that Shorr isn’t elite. He has clearly found a ton of success playing poker for nearly two decades, but he wasn’t a regular in the high rollers either. The timing of his jump in stakes is no accident, however. The nation-wide shutdowns of casinos in response to the virus forced the poker world to play online, and Shorr was forced to go back to his roots.
“I dedicated myself to online poker,” said Shorr about what he did during the downtime. “I previously played a bunch online when I first got started playing until Black Friday. Then for 10 years I just played online kind of casually. I consider myself more of a live player.”
Since he was forced back onto the virtual felt, it gave him an opportunity to re-evaluate his play. With a little help from one of the best players in the game, Shorr retooled his approach.
“When the pandemic came, I saw it as a great opportunity. All the action was moving online, so I could just grind and study a bunch. I really made it a lifestyle. I had been talking with ‘LuckyChewy’ [Andrew Lichtenberger]. He’s taught me so much. He’s so fundamentally sound, and it’s been immensely helpful for my game.”
With Lichtenberger’s guidance, Shorr built a deeper understanding of how to use modern technology to help improve his game.
“A few years ago, I initially got started with Solvers,” said Shorr. “I mean, they’re so in-depth and there is so much to it that I was probably not using it correctly. But he pointed me in the direction of how to optimize it and be able to view a lot of information very quickly. It just revolutionized my game. When I was playing live, I had a decent feel for odds and ranges and stuff, but seeing how different ranges interact on different boards is absolutely fascinating stuff. The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know, basically.”
It was the type of studying that wasn’t around during online poker’s glory days. When Shorr was moving up the ranks, players were in essence just guessing at what the correct strategy was.
“We talked about hands and stuff,” said Shorr about the pre-solver era of poker. “And it was just like a lot of trying to figure it out through playing. And there were the forums which I dabbled in a little bit. I was just out there kind of winging it. The game has changed quite a bit since then.”
Although he wasn’t working with solvers and playing game theory optimal (GTO) poker, Shorr was able to look at how his opponents were playing and find a good enough counter strategy to succeed. And in the live arena, the exploitative strategies combined with above-average focus was more than enough to win the money.
“I think that in live [poker], I really give myself a lot of edge because I am willing to take some exploits,” he said. “And I also like to think that I’m very present at the table. I watch all the hands go down and try to get a feel for the energy. Whereas I see a lot of people on their phones or messing around doing other stuff. But for me, playing a live tournament is kind of just like meditation. I can sit there and just absorb as much information as possible to try and make the best decision.”
For most of his career, that was more than enough to succeed. Shorr was a feared online player before 2011 and was a consistent winner at mid- and high-stakes poker tournaments. Achieving success at the absolute top tier of poker, however, was eluding him before this year.
“I was playing a lot of [World Poker Tour events] and [European Poker Tour events], and I would play some EPT high rollers when I was over there in Europe,” said Shorr of his past experiences. “But honestly, the higher buy-in stuff for the most part didn’t go well until recently. I think I wasn’t good enough at the time when I was trying to battle with a lot of those top players.”
With some studying under his belt and some added money to his bankroll, Shorr is able to compete against the types of players that would hold over him in the past. In his eyes, the ability to just stay at the highest levels for any significant period gives him the opportunity to improve and succeed.
“I feel like the education that you get from playing in these high rollers is often worth the time spent,” said Shorr. “I know I’m turning some ROI. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I know that it’s positive so I’m happy to get an education. I get to see how some of these sickos like Ali [Imsirovic] and [David] Peters and [Stephen] Chidwick play a lot of spots.”
What he also realized is that these events aren’t all filled with the likes of Imsirovic, Peters, and Chidwick. There are players in the field that he clearly has an edge on.
“I also found that some of these $10,000 buy-in events are actually quite a good value,” he said. “I think it’s just because there’s quite a few recreational players that end up playing those tournaments and pros that are playing that aren’t super elite. They might be around, but they probably haven’t been playing a lot online and getting reps at these shorter stacks that you often face. And with some of the ICM [Independent Chip Model] spots, a lot of people just get it wrong.”
As Shorr reaches the peak of poker’s pecking order, he is starting to look at what comes next in his life away from the felt.
“I really love poker and it will always be part of my life,” said the recent transplant to Las Vegas. “Although I am feeling myself longing to not play as much and work as hard. It’s very involved. It’s emotionally taxing. It’s a lot. Ideally, I’d like for some investments to work out and just play enough poker to sustain my lifestyle. I don’t spend a whole lot of money on myself anyway.”
With his first child due soon, Shorr is envisioning a more low-key future centered around his new family.
“That’s going to change things a little bit,” said Shorr about the upcoming birth of his daughter. “I envision having a quiet life in Las Vegas, raising a couple of kids and playing the good stuff that comes through Vegas. I’m hoping that I’ll be traveling less and be able to spend more time discovering some other interests and stuff.”
While family life may be one of the driving factors that ends up with the 36-year-old spending less time in poker rooms, it was also one of the reasons he put so much work into his game in the first place.
“I bought a house earlier this year in Summerlin and my life didn’t have much direction,” said Shorr. “I had my wife Joy, who is amazing, and we were kind of traveling along, but we didn’t exactly have a plan. But then once we went down the parenthood road, I just felt like I can just be here and study poker. Traveling is really intense and exhausting, and instead I can just be here and study and play poker and kind of chill. I have a much clearer head and am able to play better.”
With Vegas as Shorr’s new home, traveling less is much easier for the soon-to-be father. Nevada is one of the handful of states that has a regulated online poker market and there are plenty of tournaments that take place in the city, including the WSOP and several high roller series that call Aria home.
Between the tournaments in Vegas and occasional plane rides to Florida and other big tour stops, Shorr believes he’ll be able to achieve the balance between poker and family life he is striving for.
“I’ll probably play more online and [the series at the Seminole Hard Rock] is really a can’t-miss stop for me. I really like it there,” said Shorr. “Joy will let me sneak away for those a few times a year, but obviously fatherhood comes first. So I’ll try to manage being home as much as possible. I know some other guys who are parents that are out here doing it. Jeremy Ausmus and Eric Baldwin and a few others. They make it work.”
Luckily for Shorr, he also has a partner that will help make the dream happen.
“I think it takes a very strong woman, who can handle you being out of the house for several hours at a time,” said Shorr. “And I happen to have that. So I am hopeful I can make it work between playing online, playing the stuff that comes through here.”
The transition to high roller family man is a big one from the self-described “20-year-old kid who loved partying and poker” he was when he first started playing at the University of Alabama. But the combination of a knack for the game and some hard work took him down a path that gave him more than what most aspiring pros could even dream of.
“Something drew me to this game. I was always sort of independent and marched to the beat of my own drum a little bit, so poker really appealed to me,” said Shorr. “I can’t say I ever really thought long term about it or where I’d be, but I was just absolutely in love with it and it really opened some doors for me.” ♠
Top Tournament Scores
|Aug. 2006||Bellagio Cup II Main Event||$10,000||1st Place||$960,690|
|July 2012||WSOP Six-Max NLHE||$10,000||3rd Place||$455,362|
|April 2009||WPT Five Star World Poker Classic||$25,000||5th Place||$408,550|
|Jan. 2019||WPT Gardens Poker Championship||$10,000||2nd Place||$355,885|
|June 2008||WSOP NLH||$1,800||2nd Place||$349,141|
|April 2021||Hard Rock Poker Showdown NLH||$5,000||1st Place||$296,535|
|June 2019||WSOP NLH||$5,000||2nd Place||$273,416|
|July 2008||Bellagio Cup IV NLH||$3,000||1st Place||$247,555|
|Sept. 2021||Poker Masters NLH||$10,000||1st Place||$205,000|
|Jan. 2006||Aussie Millions Main Event||AUD$10,000||4th Place||$199,129|
|Feb. 2014||WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open||$3,500||2nd Place||$190,039|
|July 2018||WSOP Main Event||$10,000||39th Place||$189,165|
|Aug. 2021||Hard Rock Poker Open NLH||$2,500||1st Place||$186,261|
|April 2019||Borgata Spring Poker Open NLH||$2,500||2nd Place||$171,448|
|Jan. 2013||PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Turbo NLH||$10,000||1st Place||$160,610|