Buying a Vowel: Hard Rock Regular Sean Shah Goes from Wheel of Fortune to Poker Felt

Nov 26, 2018

By Sean Chaffin

Sean Shah

The Seminole Hard Rock has become a bit of a second home now for Sean Shah, and he’s a regular on the tournament scene. While he may not have made it to Day 3, he notched a nice cash. Poker has become his way of life, but he’s a fan of any type of game – including game shows.

Shah, 31, grew up in Northern New Jersey was a regular Internet player until Black Friday sidetracked his poker life. His parents then decided to move to South Florida to start a business.

They offered him a choice – he could stay on his own in Jersey or head to the Sunshine State to finish college. He chose the sunshine over snowy winters and went on to finish his bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s in marketing. But poker soon became more of an option – and he loves playing at the Hard Rock.

“I’ve been down here for about seven years now and think I’ve done a pretty good job cementing myself in the poker community,” he says. “Everyone here is just a consummate professional compared to some other places I’ve been. They run the tournaments well. All the dealers are just phenomenal, the best dealers in town. And it’s like a resort here, like a vacation. It’s easy to bust tournaments here knowing that there are all these beautiful surroundings.”

Gambling in the Family

Most parents might not be thrilled with their son earning two degrees and then making a decision to play poker full-time instead of heading out into the business world. The Shahs were a bit different. They knew he had some skills at the felt and actually asked and encouraged him to give a poker career a shot.

“They were pretty cool,” says Shah, who lives in Delray Beach. “I wanted to do it and they were very supportive. My parents are pretty cool and laid back. My dad used to go to Vegas in the ‘70s and play Blackjack and count cards with his brothers. Gambling is in our blood for sure, gambling is in the Shah name.”

The decision turned out to be a wise one. He now has about $780,000 in live tournament winnings with numerous nice scores at the Seminole Hard Rock. At the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown in March 2017, Shah won a $570 NLHE Six Max event for $21,809 and has had several other top finishes.

“I just worked a lot on my game and I’m still here today,” he says of his move into poker. “It’s my only source of income and my only hobby really.”

His biggest cash came in Season XIII at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown where he came close to a WPT televised final table, finishing seventh for $168,550. Shah also came close to a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2016, finishing runner-up in a $565 Pot Limit Omaha event for $117,531.

A regular at the Hard Rock and other Florida properties, Shah travels around the state and elsewhere playing mostly tournaments. He heads to Las Vegas in the summer for the WSOP. And despite not putting those degrees to work in the business world, Shah feels he’s using them, but in a different and unique way.

“I feel like I am a business,” he says. “I market myself at the table and at tournaments to show that I can do well. I enjoy myself so that’s what is most important to me. I could start a business and do real work, but I feel like this is just too much fun. Once it stops being fun, I’ll get out.”

Game Show Shenanigans

The Rock ‘N’ Roll Poker Open was a nice event for Shah, who knocked down his third WPT cash after finishing 60th for $8,820. Playing games for big money has become a way of life – and not just at the poker tables.

In 2010, Shah competed on Wheel of Fortunem a game show he’s watched since third grade. He met Pat Sajak and Vanna White, but the bonus round proved elusive. However, he did take home $9,350 for his efforts.

His game show career wasn’t over yet. In April 2017, he appeared on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The appearance wasn’t quite as successful as his time with Pat and Vanna. He went home empty-handed after missing a $5,000 question, but had fun nonetheless.

“I just love games so much,” he says. “Games are my life.”

When not playing poker or studying the game, music is one of Shah’s passions. He plays the guitar and likes to sing. He’s been in bands in the past in New Jersey, but in South Florida he’s a bit more of a one-man show and plays at open-mic events some night in the area.

His game show career may not be over yet. He has his sights set on a Family Feud appearance and is a big fan of Steve Harvey. Game show producers tend to look for outgoing players with plenty of enthusiasm. He’s not quite sure if all of his family fits that mold, but he’s ready to give it a shot.

“My mom definitely would,” he says. “My dad and my siblings are pretty low-key, but I feel like I get my enthusiasm from my mother. That’s how I probably got on the shows, with my enthusiasm. I just like to have fun. Life’s short, enjoy what you do and do what you do best. That’s really my motto.”

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.

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