Jennifer Shahade Wants Women to Feel ‘Sense of Prestige’ at WSOP

Jennifer Shahade, a longtime advocate of women in poker, takes a look at the current state of the game while making another run in the 2024 WSOP Ladies Championship.

Tim Fiorvanti
Jul 1, 2024
Jennifer Shahade is a longtime advocate for growing participation for women and girls in chess, poker and mind sports across the board.

The 2024 World Series of Poker Ladies Championship drew 1,245 entries, the third-largest field ever for the event behind only 2023 and 2007. Just as the WSOP Main Event brings in players from all over the world from all across the spectrum from first-time amateurs taking a big shot all the way up to seasoned professionals, so too does the WSOP Ladies Championship.

The Day 3 chip counts for this tournament were stacked with recognizable names – Jamie Kerstetter, Cherish Andrews, Nadya Magnus, Marle Spragg, Kasey Mills, 2023 runner-up Shiina Okamoto, and Jennifer Shahade, just to name a few.

Shahade in particular has been a longtime advocate for growing women’s participation in both chess and poker. Chess is where Shahade entered the world of mind sports, eventually reaching the rank of Woman Grandmaster. She’s an author, a member of Team PokerStars Pro, a podcaster, and a two-time Global Poker Award winner.

The first time Shahade cashed in a major live tournament was in that very same 2007 WSOP Ladies Championship, and coming into this year it was one of three career cashes in the annual event. Shahade’s entrance into this year’s edition of the WSOP Ladies Championship represented a return to summer poker in Vegas, and a chance to earn her first live tournament cash in over a year.

It also served as a reunion of sorts, as the Day 1 field featured many familiar faces and old friends in a tournament with a vibe unlike anything else on the WSOP schedule each year.

“Yesterday was one of my favorite days playing poker in a really long time,” said Shahade. “It was just so much fun. I started exactly on time, which a lot of times I don’t do. It was just so many great friends, and the tables were so lively. Yes, there were some cocktails at the tables, too.

“The range of levels, it’s like, there were some beastly players and then there were some pretty new players, but everybody was trying 100% and really socializing [at the same time]. It was a beautiful image of poker.”

Shahade played through Day 2 and into the money, locking up a fourth career WSOP Ladies Championship cash. The changes between Friday and Saturday were substantial, though despite playing against the same people and many of the same friends.

“On Day 2, things get way more serious,” said Shahade. “You can see a complete vibe shift. I think it’s also like moving it from that location [in the Paris ballroom] to this [Horseshoe ballroom with the main stage]. It’s just getting serious, but that’s great, too, because you really see [the stakes]. One of these women is going to win this title. It’s a very prestigious title. And so yeah, I’m glad to be in it.”

Shahade played onto Day 3 of the event Sunday and made an additional pay jump before going out in 29th place – her second-best Ladies Championship finish to date – after losing a coinflip to Jamie Kerstetter, who went on to bag the chip lead heading into Monday’s six-handed final table.

It was another fruitful effort in Shahade’s poker career, as well an opportunity to see the state of women in poker up close.

“I think women’s events are pretty successful, honestly,” said Shahade. “A lot of women really enjoy them. There’s something special about it and prestigious about it. That’s important because for me, it’s all about promoting poker as a sport, a mind sport. And I think that’s great for women too, because I want them to feel that sense of prestige.”

The conversation on the importance of women in poker and how to make the game more inviting and inclusive has been an evolving topic for the better part of 20 years, since the game exploded in popularity in the early 2000s.

For Shahade, who has been on the front lines of trying to generate interest in mind sports for women and girls for a long time, it’s a topic she’s acutely aware of and uniquely qualified to speak on.

“I definitely think it could change and I think it’ll start to change more and more,” Shahade said of a growing presence for women in poker. “But probably the number one reason is that you’ll see at the higher buy-ins, women often don’t have the disposable income. Women don’t make as much money as men, and they have less overall wealth than men. They don’t always have the time either. I think those are the main reasons – the wealth and wage gap, and then also the time gap.

“There’s a greater amount of child care and elder care that women are often tasked with,” Shahade continued. “Those are also beautiful things for lots of people, but it’s a really different set of circumstances.”

Shahade is a big supporter of Ladies Championships and women-centric poker events. As a Team PokerStars Pro, she’s involved with an upcoming major event in London in November that will aim to be the biggest women’s tournament in European history. But beyond including a tournament on major tournament festival schedules with only women allowed to enter, there are fundamental questions that should be asked in terms of making the game more inviting and accessible.

Part of that could simply rest in offering more variety. And in Shahade’s mind, it might not even take much beyond taking other successful formats and ideas and making small tweaks that could go a long way.

“We just need to account for how to design tournaments for everyone, and maybe just have more different types of tournaments,” said Shahade “The have tournaments now for business people that last one day, one-day turbos. I feel like we could also be thinking about that kind of perspective for women. And honestly, not just women, but anyone who has a lot of things going on outside poker, but still wants to showcase their skills.”