Shannon Shorr had no intentions of making a deal. Sure, he was the short stack at the final table of the 2023 $5,300 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Championship with just four players remaining, which for some may have been reason enough to want a deal, but the longtime tournament veteran was more than ready to play it out.
But with more than $600,000 separating fourth and first place, there were players in the final four who were hoping to come to an agreement to mitigate some variance with so much on the line. However, it was clear that in order to seal a deal someone was going to have to give in and Shorr knew one thing – it was not going to be him.
You see, Shorr was well prepared for a situation like this. Not only does the Las Vegas-based pro have two decades of experience playing in high-pressure situations for large sums of money but, perhaps more importantly, he had great examples growing up of how to simply take care of business.
“My dad’s like a super negotiator and he’s quite the people’s person,” Shorr beamed. ”I remember him recommending Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People to me when I was really young. That was one of the first books that I can remember him recommending to me and it was just awesome. Just seeing him and my mom as well, just watching them go about life dealing with people.
“All of these types of things are skills that I think translate into poker. Importantly, I guess the lesson I took from those negotiating books was to be willing to walk away…which I was.”
With just four players remaining, including Omer Rotman, Kitty Kuo, and chip leader Farid Jattin, Shorr was at the bottom of the chip counts. Here’s a look at the payouts as they were posted:
1st – $859,775
2nd – $616,305
3rd – $339,850
4th – $223,925
Just as Shorr took a deep breath and prepared to battle shorthanded for the posted $859,775 first-place prize, the notion of a possible deal was brought up.
“When they proposed [a deal] I wasn’t too interested,” Shorr said. “It was like a wild development as I honestly hadn’t even considered it. It hadn’t entered my consciousness because I was still focused on the tournament the whole time…just battling, playing poker.”
There are times when pay jumps become massive and as stacks get shorter and the blinds get higher there’s more volatility in play for large sums of money. The bigger the tournament, the more is at stake when negotiating a deal. This certainly wasn’t going to be some easy-going daily tournament deal where the final table decides to simply “chop it up so we can all go home.” There were a lot of dynamics at play, all of which Shorr was taking into consideration.
“There was no penalty for looking at the deal, of course, and so it’s just like extra information. With this breath work, I’ve really been able to deepen my relaxation and even find more intricacies that there are in live poker,” Shorr said. “Live poker is, of course, so in-depth and there’s so much to be observed. So being more relaxed, I feel like I’m in my opponents’ heads a little bit more so I was like – sure, I’ll take a look and get more information.
“The tournament meant so much to me that unless I got a good deal, I wasn’t going to do it. So it was part of the strategy, I was like ‘All right, cool. I’ll just watch these people…’ and I, importantly, was trying to relax and not do anything too impulsively,” he said. “I was going to look at these numbers and I was trying to think when I looked at it, what number can I put out there that’s not too absurd? I wanted just it to be a very good deal for myself, obviously, but not too absurd where they just shut it down and there was no shot of it happening.”
So he threw out his number: $545,000.
Nearly $50,000 over the roughly $495,000 ICM value of his short stack. He knew it was not an insignificant ask, but he also believed he was worth it. He also knew that there was some amount of pressure on everybody because if no deal was reached the next player to be eliminated may potentially miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Honestly, when I threw the number out there I wasn’t 100% sure that it was even a great deal for me, just given what I thought was my skill – and that’s the truth.”
“I was happily ready to grit my teeth and battle these opponents playing shorthanded.”
According to Shorr, Kuo and Rotman understood the situation. If a deal was to be made they would have to be the pair of players willing to give some ground as Jattin, with a roughly 2-to-1 chip lead over the field, was also asking for extra cash in order to agree.
“I wanted to be non-confrontational,” Shorr said. “I brought up the fact that Farid and I have been doing this for a super long time at high stakes. I mentioned to [Rotman] that for deals like this to work, generally the inexperienced player has to give up a lot of money, otherwise we generally just play [it out]. I was trying to read them and there was a little resistance, but I just held firm.”
Kuo and Rotman had some decisions to make including if it was worth it for them to give up a combined $72,000 to the pair of long-time grinders.
“I saw $495,000…and I was the shortest, but I had 39 big blinds. It’s not like I was in danger and I was happily ready to grit my teeth and battle these opponents playing shorthanded.”
Kuo and Rotman came back to the poker table, now the negotiating table, to try and have Shorr and Jattin take a little less, but the pair of experienced players held their ground. Shorr admits that if the negotiations were perhaps a little tougher, he “would have come down a little bit if they really, really pushed” but after talking it out for about 10 minutes all four players agreed to a deal. Just like that, the tournament was over: Jattin was declared the winner walking with $655,000 just over $22,000 above his stack’s ICM value. Shorr negotiated his way from fourth place to an official runner-up spot and his desired $545,000, $49,838.93 above EV.
For his part, Rotman walked with $490,782 and Kuo took home $480,763. The results for both Rotman and Kuo were, by far, new career-high scores for the pair and, even after giving up some ground in the negotiations, an undeniable major accomplishment for both.
For Shorr, the score was also significant – for both his poker resume and his family, the latter of which is set to expand with the birth of his second child this October. Not only was it the second-largest score of his career (his largest since 2006). it was also marked a major turnaround for his 2023 campaign. Back in April, Shorr was candid about the pressures of playing tournament poker in the face of a growing family and the swings he’d been on this year. And although Shorr wasn’t overly eager to get a deal done in this case, given his experience edge, when pressed it’s clear he’s not averse to the idea of deals in general.
“I definitely think making deals is fine…The reality is the difference between fourth and first can often be a year or two years [worth of earnings] depending on what the prize pool is. So, it’s a shame to just flip it all off. In this case, we were pretty deep, so I definitely wanted more money, but when you’re shorter, if it’s a turbo structure, I totally think it’s fine to deal. Of course, there’s a lot of ego. A lot of people are like ‘Deals are for wimps,’ or whatever, but this is real money and it’s all about being financially [responsible]. For me especially, it all depends on your life circumstances.
“I like the idea of having zero risk of ruin, especially with my family. My price of going broke is quite high so if the right deal comes along, there’s definitely no shame in it. And it’s not like many of us play shorthanded for tons of money that often…So it’s not like many people have huge edges over others, but in this case, I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve built quite a resume so I felt like I’d be doing myself a disservice if I really didn’t push for a great deal.”
After the deal was done, Shorr reached back out to his dad to remind him of not just the book, but the example he provided, that not only helped in this specific deal but in his poker career overall.
“He’s the type of guy who is not going to take any credit,” Shorr said of his father. “He’s a super humble guy, but I of course reminded him of it and thanked him and my mom and everybody close to me. You don’t make it this long in the poker world without a great community of people supporting you and lots of skills have been imported onto me just being around such a great network. So I just told all those people how grateful I am.”