It’s been two years since Jennifer Shahade has played in a live poker tournament, and in her first appearance at the 2021 World Series of Poker, she’s in a familiar place — in the money. She’s also true to her personality, being outspoken about her beliefs and causes as she enjoys the game. She’s not afraid of jumping into controversies.
Shahade, the PokerStars-sponsored pro, former two-time U.S. women’s chess champion, and all-around analytical genius, entered WSOP 2021 Event #22, the $10,000/$1,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship. Before beginning play, she posted about her intent to donate some of her winnings to abortion-rights causes.
“I encourage women and gender minorities to make decisions in games,” she wrote. “It’s also a metaphor for more important things: I believe in our ability to make decisions about our bodies. That’s why this #wsop I’m giving a portion of winnings to abortion funds. #Abortion is healthcare.” Almost all poker players have deep-held political beliefs. Shahade is among the relatively few who share them so freely amid the context of the WSOP.
Political cause close to Shahade’s heart
For Shahade, it’s not just about defending pro-choice rights. It’s also about helping women make better decisions in life — something she states can be learned by experience through gaming. “It’s really important for women to improve their decision making and to focus on that aspect,” she said.
And she sees a direct link to her political causes. “I feel like it’s connected to the work that I’m doing in games, that we need to fight for women and gender minorities to be able to make their own choices about their bodies. Unfortunately, that’s under attack right now in the United States.”
When asked if she had specific causes or groups in mind, Shahade responded, “The Philadelphia Women’s Center is the one that’s in my city, so that would probably be one. “I might look into some other ones in Philadelphia, but I’ll probably focus on my own area and maybe some in Texas as well. I’ve heard about a few there and obviously they’re the ones that are most under attack right now.”
Not the only donation promise of Ladies Championship
Shahade wasn’t the only Ladies Championship entrant who promised to give some or all of their proceeds to charity. The Ladies event was interrupted in a way by high-stakes Minnesota player Thomas Hammers, who paid the full $10,000 to enter the Ladies event, promised to donate winnings to deserving women’s charities, and busted after just two hours of play.
“I have pretty mixed feelings,” said Shahade, about Hammers’ entry. “I respect the women who don’t think it’s appropriate. But also, you know, I’m glad that he was going to donate the money to charity. But I also think you can just donate the money to charity and not play.” Hammers’ publicity stunt, thus far, has raised zero dollars for the causes he hoped to benefit.
“That said, I’m happy that everybody was aware that the $9,000 addition was going to go to the prize pool, because that sweetens the pot a little bit. It’s like $14 for each of us. So it’s like a martini for every player in the tournament.”
Shahade made it to Day 2 with a short stack, still dozens of players short of the money. She battled through Day 2’s first few levels, then had some good news to report to her followers:
Featured image source: Haley Hintze