ON THE BUTTON: Talking US Online Poker With PokerStars Ambassador, GPI Award Winner Jen Shahade

March 7, 2023
ON THE BUTTON: Talking US Online Poker With PokerStars Ambassador, GPI Award Winner Jen Shahade

When it comes to US online poker ambassadors, not many have had the staying power of Jen Shahade. The Pennsylvania-based poker player and advocate has been with PokerStars for eight years and continues leading the charge for additional legalization and the growth of the game.

What’s the secret to the longevity as an ambassador in the industry? Shahade attributes that to wearing many hats, from online poker player to mind games ambassador to helping with initiatives to get more women into poker. Initially, she began with the company doing some writing but that snowballed into much more.

“Then I started to become more successful both in the chess world and in poker, until I signed on as an ambassador and it worked out really well because of the launch in the USA including my home state, Pennsylvania,” she says, “I was  born and raised in Philadelphia, and I live there and love the city. And it’s really just such an honor to represent PokerStars from the place I’ve always called home.”

Shahade spoke with USPoker at the PokerStars Players Championship recently about her poker life and the future of online poker in the US.

Life at the poker table

Shahade has certainly been busy over the last few years. When not playing online poker, the Stars ambassador is also a mother and an advocate of the game of chess as well. Last year she released a new book, Chess Queens: The True Story of a Chess Champion and the Greatest Female Players of All Time.

The book was meant to inspire others to take up the game and more writing is in the works. Recently, she also played a role in handing out a PokerStars Platinum Pass via the Platinum Poker Hand contest.

Shahde also still enjoys hitting the online tables and is also working in a healthy mix of live poker as well. That routine brings her the best of both worlds, Shahade believes.

“I love online, although a lot of times I feel like the combination of live and online is perfect,” she says. “I think if you play all live, then it’s hard because you start to lose perspective on whether you’re playing well or not because so much of live poker is just based on a very small sample size. But if you only play online, then sometimes it’s hard to remember the people that make poker what it is, that makes it the community and really worth pursuing.”

Over the weekend, Shahade also won a Global Poker Award for written media content for a story in the Wall Street Journal.

Advocating for US online poker

Shahde has been at the forefront of advocating for American regulated online poker. The last few years have seen some growth in the industry. That has included additional states coming on board, steady revenue numbers, and the expansion of shared liquidity in January for PokerStars players in Michigan and New Jersey.

“I’m very excited,” she says. “I think it’s really clear that poker is having a renaissance and people are just gaga over poker content, poker videos, poker lessons, but if they don’t have a regulated place to play, it’s hard. I have friends all the time from states without regulated poker, and they ask me advice like where to play and I always have to insert so many caveats.

“But if I’m able to send them to PokerStars, a site that I know will keep their money safe and has the best game integrity team on the planet, I don’t think anyone would argue with that. It’s obviously very soothing.”

Many outside of poker may not realize the mini poker boom the game is experiencing, she notes. Online operators around the world have guarantees of hundreds of millions of dollars in any given month.

Additionally, the changing media landscape has altered the methods and opportunities to view poker. Streamed final tables, even for online events, have become the norm. Poker vlogs and Twitch streaming are also attracting plenty of eyeballs as well.

“I saw it happen in chess at an even more epic scale,” she says. “With poker I think it’s a pretty big boom but it has been a bit more gradual. I think part of it is this desire for community and this shared interest in the game. People are really craving that right now. I think poker took that spot of an adult activity that people gain solace and community from.”

Growing the game

Shahde offered three reasons why she believes the game is experiencing a growing popularity:

  • Poker is a good game for the brain.
  • More women are embracing the game.
  • Players like the sense of community and a shared experience.

Several states have recently expressed some interest in legalizing online poker including New York, Kentucky, Indiana, and New Hampshire.

Shahde says bringing in one major state like New York to legalized US online poker could pay major dividends beyond increased player and prize pools.

“New York is such an epicenter of culture, so it would allow for a lot of cultural events,” she says. “There are so many celebrities and influencers and business people in New York, I think that would make a huge difference. Its proximity to the other legalized states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey could form this powerful triangle.”

* Lead image courtesy PokerStars/Eloy Cabacas

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