The combination of chess and poker may seem like a bizarre concept.
But that was the challenge from chess player and PokerStars’ ambassador Jen Shahade. Shehade put forth the #MyChessPokerGame challenge in early September. Many may have been perplexed, but not Warren Sheaves. For the 36-year-old from Asheville, N.C., an idea for a game came instantly.
“I’m rarely on Twitter, but I opened it up and saw the contest,” he said. “Five minutes later, I had my idea.”
Those 5 minutes went into action, and “Chess Draw” was born. His submission not only made the final five, but Shahade announced it as the winner.
Sheaves collected a PokerStars’ Platinum Pass, which awarded a $30,000 package including a $25,000 buy-in to the PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship (PSPC) at January’s PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas as well as six nights’ stay at the Atlantis Resort and travel expenses.
“It was such a great idea,” Sheaves, the longtime poker and chess player, said. “I was fairly sure I was going to win, but there were a lot of really good entries.”
Kings and queens
Having an idea and winning don’t always align.
Sheaves fine-tuned his rules and made gameplay. His “Chess meets Seven Card Stud” concept struck a balance of simplicity, ease of play and fun.
The game begins as normal chess with an agreed-upon bet. Every time a player takes one of his opponent’s pieces, the player draws a card depending on that piece: pawns, 1; bishops and knights, 3; rooks, 4; and a queen, 5.
“The goal is to checkmate your opponent or make a straight or larger in poker,” he said.
A player must discard if his or her hand’s exceed seven cards. A player making a straight or better can reveal his or her hand for a possible win or wait for a better hand in secret. If a player shows his or her hand and loses, the bet is automatically doubled and the opponent wins the round.
There’s a bit more to it, but you get the idea. Sheaves submitted a video showing how Chess Draw is played. PokerStars judges were impressed.
“My No. 1 pick was Chess Draw,” Daniel Negreanu, renowned poker champ, said when the winner was announced. “I watched the mechanics of the game and I thought, ‘Oh wow, that’s pretty cool.’ I love it. This is a game I could actually see playing and see how crazy it could get.”
When away from the tables, Sheaves enjoys playing hockey, disc golf and hanging out with his friends. He also likes traveling and the outdoors.
Each year, he takes a fishing trip with his father and some friends to Cape Lookout National Seashore, a part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
“It’s 21 miles of uninhabited coastline. It’s pristine and beautiful and nothing but a bunch of fishermen out there pretty much,” said Sheaves, who attended Appalachian State University. “We just rig the trucks up and drive up and down the coastline and just fish for five days straight.”
Any of America’s national parks are also favorite travel spots. Sheaves listed some of his favorites: Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Tetons, Zion, Crater Lake in Oregon and Glacier in northern Montana.
“There are some amazing places that most people don’t even know exist,” he said. “I really enjoy visiting them and hiking and camping.”
When it comes to cards, Sheaves proves to be pretty sharp with more than $700,000 in live tournament winnings.
He began as a young boy playing nickel-and-dime games with his grandmother and uncles. Then dived into the game more in college when Chris Moneymaker scored his World Series of Poker Main Event championship in 2003.
Playing tournaments in basements helped Sheaves discover he had a knack for the game. He began playing US poker full time in 2006, but in 2011, went back to work for a couple of years as a full-time tree worker and landscaper. He then moved back into poker again and had been playing full time ever since.
In 2013, he won a WSOP Circuit bracelet in Indiana and this summer had the biggest win of his career by taking down the WSOP Global Casino Championship in his home state for $282,113 and his first bracelet. Now Sheaves has a shot at an even bigger payday in the Bahamas.
What was his reaction when he found out he won the Platinum Pass after making the final five in the chess challenge? He and a friend were watching the live stream on Twitch, awaiting the announcement. Despite his friend’s injured foot, he joined Sheaves in jumping around the room in celebration.
At only 4 minutes, his video was short and to the point. He feels others may not have done as well because their games were a little more complicated and difficult to explain.
“It was a lot more concise,” he said. “I thought those with 20-minute videos were going to have a lot harder time convincing five or six judges that their game is the best.”
The Platinum Pass allows each winner to take one friend, but several others will also be heading to the Caribbean as part of his crew. There will undoubtedly be some fun and games — maybe even some Chess Draw — but there will be plenty of business, too, when the PSPC gets underway.
“It will the most expensive tournament I’ve ever played,” he said. “I’m pretty excited because I think it’s going to be one of the softest 25Ks in history because 300 people won their seat in a way similar as me and some of those players have never even played a poker tournament.
“There are also going to be 200 of the best players in the world, so it’s going to be quite an interesting dynamic. I’m not saying I’m going to punt my money on the bubble, but I’m going to play to win.”