From Wild Bill Hickok and the Dead Man’s Hand to Mike McDemott’s Johnny Chan anecdote in Rounders, swapping poker hand stories is as old as the game itself.
Whether it’s a bad beat or a big pot, a great play or a huge mistake, we’ve all got at least one solid story up our sleeves that we can recite in great detail.
As host of The GRID podcast, Jennifer Shahade has heard a fair few in her time. Seventy-two, in fact; one for each of the episodes she has recorded so far.
On The GRID, guests are invited to share a story of one particular hand they’ve played. And over the past couple of weeks, Shahade invited everyone to share theirs.
The #PlatinumPokerHand competition–which was open to entries from the US and Canada between December 1-14–was simple: Think of the most interesting hand you’ve played, then think of the best way to tell the story.
With entry now over, it’s time for Shahade and her exceptional panel of judges (Sam Grafton, Maria Ho, Keith Becker, Mark Foresta, Alex O’Brien, and Brad Willis) to wade through the entries and ultimately find a winner.
That person will then win a Platinum Pass to the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) 2023, which takes place in the Bahamas in January.
We caught up with Shahade at the Prague leg of the European Poker Tour (EPT) to find out how many entries the competition received, why she picked the judges she did, and what our stories say about us.
PokerStars Blog: Hey Jennifer! Entry for the competition is now closed, have you had a chance to look through any of the entries yet?
Jennifer Shahade: I’ve looked at a lot of them, yeah. There are around 70 entries. They’re all in different forms: video, audio files, and written. In the beginning, most of the entries were written, but towards the end, it was more video.
Now the judging process begins. You’ve got some great storytellers on the panel, including Brad Willis (former PokerStars Blog editor), Sam Grafton (PokerStars Team Pro) and Maria Ho (PokerStars commentator).
Definitely. Brad’s great, Sam’s a big literary theory person, and I love the stories Maria Ho tells on her Instagram. I was fortunate to secure a great judging team. I think it’s really important because when you run a contest like this there’s so much at stake and you don’t want to be the only person whose taste impacts the results. It’s good to have a mixture.
It’s funny that Brad is one of the judges, he’s such a wonderful writer. And he gave me some advice once actually… He said I was a good writer but sometimes I try to do too many things in one piece. That was great advice and I think about it a lot. I have a lot of things to say but it’s important to distil your main point and leave the other stuff for another piece.
That would have been good advice for the competition entrants. Through your experience on The GRID, what do you think you can tell about a person based on the kind of poker story they choose to tell?
Hmm. That’s a great question.
Do you think it reveals something about them as a person?
It’s a great point. In general, we don’t get a lot of bad beats because I think the area of bad beats is less prominent unless there’s a really good story behind it.
On the GRID, we get a lot of strategically interesting hands, and sometimes we get stories about pivotal moments or something funny that happened. I think it comes down to the fact that poker is about creating intense moments and intense stories. Each hand could be this crazy story with a beginning, a middle and an end. It already has narrative elements.
I used to read these hand histories on Two Plus Two and they were amazing. The person writing them might only have been 21 and was probably playing poker professionally so didn’t necessarily go to college, but their writing was so good, in the context of a poker hand. The material itself is so rich.
There’s a specificity in poker and chess, when you write about it you don’t go rambling about generalities because there’s so much there. That’s usually a key ingredient to good writing: you get to the universal through the specific.
There’s not long to go now until the PSPC. Excited?
I think I’m going to bring my family so I’ll probably play a reduced schedule, but I’ll certainly play the PSPC and the PCA Main Event, and then I’ll be cheering everyone on.
I feel like I have a team because of all the Platinum Passes I’ve helped give out this year. In terms of the entries to this competition, some are professional players and others will definitely be new to playing a $25K, so if it makes sense, I’m glad to help whoever wins.