Shannon Shorr: Old Kid on the Block

It's easy to overlook Shannon Shorr at times.

He's not a flashy kind of guy. You don't see him much on TV. You don't catch him berating people when he gets sucked out on. You don't hear about him calling people donkeys on the internet forums.

You don't catch him doing much of anything out of line, actually, except making smart decisions at the poker table and putting money in his pocket. And he can live with that.

At just 22, with only one full year on the professional poker circuit under his belt, Shannon Shorr has cashed for more than $1.75 million in tournament winnings. He's finished 4th in the race for Player of the Year.

He's handled the rigors and temptations of being a professional poker player like he's wise beyond his years.

But just one year after exploding on the scene with a 4th-place finish in the Aussie Millions and a huge win at the Bellagio Cup II $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em Championship, Shorr is slipping under the radar at the 2007 World Series of Poker.

If it wasn't for the back brace and crutches he was hobbling around on (compliments of an accident horsing around with his roommates), you might not have heard about Shorr yet at all.

But that's a mistake. Despite a surge of young internet pros rolling to bracelets at this year's WSOP and taking a bit of the spotlight, Shorr is still one of the brightest young players in poker.

Grounded, polite and generous with his time - exactly as his reputation leads you to believe - Shannon sat down with just before the $1,500 Mixed Hold'em event.

Hi Shannon, thanks for taking the time to meet up. So the obvious question to start with is how are you feeling? How's the injury?

Coming along well. I didn't think I'd feel as well as I do three and a half weeks after it happened, especially after they told me I was going to be in the cast for 12 weeks. But I think it's going to be a lot quicker than that. Feels good.

It's not affecting you at the table?

No, not at all actually. I usually forget about it.

Good to hear. So two cashes so far, a nice run in the Heads-up tournament… pretty happy with the Series so far?

Yeah… I mean, I come into these World Series tournaments knowing at best I'm going to cash in like 1 in 7, that's just the reality of it. The fields are so big, there's such a crapshoot element of it. You can only play so well. You're not going to cash 50% over the long term, so I come in realistic. So 2 out of 14 is about right. I had a decent run in the Heads-Up, finishing in the round of eight. It's not like I'm really looking for that six-figure score to cover all the buy-ins. But it's pretty nice to play well, good for the confidence to know you can play still.

How important is a bracelet to you?

A bracelet is definitely at the top of my list of accomplishments I'd like to have. I guess it would be like an athlete winning the MVP or something, you get in that exclusive club if you can take down the bracelet. I'm playing a lot of events but I'm not going in there saying "I have to win a bracelet." I'm just trying to make the best decision every time, and if the bracelet comes, great. I think I'm a favorite to get one at some point in my lifetime. The sooner, the better though (Laughs).

Do you think the bracelet still has that mystique, that cachet value, as opposed to say a WPT title?

There's so many events now, there are a lot of people I don't even know… like, when I hear they're a bracelet winner, I had no idea… so it's not probably what it was 10 years ago when there weren't quite as many people. But still to have that bracelet is an important thing. I definitely want it.

If you look at the Series this year, and you see guys like Dan Schreiber and James Mackey, young kids who win bracelets off the top, just like Jeff Madsen last year, do you think they have the same kind of appreciation for it, does it have the same value?

Yeah, I think so… all the internet kids, they're always posting on the internet forums, saying they want a bracelet and they're really popular if they can win a bracelet, so yeah, I think they do, they appreciate it.

Well, that's kind of another thing I guess, you're not so far removed from that yourself. You were one of those "young internet guys" just a short time ago, but you've been around for over a year… do you feel like a veteran now, one of the old guys on the scene?

Yeah, (Laughs) I kind of do feel like I've been around forever, even though it's only been one year. But I've played a lot of tournaments. People tell me I knocked them out of tournaments… it used to be for the first couple months I'd remember everyone I'd ever knocked out and remembered every hand but now someone tells me I knocked them out of a tournament and I don't ever remember playing it. (Laughs) It's like, "I was in Foxwoods… what?

So after all those miles, all those tournaments, how do you feel about poker?

I still love playing poker tournaments. It's a lot of fun, but there can't be many jobs with as much frustration, 'cause almost every day of the week you're going to go home disappointed because you didn't cash. And you got to put the time in at cash games to actually make money, so it's hard to balance all that poker playing and still do something you want to do because this game makes you so lazy.

How does it make you lazy?

(Laughs) I don't know, you wake up at like 1 p.m. and you don't have to do anything, you can just sit around all day.

Do you still play online then?

Not really, especially this time of year cause there's already so much poker being played. And online's so hard right now anyway.

So after being around the tournament circuit for a while, being around poker, getting to know poker players, have you picked up some vices? Playing cash games, getting deeper in the network?

Yeah, when I first got on tour there's all these people you saw on TV, except you didn't know them. But now basically any name pro I'm at least acquaintances with, we all like to do the same kind of things, so it's good. I don't hang out with many of them, like all the time, but if you ever want to go get a drink, go have dinner, you always have somebody.

And are they pretty welcoming with questions, with mentoring, or do they keep that stuff to themselves?

Well, there's guys who don't want to give anything away and there's guys who you can talk over hands with and stuff.

Anyone in particular you hang out with?

Jon Little is my roommate, he just won the WPT Mirage … we've been longtime online friends, we met like two years ago online, so we talk hands and stuff. He's the player I correspond with most.

What's your plan for the rest of the Series?

I haven't played any events besides Hold'em - No-Limit, Pot-Limit. I said I was going to play some Omaha 8 and some Stud, but now if there's an event at Bellagio, like there is every day, I just go over there and play instead of playing Stud or O8.

It's just a better investment of my time and money right now. So I'm just focusing on that. Some of these fields, the $1,500 and $2,000 fields, are just so weak you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't play. Even in the short term you may not win, but you want to give yourself as many chances.

And after the Series?

I'm going to keep traveling, I'm gonna go to the Turks and Caicos for the WPT event, Barcelona, Niagara, do all those. That'll be fun, get back on the road a little bit. Just keep traveling the circuit as long as I've got the money to do it. I need a couple of scores to replenish the bankroll a little bit though.

You've been debating going back to school, I know, going back and forth about that, so how far do you see yourself going in poker?

I really don't know. As long as I'm enjoying it, as long as I have the money to do it, I'm not going to make any long term plans to go back to school at this point. But I really would like to finish school. I'm halfway there, so I can pound it out in like 15 months, I could go straight through school and finish. I'd like to do that, there's something to be said for getting that degree.

But the longer you go on, the better you must be getting at tournament poker… how much would you say you've picked up in just one year?

The thing about playing so many tournaments is you have success one way, like playing one super tight, or you have one where you just play every pot, and then I wrestle with that every other time. Like, which way do I want to play today….? I actually think you can get worse by playing so much. Like David Duval playing golf. He won for so long and he probably just started thinking about so much. When I play my best poker, I think I just kind of play the hands as they come and don't really worry about playing a certain way. I think that's the way to do it.

So you said the $1,500 fields here are pretty weak, but do you think the fields in general are getting tougher?

Yeah, I do. There's so much literature, like 2+2 and stuff, there's not nearly as many weak spots in cash games or tournaments or anywhere, especially in No-Limit Hold'em. People are really educating themselves. People are much more aggressive and fight back now. Like a year ago, you would play a tournament and just raise the pot and no one would play back at you. But you can't do that anymore, you can't just raise three pots in a row anymore without getting re-raised. So people are getting much better. It's definitely to the point where I can tell the difference. But you still got to make it happen.

You have anything to say about the structure of the Series so far, the sequestered final tables, do you care about that?

I would care about the sequestering if I had been at a final table probably, but for the most part it's been ok for me. I hate that they take so much juice though. The $1,500 works out to be $1,365+$135, and that's just insane. And then they expect people to tip the dealers on top of that when there's already a crazy per cent taken out.

So that, and the Heads-Up of course was terribly run, but you can expect that for the first time they have it. But for the most part it's been pretty pleasant. I mean they could make it $1,300+$200 and people would still come back and play 'cause it's the World Series. They have a monopoly on this thing and they're in a great spot. There are things that could be changed, but I'm not going to complain.

Outside of poker, what do you get up to?

Not much. Just relaxing, watching movies, hanging out with Stephanie. That's how I like to spend my time. There's so much poker, particularly at this time of year, you can't find time really to do much else. I need to get out and start doing some more physical stuff. I joined a gym, in fact, like two weeks before I had this accident. I got to go a couple times, so now I'm waiting to get back into that.

What's your perfect table?

I'd be playing in Barcelona probably, a $10,000 event because I love those. You got all the chips to play with, it's not like push-fold after a few hours. So that, with nine unknowns who aren't going to fight back (Laughs)…

So you can just roll over them, no challenge…?

Yeah, I don't care about playing against these certain guys, I don't care about that. I've played with all of them.

So it's just a pure return on your investment proposition.


But there's got to be some kind of… you've got to like matching up against someone like Allen Cunningham and stealing a pot from him.

Yeah, I do. I played J.C. Tran in the Heads-Up and as much as I hated seeing him to play, I was really looking forward to it because I knew I was going to learn so much.

And did you?

Yeah, we battled back and forth, it was a great match. And I really learned some things that I'll take in to tournament poker. Like, I can tell the way he plays heads-up he's had success doing that in the Hold'em tournaments, so there are some things.

Who are some guys coming up we should look out for?

John Racener, for sure. He hasn't had quite that much success yet, but I'm really impressed by his game. He can do big things. There's a lot of online guys, these guys who just grind out the tournaments every day. You play with them every now and then and they're just great players, they know what to do in every spot.

Like Sorel Mizzi, Imper1um, he's sick. And Jon Little. Before he did all this, I said "He's going to be one of the best." He just knew what to do in every spot and he was just getting really, really unlucky. I watched him get so unlucky in so many tournaments. But he ran good at the WPT and won.

A lot of these young guys they're just so educated on tournaments and know what to do, they know how much to bet on every flop, they know how much to bet pre-flop, they know how much to re-raise pre-flop. So I'm going to have to keep educating myself in that way. I'm behind the 8-ball in that respect, as I don't really read the forums that much. I played with James Mackey most of Day 1 of the event he won, and it was just sick. Every spot.

Is that what makes a great tournament poker player? Knowing exactly what to do in exactly every spot?

Yeah, you have to know all the situations. Like there's so many spots in tournaments where people don't realize, like isolating and stuff, things people who don't educate themselves will never know. A guy opens the pot for $600, a guy calls for $600, a guy moves in for $1,200 and they just call the $600 instead of re-raising. There are guys who do that who are just totally wrong. You literally throw away thousands of dollars by making that mistake, especially if it's late in a tournament.

Live pros always talk about how internet players are kind of behind when it comes to live play, reading players, but you see them come into live tournaments it doesn't seem to bother them too much.

I think people overestimate picking up tells and stuff. Like I've probably picked up tells maybe five times (Laughs). People just don't talk and stuff, like everybody makes it so they don't give away stuff talking, people don't move around at the table. For the most part people are just sitting there. There's got to be some things you can pick up, but if you just play solid, correct poker and know the numbers, you're gonna do well over the long term I think.

Do you think the old guard doesn't have enough respect for the young guys?

I think they're realizing it now and they're a little jealous, so they take it out on the young guys. Like I know when I was first coming up there would be a lot of that bitterness coming out, like they'd talk about the "internet punks," but the reality is a lot of these guys have played more hands than a 40-year-old live player.

Were you a little intimidated by that when you first started?

I remembering being intimidated, but now, I don't even think about it. You know the guys so well, they're just another player. I mean, I don't like to sit down and have Erik Seidel to my left, but it's not like I would freak out like I would a year ago.

Any time in particular?

Yeah, Australia I had Mike Sexton. He was the first pro I ever played with. I got moved from the table I was playing at and sat down beside Mike Sexton and I was freaking out, calling my friends and telling them Mike Sexton was on my left.

Now you see that pink shirt beside you and you don't freak out so much…

(Laughs) Yeah, everybody gets two cards. There's not that much of an edge in the long run.

What's the hand that stands out the most for you in the last little while?

The craziest hand I've had in the World Series so far was against Carmel Petresco in the Heads-Up. Somehow we had my kings versus her aces. Like, it was the hand that ended the match. I'd knocked her down, I had about a 2-1 chip advantage and she'd been raising a lot on my limp so I limped in for $3,000 more at $3,000/$6,000 and she raised to $22,000.

I was like perfect, this is working just how it's supposed to, so I raised to $55,000 and she thought for about 30 seconds and she moved in for $190,000. And I like fell out of my chair calling and she showed me two aces and I couldn't believe it. I was like "how do you get kings-aces heads-up?"

And then I ran off a four flush. The flop brought two hearts, the turn and the river were both hearts. It was unbelievable.

What's the biggest thing you've learned on the road this year?

You've got to manage your money well. At the start of it to we'd do some crazy things like just go bet $5,000 randomly on black on the roulette wheel, you just can't do that. I've blown… (Stephanie starts rolling eyes, Shannon stops train of thought….)

Before I let you go, what's something no one ever asks you? What does Shannon Shorr have to say that we haven't heard yet?

For the young guys, just to try and manage your bankroll better, and not play these tournaments. There are guys in those $1,500s that probably don't have more than $5,000 to their name, playing for a third of their bankroll, and you can see when they get bad beat out of a tournament they just go ballistic.

You have to be realistic. Especially if you're new to tournament poker, you're probably not going to do well. For every James Mackey story you get there's about 10,000 guys who come to the World Series and put a third of their bankroll on the line… I don't know.

Play the micro-limits until you have a handle on the game. Or a lot of guys, they'll win a tournament for like $200,000 and go out and buy an $80,000 car. They forget that the money's taxed, that's the funny thing. They definitely need to wait until April comes around. I paid so much in taxes it made me sick to my stomach. It made me consider just moving to Australia and never coming back, never paying those taxes. (Laughs).

You can catch up with Shannon's exploits on the tournament trail in his blog

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