After a few months of touring the world poker circuit, the first-ever Tonybet Open Face Chinese poker World Championship High Roller event winner and a two-time US women’s chess champion, Jennifer Shahade just recently had a chance to catch up with some of the OFC action that took place in Prague back in December.
With her travels behind at least for a little while, we sat down with Jennifer to talk about her performance at the OFC World Championship High Roller and take an inside look at one hand in particular which she played against Jason Mercier and Estonia’s Marek Kolk.
What were your thoughts on the opponents at this point of the tournament? You Had Jason Mercier and Estonia’s Marek Kolk at your table. Have you noticed something interesting about their playing styles and mistakes they made?
Jason Mercier is a really good player under pressure, he has a lot of experience. In Open Face Chinese I think he plays a bit more conservatively than average. Jason is also extremely dangerous under new formats and new situations, as he can adjust very quickly being used to that from high stakes mixed games.
So considering many of the players were not as used to tournament format that could give Jason an edge. I didn't know as much about Marek Kolk though from the few hands I played with him, he seemed more on the aggressive side and willing to take risks when it's close, so he and Jason were presenting two very different aspects of the game here.
Just like in other forms of poker, sometimes a more conservative line and a more aggressive line can have similar equity, so in Open Face it's about trying to figure out when your style is interfering with the correct mathematical choice. I'm not sure where I lie on the spectrum – I think I'm pretty good, of course. Though if I had to identify a leak in this respect, I'd say I am probably a bit too conservative/straightforward when my hand is bad.
In this hand you were second to act. How important is position for you in OFC games and in this hand in particular?
Position is extremely important in three-handed Open Face Chinese poker and it can be tough to adjust to this if you're used to playing a lot of heads-up.
Did you see any other ways you could play your first five cards? Maybe you noticed that your opponents could have done something differently?
I definitely would have played Queen on top, 2, 3 in the middle and 7, 4 in the back first to act, as Marek did. I can't see another way to set my hand: 2, 4 in the middle and J, 5, 5 at the bottom seems totally standard, the jack is the perfect kicker for the back.
As for Jason's hand, anyone who watches my Run It Once videos knows how partial I am to pairs over three-flushes. With all of the kings and tens and sixes live, I'd consider K, K, 6 in the back, ten in the middle and ace up top. Believe it or not we are over 50% to make a boat or quads in this spot, which sounds outrageous but makes sense when you consider how it's rather unusual that all of our kings and kickers are live.
It's also very nice that our other kicker is so live too so we'll make two pair in the middle quite comfortably. Of course his set is very well designed for fantasyland, though I think my way gets there quite often as well.
What did you think about Marek’s play on the second round, when he made a rather aggressive move putting a pair of queens up top despite not having strong back or middle options? How would you play it? Did this affect your play in the next round?
I think his hand was shaping up poorly compared to our hands. Presumably, he did not get a diamond, and Jason was very likely to complete his flush. Meanwhile, all my jacks and fives were live too, and there were still three aces live at the time, so he decided it was time to gamble. I think I'd play it the same way though I don’t know his discard on the crucial pull where he decided to gamble for Fantasy Land.
What are your thoughts on how Jason Mercier built his hand? Would you play the same way?
I think he played it well though I probably would have set the first five differently.
Talking in a more general sense, just how important is going into Fantasy Land for you? When is the right time to stop playing aggressive and be more conservative?
I think the value of Fantasy Land is slightly less in three-handed play. As I discuss in my Run It Once videos, however, I think that in three-handed it's also a little easier to get to it because we will have more information about which kickers will be live and which will be dead.
Whether or not to go for Fantasy late in the game is often a pure math problem! It became a bit more complex in the tournament format with short stacks though I normally believed that if I had a relatively short stack, it was even more profitable to gamble for Fantasy.
It's also very relevant as to which position we'll be in when we come out of Fantasy Land. It's not that important to see our opponent's first five cards when we set a Fantasy hand, it will only occasionally change our set. However, it's quite important if we can find ourselves on the button after getting out of FL, rather than “wasting” our button while we are in Fantasy.
We know it took you 13 hours to take home the title. How important is good physical and mental form in Live OFC tournaments?
It's very important. In fact, I had an event in London the day before the OFC High Roller, and I wasn't confident that I'd be rested enough to play the 10K High Roller. I ended up changing my seat from an aisle to a window the night before, and slept the entire flight. If not for that, maybe I wouldn't have ended up playing and taking home the biggest cash of my career and the belt!
I was so energized to be in beautiful Prague, and just before sundown, I texted my friend Warren Lush to see what he was up to and how the High Roller was going. He encouraged me to come out and play and I rushed to the tournament. All in all, a great example of the butterfly effect for me.
I also had a wonderful time at the tournament – I'd never played a so-called "High Roller" before, though I’d played 10Ks in Main Events, this was quite different. I noticed that ironically, the atmosphere was more informal and relaxed. I also thought the staff did an exceptional job, especially considering how late the tournament ran. And the food was amazing at Kings Casino, I'll always remember the steak and champagne I had after winning.
Thank you for your answers!
Thanks for interviewing me! Hope to see you and the whole team next year. Missing Prague already!