2017 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
$570 Six-Max No Limit Hold’em
Prize Pool: $137,000
Throughout Sean Shah’s career as a professional poker player, the 29-year-old has had many close calls. He finished second in a World Series of Poker event and just missed a WPT televised final table with a seventh place finish in the 2015 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown main event.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, however, all that changed and he took home his first piece of poker hardware. Shah came out on top of a four-way chop in the $570 six-max no limit hold’em event to take home the hard rock trophy. He bested a field of 274 to win $21,809 in an ICM deal.
With over $600,000 in career tournament earnings and a couple six-figure scores under his belt, this isn’t even close to the biggest score of Shah’s career. But the importance of a win isn’t lost on him.
“It’s my first physical trophy,” said Shah after his win. “It’s somehow more important than all the money that has come along the way. When all the money is gone, I can be like ‘Well, look at this.'”
Many pros will get down about their close calls that came up short. Shah took a different approach. He loves being at the table and battling wits on the felt. Regardless of his results, he truly enjoys what he does.
“I love playing poker. It’s always been pressure-free to me,” said Shah. “I’ve always enjoyed watching it and playing it and everything about it is great. The losing, the suckouts, getting sucked out on. It’s all great. I love all of it.”
Aside from the money and the trophy, Shah becomes the last of the players eligible for the freeroll that takes place on Wednesday night. The winners of the first 14 events of the series are entered into a freeroll where the winner will get a seat into the $10,000 WPT Finale and the runner-up gets a seat into the $3,500 WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown main event.
The seat was a big deal to Shah and during the negotiations, he acknowledged that he doesn’t normally chop, but the fact that he would get credit for the win and get the seat incentivized him to agree to the chop for the shot at parlaying this into a big payday.
Shah has been playing professionally for quite some time with plenty of success. He’s been able to transition his poker skills into the real world. Well, the game show world.
The New Jersey native and local South Florida resident had success on two of television’s most popular game shows – Wheel of Fortune and Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
“I think I bluffed them into thinking that I’m a real enthusiastic and outgoing person,” said Shah about using his poker skills to get on TV. “And that goes a long way on television from what I’ve seen. There was a lot of psychology and reading people and knowing what I have to do to get on the show.”
Shah got on Wheel of Fortune back in 2010 when he was still playing mainly online. At the advice of his friends, he applied two years earlier.
“My friends were like ‘Man, you’re so good at this you should apply,’ cause we used to watch it and I would solve all the puzzles,” said Shah. “So, I signed up online and forgot about it. Two years later I got an invitation for an audition in Times Square.”
Shah was picked from the couple hundred prospective players at the audition to head out to California and participate on the game show. He had a pretty successful showing on the show and ended up with a five figure score.
“I won a little over $10,000,” said Shah about his performance. “That was like seven or eight years ago. So, at the time, it was my biggest score in anything.”
He’s not allowed to disclose how he did on Millionaire because the show hasn’t aired yet. But the appearance on the show gave him some joy on a day that most poker players consider the saddest day of the year.
“Last year, after I busted the WSOP Main Event, I went back to my room after a busted, and, I swear to God, I turned on the TV and Who Wants to be a Millionaire was on,” said Shah. “And at the end of the show they said “If you would like to audition, we are holding auditions in Vegas.’ And I went in the next day. It saved my summer.”
Shah was born in Pakistan, but his family immigrated to America when he was three years old. He lived in New Jersey for most of his life until 2011.
After Black Friday, Shah wasn’t able to play online poker anymore. He came down to South Florida to finish and further his education after online poker wasn’t viable for him anymore.
“I moved here to finish college,” said Shah. “I got my Bachelors and Masters degree down here after online shut down. Then I thought ‘Let’s give live tournaments a try.’ I never looked back after that.”
Final Table Results:
1st: Sean Shah – $21,809
2nd: Sandy Sanchez – $19,041
3rd: Hyon Kim – $17,240
4th: Elilton Goveia – $16,587
5th: Max Le – $6,590
6th: Nissim Gozlan – $5,459