Jennifer Shahade Wins World’s Biggest Open-Face Chinese Poker Tournament

December 9th, 2014 | by Kaycee James
Jennifer Shahade open-face Chinese poker

Jennifer Shahade is well-known on the regular and Open-Face Chinese poker circuits, as well as a two-time US Women’s Chess Champion. (Image: borgatawinteropen.com)

Jennifer Shahade beat back a strong field to win the €10,000 ($12,400) Open-Face Chinese Poker World Championship High Roller tournament held at the King’s Casino in Prague.

The tournament was the richest tournament in the short history of open-face Chinese (OFC) history, highlighting the growing popularity of the unique form of poker among professional poker players.

The event was organized by TonyBet Poker, and attracted a field of 23 players. There were plenty of strong competitors in the field, including notables such as Jason Mercier, Sorel Mizzi and Rafi Amit.

Shahade Looks Forward to More OFC Events

But the final table saw Shahade matched up against Ilya Bulychev and Iakov Onuchin in a three-handed battle. Ultimately, it was Shahade that walked away with the €100,000 ($124,000) first prize.

“It was the biggest buy-in event I ever played, and I’m really happy I won,” Shahade said. “I almost busted several times, and I wasn’t so happy with how I played in the beginning, but then as I got more tired, I got to play better…I thought it was great and I hope there will be more tournaments like this.”

Shahade said that she took more time than most players while in fantasy land, the bonus phase of OFC that players enter after making a qualifying hand.

“I think people have this false sense of security because they’re in fantasy, and they think they’re not gonna make any errors, and I think it’s very wrong,” Shahade said.

Open-Face Chinese Poker Gains Popularity Among Players and Fans

For those unfamiliar with the game, OFC requires players to use 13 cards to make three hands: one of three cards (the “front” hand) and two of five cards each (the middle and back hands). The back hand must have the highest ranking, followed by the middle and then the front hand. Players receive points for each hand they win when compared to their opponents, plus bonuses for sweeping all three hands or for achieving particularly strong hands. An illegal hand will not score any points and is beaten by any legal hand.

The game is complicated by the fact that players do not receive all their cards at once. At first, players must set five cards; in later rounds, they will receive two cards at a time, opening up the possibility of “fouling” by setting hands illegally. If a player legally sets at least a pair of queens in their front hand, they will enter “fantasy land” on the next hand, in which case they can set all 13 of their cards after seeing their opponents play out their hands first.

OFC has become a popular way to generate action among professional poker players and high rollers, and the high-roller tournament showed how much popularity the game has gained. The live streaming coverage generated record numbers for TonyBet, which may show that the general public is fascinated by the game, too.

“This is huge,” a TonyBet representative told Poker News. “The event was bigger than any WSOP or European Poker Tour OFC poker event, and the players just loved it. The viewers loved it as well, as tens of thousands of OFC fans watched and interacted with the live broadcast and their responses were positive, to say the least.”

Jennifer Shahade has had her share of success in poker, but she may be best-known for her chess career. Shahade is a two-time US Women’s Chess Champion, and has earned the title of Woman Grandmaster. She is also the only woman ever to win the US Junior Open.

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