WSOP 2016: Sit. Stay. Shake hands. Help me win. Good dog.

July 10, 2016

When the day began, Jennifer Shahade had 50,000 chips like her fellow PokerStars patch-wearers in the crowd. Just like everyone else in the room. As of the last update, she had 80,000 while Team Pros Naoya Kihara and Luca Pagano reported a total of…zero.

What did Shahade have that the rest didn’t?

A doggy dinner break. That’s what.

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Dogs are nothing new to the World Series of Poker, but a quick look around the Rio shows a lot more four-legged friends than we used to see. The security team is walking a friendly chocolate Lab around the playing area. More than a few players have been seen walking their pooches up and down the hall. Moreover, no one can ignore the success Jason Mercier had this year with his dog in tow.

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Shahade, meanwhile, is not a likely candidate for the Canine Poker Improvement Plan.

“I’m not really a dog person,” she admitted tonight.

And yet, there she was during the dinner break on Day 1A, digging her hands into a happy dogs fur and soaking up all the puppy mojo she could.

This is a departure from the Shahade most people know. Her experience with dogs is one of keeping her distance. Avoiding the sniffing. Blocking the licking. Stepping back from the panting happiness.

Now, though?

“I’m warming up to it,” she said. And why wouldn’t she be? One, she’s doing pretty damned well. Two, it’s a damned good-looking dog.

As it happens, the Rio (and its Caesar’s sister casinos) are the most dog-friendly in Vegas. For a small nightly fee, guests can feel free to bring their pooch (given that it’s 50 pounds or less) along for the WSOP. They can’t be taken everywhere, and they should be on a leash, but when it comes to a Vegas vacation, Fido is welcome here at the Rio.

While this is great news for dog lovers, if words spreads too far, it could make for much different days around here as play at the WSOP goes deep. Dog days, if you will. I’m imagining “The Secret Life of Pets” meets “Old Yeller.”

In any case, even if dogs aren’t a rabbit’s foot, they may be the best thing to have around when your aces get cracked. After all, no one else is going to listen when you need to tell your bad beat story.

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is the PokerStars Head of Blogging. Follow him on Twitter: @BradWillis. WSOP photos by


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