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PLAYER PROFILE – Vanessa Selbst

Poker is one of the oldest gambling games, with a rich history stretching back centuries. As such, it has become prevalent throughout the world and boasts a large number of dedicated players. It has become far more than just a casual pastime, and has developed a seriously competitive scene with tournaments being broadcast around the globe. Professional poker players vie for opportunities to compete in important events and seek rewards ranging from cash prizes to international stardom. Throughout the game’s history, there have been countless crazy moments, along with many legendary players. The best poker players who stand out above the rest are part of the game, forever remembered for their achievements and skill. Today, we’ll focus on one such legend: Vanessa Selbst, one of the best female poker players in history.

Poker Player Overview

Poker has generally been a male-dominated game, despite all players having an even playing field. Somewhere between 80% to 95% of professional poker players are male and, throughout history there has been a stigma around women and the game. While times have changed, professional female poker players are still a rare sight. One such player is Vanessa Selbst, one of the most successful female pros of all time. With three World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets and just shy of $12 million in tournament earnings, she is the only woman on The Hendon Mob’s Top 100 all-time money list, ranking 84th. In the scene, she was known for her penchant for bluffing, which resulted in the loss of significant chip stacks on multiple occasions. Beyond her poker career at the tables, Selbst was also a coach and producer for DeucesCracked, an online poker training site.

Early Life

Vanessa Selbst was born in Brooklyn, New York, on July 9, 1984. Unlike many other poker pros, gambling and poker were not essential parts of her childhood. She attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a year before transferring to Yale University. She received a degree in political science and later returned to Yale to get a JD degree in law. Selbst initially wanted to become a lawyer, but upon discovering how skilled she was at poker, became a full-time professional in her 20s. 

Poker Career

Selbst’s first big break in competitive poker occurred at the 2006 World Series of Poker. She made it to the final table of a $2,000 No Limit Hold’em event, finishing 7th and earning $101,285. The following year she made it to two final tables. In 2008, she earned her first WSOP bracelet in the $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha event, along with almost a quarter million dollars. The same year, she placed third in the $10,000 WSOP Heads Up Championship, earning $108,288.

In 2010, she won the North American Poker Tour main event, scoring another $750,000. She won this tour’s main event again in 2011, defending her title and earning $450,000, becoming the only back-to-back winner in history. In September 2010, she won the Partouche Poker Tour main event in France, netting her biggest career win of over $1.8 million. In 2012 and 2014, she won her second and third WSOP bracelets in the $2,500 10-Game Mix and the $25,000 No-Limit Hold’em Mixed Max events. While other female players have won three WSOP bracelets, Selbst is the only player to win them in open WSOP events. Along with all this success, she joined Team PokerStars in 2010, staying with them for seven years until her retirement.

Retirement

On December 31, 2017, Selbst announced her decision to leave Team PokerStars and retire from competitive poker. She elaborated on her reasons for retiring through Facebook. Poker was starting to feel more and more like an actual job instead of a game she enjoyed. The April 2011 “Black Friday” event saw the US government issue indictments against the country’s three most prominent online poker websites: PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. This, along with the passing of new online gambling laws, had a massive impact on online poker and made it impossible to play for a while without traveling. The competitive poker scene is also constantly evolving, and the tougher competition meant Selbst had to work much harder to remain successful, which further diminished the enjoyment of the game for her. She revealed she also had a moral problem with her role as a PokerStars ambassador. She felt it was untruthful for her to promote the illusion of consistent online profits by unskilled players. For all these reasons, Selbst decided to retire, focusing on starting a family with her wife.

Despite retiring, she has chosen to participate in select events like the WPT Borgata $3,500 event and the WPT Fallsview Main Event.