Vanessa Selbst, Poker Biography
by Jennifer Newell
Vanessa Selbst was born on July 9, 1984 in Brooklyn, New York. She spent her younger years focused on education and sports. Her competitive nature made her a star student, always in pursuit of good grades while handling the physical demands on the tennis courts in field hockey games, on the varsity team for both during her days at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). During her undergraduate years, she was awarded a Fullbright scholarship for her educational achievements, and she transferred to Yale University, where she obtained her degree in 2005.
Though Selbst first played poker during high school with friends at local home games, it was during her years at Yale that she met players like players who were studying the game more than she had considering doing before. The college home game involved some of those serious players, and she began giving more thought to the game in 2004. She learned the intricacies of no-limit hold'em and pot-limit Omaha games, and she soon began posting on websites like 2+2, where she could introduce hand histories and receive strategy advice from other players. Her bankroll began to grow when she started playing online poker, and she eventually moved up to $25/$50 games, then $50/$100, all the while becoming a well-respected player in the online community.
While in pursuit of poker knowledge and with plans of attending Yale Law School, Selbst made the decision to focus primarily on poker, and she got involved with a poker training site called DeucesCracked. Taking her poker savvy and using it to teach others came naturally to her, as she began tutoring as far back as the sixth grade and always enjoyed mentoring others. She became a coach on the website as well as the executive producer of its content, and her attention to it all helped the site grow to one of the most popular in the industry. Eventually, she returned to Yale to pursue a jurist doctor degree in the field of civil rights law.
Selbst's live tournament career was something she pursued when school was not in session, and her summers were spent in Las Vegas at the World Series of Poker beginning in 2006. She made her first final table there that year in a $2,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament where her seventh place finish brought her $101,285 in prize money, and the following year she made two final tables, one being an eighth place finish in the Ladies World Championship tournament and the other a third place finish in the $5,000 World Championship Heads-Up NLHE event for $128,968.
A hiatus from school was then in order to focus on tournaments, and in 2008 she played numerous events. In February of that year, she won the World Poker Tour Ladies Event as part of the L.A. Poker Classic series, and that summer brought one of her poker dreams to fruition. She played in the WSOP again, and this time, not only did she cash three times, one of those times being a third place finish in the $10K Heads-Up World Championship, but she won her first bracelet in one of the most memorable events of the year. She faced Jamie Pickering in the heads-up portion of the $1,500 pot-limit Omaha event, and Pickering's alcohol consumption seemed to lead to a point in the match where both players were moving all-in blind. And when the madness was over, Selbst owned her first WSOP bracelet, not to mention the $227,933 in prize money. She finished out that year with a preliminary event win at the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods, and she won another of those events the following year.
Another big victory came in early 2010 when Selbst took her talents to small-town Connecticut for the first North American Poker Tour stop at the Mohegan Sun, and she entered the $5,000 buy-in NLHE Main Event. As the ESPN cameras were running for a future television broadcast, Selbst won the tournament for a grand prize of $750,000 and captured her second major tournament title in only a few years.
Since then, Selbst has returned to Yale Law School to complete her degree, though she does make time for tournaments, especially since her summer 2010 announcement that she signed a sponsorship deal with PokerStars. Her first appearance as a member of that team came in August of 2010 when she played in the European Poker Tour Tallinn events in Estonia, and though she didn't cash in the Main Event, she did finish fourth in the €3,000 heads-up tournament. She also continues to play online when not studying, and she is available for coaching on her training website when time allows. With over $1.7 million in live tournament earnings thus far, no matter her career choice or interests, poker will clearly be a significant part of her life going forward.Read Vanessa Selbst's Profile for more information including his tournament results and total winnings.
Jennifer Newell is a freelance writer, originally from St. Louis but now living in Los Angeles. She fell in love with poker while working at WPT and began writing about it in 2005.