Her results put her in the top 100 of the overall All Time Money List, with career tournament winnings just shy of $12,000,000.
For over a decade, Selbst was one of the
best-known faces on the poker circuit. Her aggressive style and the fact she
never tried to hide her emotions only increased her popularity.
However, at the start of 2018, Vanessa announced she was retiring from professional poker, shocking the entire community.
With impressive results on her résumé and as a PokerStars Team Pro member, she had many great years ahead of her.
Yet, Selbst decided to say goodbye to poker and turn her attention to other things, both professionally and personally.
So, what ever happened to Vanessa Selbst? What
led to her decision to leave the game she was once so passionate about, and
what has she been up to lately?
A Career Worthy Of A History Book
Selbst has had a truly impressive career in
Born in 1984 in New York, Vanessa, like many
players, discovered poker during her teenage years and started off playing in
She was mesmerized by the game, and not long
after, she decided to give it a proper try.
Her climb to stardom started in the 2006 World
Series of Poker, where she managed to make the final table of the $2,000 No-Limit
Hold’em tournament, finishing in 7th place and banking $101,285 for
This was only the beginning for the New Yorker.
In the years to come, she would achieve many
six-figure scores. In 2008 Vanessa won her first WSOP bracelet in a $1,500 PLO
event, netting over a quarter of a million.
In 2010, Selbst took down the North American
Poker Tour Main Event, winning the prestigious title and the $750,000
first-place prize. She then went back to back, winning the same event the next
year, this time around to the tune of $450,000.
In 2012 and 2014, Vanessa won two more WSOP
bracelets, becoming the only female player with three bracelets from open
At the time of writing this, Selbst’s career
tournament earnings stand at over $11.9 million, which is an impressive number.
And, although she’s retired from professional
poker, Vanessa still plays an occasional tournament here and there, so that
number could easily go up.
But the real question is, what made the New
Yorker give up poker and her contract with PokerStars?
This would be a dream scenario for many people,
and Selbst probably enjoyed the ride for a while, but something changed.
Too Much To Handle?
In January of 2018, Selbst announced her intention
to retire from poker and took it to Facebook to explain her reasons behind this
Although her reasoning didn’t sit well with
some, many within the community understood where she was coming from and shared
the same sentiment, at least to some degree.
In the post, Vanessa explained there were
several reasons that led her to give up poker.
This used to be fun for her back in the day,
but as she turned 30, the pressure started to wear her out.
On top of that, poker has become much more
competitive. To stay successful, much more hard work and discipline were
required, which sucked out the fun out of it for her.
She also revealed she had a moral dilemma as to
her ambassador role with PokerStars.
These reasons combined led Selbst to decide
that poker was no longer something she wanted to pursue as a career, especially
with her eyes set on starting a family.
The Pressure Of The Life In The Spotlight
A few months later, Selbst further explained
her reasoning, this time during a fairly heated Twitter debate.
She revealed that the pressure of constantly
being in the spotlight and having her every decision and every statement judged
and criticized simply wore her down.
If you’ve been following televised poker, you
probably know where Selbst is coming from here.
Over the years, she’s had many moments that
didn’t show her in the best light. Vanessa would sometimes let her emotions
take over, which is hardly surprising in poker.
However, as an ambassador of the game, her
actions were under much more scrutiny than those of an average Joe.
Vanessa explained that it was a “huge
cross to bear,” and she simply didn’t want to deal with it anymore.
She no longer wanted to apologize for
everything she did at the tables and have her actions judged as reflecting
badly on poker as a whole.
Vanessa Selbst And Life After Poker
Selbst is by no means a one-trick pony.
Besides being an excellent poker player, she has a degree in law from Yale, and she passed the bar exam back in 2015.
She was very proud of this huge milestone, especially as she was able to do it while playing poker full time and posting excellent results at the table.
Thanks to her education, the New Yorker was
never tied to poker as the only possible lucrative career. That possibly made
her decision to quit much easier, as she already had other opportunities lined
Soon after shedding the PokerStars hoodie,
Selbst got a job with Bridgewater Associates hedge fund, looking to try her
hand at the finance game.
By this point, she had already established the charitable
foundation Venture Justice, using it to invest money in nonprofit causes and
organizations she stands for.
Fighting against injustice has always been one
of Selbst’s greatest passions, even before poker.
It’s what led her to law school and what she
gets her daily inspiration from. Some of the causes Vanessa is specifically
devoted to are fighting for the rights of the LGBT community, battling police
misconduct, and advocating for prisoners’ rights.
Her life after poker has been anything but
Selbst’s Personal Life
She married Miranda Foster back in 2013, and
the couple has been together ever since.
On top of her professional strides, Selbst has focused a lot on her personal life in the past few years and starting a family with her wife.
And in 2018, the pair had a baby boy.
Vanessa Selbst In 2021: Return To Poker?
Although she stayed away from poker for a few
years, with the exception of a few tournaments, it seems Selbst decided to
return to her passion after all.
In 2019, Vanessa had a deep run in the WPT
Borgata $3,500 event, eventually busting in 14th place and netting
just shy of $40,000 for her efforts.
She followed this result up with another deep
run, this time in the WPT Fallsview Main Event, where she finished in 22nd
Of course, looking at her career résumé, these
results aren’t too impressive, but it seems like Selbst is just warming up and
getting back into the game.
Apart from returning to the grind, Vanessa has
also gotten involved with LearnWPT, the official educational platform of the
World Poker Tour, providing members with access to a lot of strategy content to
help improve their game.
At LearnWPT, Selbst teaches her uniquely aggressive style that relies on her image and her opponents’ perception. These lessons can be valuable to all players, whether they adhere more to the GTO style or lean towards the exploitative approach.
She also announced her return to the virtual
felt and will be playing on partypoker New Jersey, one of the regulated U.S.
Selbst also remains very active on her Twitter
She often gets involved in hot poker
discussions and talks about all the other issues she’s passionate about and has
been working on in the previous years.
What’s In The Future For Selbst?
It would appear that Vanessa is officially out
of her “retirement” and back on the grind.
This is hardly shocking as we’ve seen several
players announce they’re retiring only to return a few years down the line.
And that’s perfectly fine.
Poker is a tasking game, especially for high-profile
players like Vanessa Selbst.
She clearly needed a break from it all but now
it seems she’s ready to mix it up with the best once again.
As the most successful female player of all
time, Vanessa will have no problems finding lucrative opportunities to help her
Her engagement with LearnWPT is just the
beginning, as there is no doubt that many poker rooms would love to have her on
board in one way or another.
Of course, all the problems that made Selbst
throw in the towel are still there.
If anything, poker has become even more competitive in the past few years as the best players tend to stick around. Those lacking in skills, funds, or both, usually fall off along the way.
Plus, she’s taken another ambassadorial role, although
this time around she’s actively helping people get better at the game.
The year 2020 wasn’t the best one for live
poker in general, so it will be interesting to see what happens with Selbst and
her career in 2021.
With plenty of live events planned down the
line, we’ll probably see her quite a lot, especially at the World Poker Tour
No one doubts that Vanessa has what it takes to
succeed in poker.
She’s proven it time and time again over the
years. She might be a bit rusty after a few years away from the tables, but she
should be back to her old self in no time.
Summary: Coming Full Circle
Vanessa Selbst has had an amazing poker career
up to this point and many fans out there will be thrilled to hear she’s decided
to make a comeback.
She definitely has much more play left in her,
and it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months and years.
Perhaps the short break was just what she
needed to figure things out and realize that poker, after all, is the right
career choice for her.
Not because she lacks the skills to make it in
other walks of life, but because it’s something she’s passionate about and
enjoys doing after all.
Only time will tell.
But, for now, Vanessa Selbst is officially out of her retirement and back where she belongs: on the grind, playing and teaching poker!
More articles in this series include:
Lead image: Women Sport Report