Vanessa Selbst

Vanessa Selbst, PokerStars Part Ways

Prominent Team PokerStars pro Vanessa Selbst has announced the end of her sponsorship deal with PokerStars, effective as of the end of 2017. In a post on her personal Facebook page, Selbst disclosed that she’ll be entering a form of semi-retirement from the poker scene as she pursues other interests, including what she describes as “taking a shot” at hedge-fund trading.

Wrote Selbst, “I’m writing to say that I’m officially parting ways with PokerStars and moving on from my career as a professional poker player. Poker has given me so much over the last 12 years. It has been intellectually challenging, exhilarating, fun, and extremely rewarding. It has given me the opportunity to travel to places I might never have experienced, and forge friendships with people from all over the world. Speaking of those people, those whom I’ve met through the poker world (players and industry people alike) are some of the most dynamic, creative, out-of-the-box thinkers and all around passionate people that I know.”

Whether or not Selbst walked away from an ongoing deal from PokerStars or Stars itself allowed the relationship to lapse isn’t quite clear, and the two sides appear to be separating on very amicable terms. US-based players such as Selbst tend to have a  short shelf life as PokerStars brand ambassadors, with only a very few American notables — Daniel Negreanu, Barry Greenstein, Jason Merceir and Chris Moneymaker among them — remaining with Stars for the long, long haul.

That doesn’t mean that Selbst didn’t serve PokerStars well. Far from it, in fact: Selbst traveled to Stars events and tournaments around the globe and was always among the more visible of the site’s pros. Nonetheless, with Stars’ own presence in the US remaining rather limited, there’s only so much “ambassador” marketing expense the site can afford, world’s largest poker site or not.

Selbst waxed long on why she’s departing both Team PokerStars and the full-time poker grind:

“Many people will ask why I’m leaving – there’s no one specific reason, but just a number of factors, big and small, that contributed to a general feeling I’ve had for a while that it was the right time. The most obvious reason is that Black Friday has meant that in order to do this job professionally, you either had to move out of the country or travel 90% of the time. That was really fun for a period of time in my life, but as my late 20s turned into my early 30s and my priorities changed toward building a stable home and community and starting a family, the constant travel is no longer tenable. Secondly, I don’t feel good about promoting poker as an ambassador anymore (I can’t tell amateurs they should come play online and it’s beatable for them when I don’t feel like it’s true). Lastly, whether because poker got more competitive or because we got older (or likely some combination of the two), poker recently turned into a real job, requiring hard work and discipline to succeed. I had never treated the game that way–I always kept a very light poker schedule–I showed up and played for fun and did other projects back home as my ‘real work.’ The shift in the nature of poker and what it requires put me at a crossroads and asked the question of me whether I would rather change my relationship to the game or move on. To me, the opportunity to work hard and learn something totally new and get to keep poker in my arsenal of fun go-to hobbies feels like the right approach….”

The truth is, virtually everyone in poker wakes up one day to be overwhelmed by the grind, despite the fun trappings of the poker and gambling worlds. For all that, Selbst has had much the better of it for years: The three-time WSOP bracelet winner and champion of many other prominent events has notched over $11 million in career live-tournament earnings. Add that to millions more earned online and in other poker endeavors, and yeah, she’s done all right.

Selbst, of course, admits that she’s just cutting back on the poker, not stepping out. As such, she’s likely to remain a familiar face on the global poker scene.


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