Vanessa Selbst: The Best Poker Tournament Player in the World
Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst made poker history on May 29, 2014 when she became the first female player to surpass $10 million in live poker tournament winnings.
Selbst smashed through the magic $10 million barrier when she defeated Jason Mo heads-up in the $25,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Mixed Max event at the 2014 World Series of Poker (WSOP). This latest victory not added $871,148 to Selbst’s career earnings but also secured a third WSOP bracelet. Only Poker Hall of Famer Barbara Enright can match Selbst in terms of poker jewellery won.
Making her victory all the more sweeter was the fact Selbst came back from an 8-to-1 deficit in her semi-final heads-up match against Al Decarolis and began her final battle against Mo on the back foot.
By the 52nd hand of the one-on-one encounter, Selbst looked out of the contest as she trailed Mo by 1,680,000 chip to his mountainous stack of 8,140,000 but if Selbst has one quality – and let’s face it she has many more than one – it is an ability to dig deep and pull something out of the bag in times of adversity.
Selbst scored a much needed double-up on Hand #57, drew almost level by Hand #60 and took the lead on Hand #63 when she raised to 250,000 and then called when Mo three-bet to 750,000. Mo then checked the Th-Jd-5s flop and called when Selbst bet 580,000. Both players checked the Qh turn. Mo then led for 1.315 million on the arrival of the 2s on the river and Selbst called, turning over Qc-Qd as she did so for a set of queens.
Mo managed to close the gap, but Selbst was in her stride and the end result was inevitable.
On Hand #72, Mo moved all-in for 2.535 million with 9d-7d and Selbst called with the Kh-Jc. The board rolled out Tc-As-2c-Ad-Js to bust Mo and gift Selbst her third WSOP bracelet and over $870,000.
There are very few, if any, who will argue with you if you suggest that Selbst is the best female poker player in the world. You won’t find many people who will disagree that she is the greatest female poker player of all-time. But what if I said that Selbst has a legitimate claim for being the best poker tournament player in the world right now, regardless of gender.
Selbst has been terrorising opponents in major live poker tournaments since 2006. The first cash listed on her Hendon Mob profile is a seventh place finish in a $2,000 No Limit Hold’em event at the 2006 WSOP for $101,285. During the same series, Selbst cashed a further three times, of which two were final table appearances.
Her first major breakthrough came in 2008 when she bested a 759-strong field in the $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha event to scoop the $227,933 first place prize and win her first bracelet. Selbst came close to winning a second bracelet in 2008, but fell short in the $10,000 World Championship Heads-Up event, finishing third for $108,288.
Selbst’s growing reputation exploded in 2010 when she had some remarkable results around the world. First, Selbst won the now defunct North American Poker Tour (NAPT) Mohegan Sun for $750,000 had a fourth place finish in the £20,500 buy-in High Roller at European Poker Tour London for £145,000 ($226,910) and won the Partouche Poker Tour Main Event for what is still Selbst’s largest tournament win, a cool €1,300,000 ($1,823,430).
The impressive results don’t end there. Selbst won the NAPT Uncasville ($450,000) for back-to-back NAPT titles in April 2011, came third in the 2011 World Poker Tour (WPT) Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $338,351 then in 2012 claimed her second bracelet when won the $2,500 10-Game Six handed event at the WSOP.
Add to these results a win in the 2013 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure High Roller ($1,424,420), a fourth place in the €25,500 EPT Grand Final High Roller (€290,300), a runner-up finish in the WPT Borgata Main Event ($492,569), a third place finish in the $100,000 PCA Super High Roller ($760,640) and finally a third place finish in the $25,500 PCA High Roller in 204 ($607,580) and it is easy to see why Selbst is such a feared and respected player at the felts.
Selbst is currently 21st in the all-time money listing and I’ll go out on a limb here and predict she’ll break into the top 10 by the time 2014 is through. For this prediction to come true, Selbst needs to win at least another $1,696,572 before the year is out, but when you’re the best poker tournament player in the world, doing so shouldn’t be that difficult, should it?
Images by Joe Giron