Activist, Feminist, and Poker Star: Brooklyn Native Vanessa Selbst And Her Rise to the Poker Hall of Fame

Featured image credit: @geepoker2022 on Instagram

It’s a difficult feat to get into the Poker Hall of Fame (HoF), which is why getting inducted into it is an immense honor for any poker player, even posthumously. While it’s difficult for anybody to get chosen, the odds are even slimmer for women, who have long been outnumbered in the male-dominated poker field. But women in poker have recently obtained their chance to shine in the HoF’s spotlight. After a hiatus, the Women in Poker Hall of Fame returned in 2022, choosing female inductees from the industry — one of which is Vanessa Selbst. It’s a no-brainer to see why Selbst was included, as her accolades are highly impressive for any poker player, regardless of gender.

Who is Vanessa Selbst?

Vanessa Selbst has accomplished incredible feats in her career and is a legend on the felt for many. Many players consider Vanessa Selbst to be the best female poker player of all time, and her achievements explain it all. She was born in New York in 1984 and studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a year, then transferred to Yale University, obtaining a political science degree and eventually taking up law. She initially planned on becoming a lawyer, but her interest and skill in poker set her on the path to playing as a pro in her 20s.

Besides poker, Selbst has been very vocal about politics, usually using social media to express her views. She sees herself as a feminist and has openly spoken about her experiences being a woman in poker, a game primarily played and dominated by men. Selbst has also done a lot of activism, fighting for LGBTQ+ rights and prisoners’ rights, as well as combating police misconduct, having been a victim of two false arrests herself.

Vanessa Selbst’s rise to poker fame

There aren’t many women who play poker, much less make it to high ranks or win tournaments, but Selbst proved herself to be a trailblazer. In 2006, she made waves at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), where she placed 7th and banked $101,285 at the final table of the $2,000 No-Limit Hold ’em event. Just two years later, she would win her first WSOP bracelet. The Brooklyn native also dominated the 2010 North American Poker Tour Main Event, claiming the first-place prize of $750,000. In 2012 and 2014, she won two more WSOP bracelets, making her the only female player with three WSOP bracelets from open events.

Selbst is also the only female player to make it to the top of the Global Poker Index. Her total career earnings amounted to a whopping $12 million, leaving no doubt that she has made her mark in the poker world. Not only is she one of the best female players, but one of the best in general.

Where is Vanessa Selbst now?

To the community’s surprise, Vanessa Selbst recently announced her retirement from the professional poker space. She expressed her desire to focus on her private and personal life, a difficult feat if she were to travel for tournaments as she always had. She married Miranda Foster back in 2013 and the pair have started a family together.

After her retirement, Selbst decided to work for the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, which manages pension funds, central banks, university endowments, and charitable foundations. Fighting for civil rights has likewise been an essential part of her life, so Selbst established the charity foundation Venture Justice to invest her funds into the causes she stands for.

For more on New York icons, check out our MobYorkCity features on culture today.

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