As one of the biggest online cash winners and a holder of a WSOP bracelet, why have you not heard of Vanessa Selbst?
Vanessa Selbst is known among the online poker cognoscenti as one of the best players around, but her name is rarely mentioned in the lists of top online players or even top female players. This is despite her being one of the biggest winners online, and the holder of a WSOP bracelet.
The 24-year-old from Connecticut has been playing poker since high school, but only started taking the game seriously during 2004 when she found the twoplustwo forums while a student at Yale University. She quickly became a winner, and unlike many of her peers also found time to finish her studies, graduating with a BA in Political Science before beginning life as an online pro.
Selbst specialises in heads-up no-limit hold’em, and rates her reading skills as one of the things that sets her apart so it was no surprise she would take to the live poker scene with a vengeance. In particular, the WSOP has been a happy hunting ground with three final tables in 2007, including a third placed spot in the $ 5,000 heads-up championship. Incredibly, she repeated that third place finish in 2008 in the $ 10,000 heads-up event, and went even better with first place in the $ 1,500 pot-limit Omaha event. So what’s the story behind the best kept secret in poker?
What’s the story behind the fslexcduck handle?
It was created back in the day when AOL only allowed 10 letters – seventh grade to be exact. If you switch the d and the f and try to sound it out, it shouldn’t be too difficult.
When did you start playing poker, and how long was it before you were any good?
I have played since high school, though not seriously. I was always better than the people I was playing with, which is really all that counts in poker. I started to get good around junior year of college, so five years ago now.
Give us a brief rundown of your poker career and rise up the ranks?
I started playing seriously, reading up on strategy, and playing online in 2004. I deposited $ 100, ran it up to $ 1,000, and lost it. Then I ran $ 100 into $ 2,000 and accidentally learned about bankroll management. I started playing $ 50 no-limit and slowly worked my way up. I had a breakthrough period in the summer of 2005, building an $ 8,000 bankroll into about $ 75,000 at Foxwoods and online. By the end of 2005, I had a very nice bankroll for $ 10/$ 20 and played mostly cash games. I was always a huge nit about bankroll management and very risk averse, so I never played as high as I probably should have. To this day, I have only rarely played any higher than $ 50/$ 100.
What is your poker life like now in terms of your day-to-day schedule, what stakes/games/sites you play?
Right now I don’t play much but I coach for DeucesCracked. I also make instructional videos. Other than that, the first year of law school keeps me busy. I managed to get up to Foxwoods to play the WPT a few weeks ago (and won a side event for $ 115k), but that was all I was able to find time for.
You’ve done a lot of poker coaching – how did that originate and how has it changed your game or approach to poker?
I started coaching with 3bet.net back when it first got off the ground. Video making is cool and different in that it gave me more of a creative outlet, and helped with my own thinking. But I’ve always been very analytical, and discussed strategy aloud with friends, so compared to most other coaches and video makers, I’d say I’m relatively unaffected by the process. That is to say, I think I would do all the things I do in coaching and video making even if I didn’t do them professionally, just because that’s my nature. Just ask the people in the Madrid poker scene when I was living there. I was always offering completely unsolicited advice in what we’ll just call a ‘pedagogical’ way…I’m sure they loved me for it, too.
You had a wild WSOP this year, winning a PLO bracelet for $ 228k and coming third in the $ 10k heads-up event for $ 108k. Do you normally play many tournaments?
I always messed around at the WSOP with very little tournament experience. I have had good luck in all the series that I’ve played, and in 2007 I got bored of cash games so I decided to give tournaments a whirl. I had a period of adjustment without cashing much because I had to adjust to tournaments and to live play, but by the spring of 2008 I think I got the hang of it.
What have you done with all the winnings from tournaments and playing online?
I have two condos – one in Brooklyn and one in New Haven. Otherwise, just spreading it out across investments and treating myself and my friends to good food and good vacations. I’m not cheap but I also don’t find the need to spend crazy money on things like $ 100k cars or $ 10k watches very often. I own a Prius and I love it!
You are close friends with your fellow DeucesCracked instructors – how far back does that go and how did you all meet?
I first met Ariel playing poker in our home game at Yale. I met Krantz through twoplustwo on a trip to Las Vegas a few years ago. Emil I know through living in New York and through a mutual friend who I went to high school with. It’s kind of weird and random how I met everyone, but everyone came together and it’s been excellent. I think they’re all great guys, and spending time discussing hands has had an unquestionably large positive impact on my game. They might be the only people actually crazier than I am.
Do you feel that being a woman in poker has made things much different for you or are you more just one of the gang of online players?
That’s old news. We’re in the 21st century here. I mean, it’s easier to get noticed since I get to be ‘one of the best female players,’ but I don’t want to be one of the best females just one of the best.
Where do you see yourself and poker being in five years time? Are you prioritising a career or hoping to maintain a balance between that and poker?
I’m now in law school at Yale, class of 2011. I’m definitely going to be prioritising a career to the extent that it will be my primary focus – but it’s never going to stop poker playing a major role in my life. Law school will be tough because it’s so time-intensive, but I don’t plan on working crazy hours when I graduate, and I cannot imagine leaving the game and the amazing community of people involved in it behind.
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Vanessa Selbst is a Executive Producer and coach on DeucesCracked