Vanessa Selbst, the most successful woman in poker, has built a legacy that will live on forever. Her accolades range from winning three World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets to being the only professional poker player to win back-to-back North American Poker Tour Main Events. Not only is she one of the top women poker players, but her accolades and accomplishments make Vanessa Selbst one of the best players ever to have graced the game and an icon of the sport.
As with many other poker players, her path to poker greatness was unusual.
Before rising to No.1 on the Global Poker Index ranking in 2015 and accumulating over $11 million in winnings throughout her career, Selbst studied at Yale Law School. Back then, she had no aspirations of playing in the WSOP — Selbst hadn’t even played until she was in college. But once she did, it became clear early on that she was a natural.
Having met future poker star Alex Jacob at Yale, she began joining him at Playstation and Mayfair, two acclaimed New York City underground poker clubs. Her fascination with the game grew, and she soon discovered poker online. From here, she began to perfect her signature style, and that is where her passion took flight. Able to play for hours daily, her poker skills ascended to new heights.
Known for her systematic approach, aggressive bets, and brave bluffs, it wasn’t until she returned from Spain in 2006 that she entered the cut-throat World Series of Poker. By 2008, she had won her first WSOP bracelet in a $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em event.
During her first Main Event at the age of 21, she fought her way through to the final table. But after a reckless all-in bet on the preflop with a meager 2–5, she finished 5th. However, this fearless bet may have been a blessing in disguise, as it captivated the poker world and catapulted her into the public eye.
Despite her impressive finish, she still wasn’t set on going all-in on a poker career and headed back to New York City, where she began working for McKinsey, a world-renowned consultancy firm. This changed in 2010.
After rediscovering her love of the game, she went on to win around $3.8 million between 2010 and 2012. She later took home $1.4 million in the 2013 PCA $25K High Roller event, which is one of the biggest wins of her career. Since then, she has gone on to win various major events before eventually retiring in 2018.
Having prevailed in a male-dominated industry, her impact on the game is profound. Alongside breaking down the barriers for women, her meticulous and analytical style changed the way players — both male and female — approached the game. There’s no doubt that Vanessa Selbst was a trailblazer who forged a path for future generations of women in the professional poker scene.