WSOP Main Event: WSOP Final Tablist Vanessa Selbst Here for More

Few people had heard of Vanessa Selbst when she final tabled Event #6 this year, taking home $101,285. I told her when we met that the only photo I could find of her on Google was her infamous sushi preparation shot from college. She had just mucked her hand, but her steely table demeanor melted away. "Oh, that was from so long ago," she said with a smile. So long ago was really not very long ago, but Vanessa has packed a bit into her last ten years.

She played varsity tennis and hockey at MIT before heading to Yale. "Tennis was really my game where I was very competitive. I tell people that poker took the competitive void that I had in tennis." I asked her where was the better poker in college, MIT or Yale. "Definitely Yale. In our home game, we had several great players. Alex Jacob, Ariel Schneller, Nate Mavis. Alex has made a final table this year (, and we're all out playing now here in Vegas." It was actually two final tables plus a 2nd earlier at the Foxwoods WPT event.

Her brother Andrew wasn't in that home game. "I had a home game that I played in with some friends, but when several of them started wearing sunglasses and iPods, I figured it was time to get out." He's catching the poker bug hanging around with Vanessa and her friends. "Now that I've watched Vanessa and her friends, it's gotten me thinking more about playing."


Vanessa Selbst, on her way to a final table in a 2006 preliminary event


A Fulbright, scholar, she studied in Spain so the late nights will not be a problem for her here. When you go out for dinner in Madrid, most people don't get to a restaurant until 10:00 or 11:00 at night. It was ironic then that at her final table sat Juan Carlos Mortensen, 2001 WSOP Main Event Champion. "I introduced myself to him, as everyone knows him as a legend in Madrid, the greatest player to ever come from there. I was glad to knock him out. Many people have asked me about the hand that I knocked him out. I had A-9 suited, and I raised to $60k. Juan Carlos went all-in for another $199k, and I called him. He had pocket 7's, but I think it was the right call given his range of hands." She caught an ace to finish off the Matador, like a true champion. Her final hand is now a bit infamous. She looked down at 5-2 of spades, and made it $66k to go. An opponent re-raised, one person called, and she moved all-in. She was called by pocket aces and went out in 7th. I asked her what she would do if she saw 5-2 of spades any time soon. "I just raised with it and took the pot, but don't tell anyone at my table!"

Vanessa had one more cash, then she spent time with her friends. "I've been playing cash games at the Bellagio, the Wynn, and here, but mostly we've just been relaxing and enjoying ourselves. I have a group of friends out here now, playing poker and trying to improve." Vanessa caught a low flush vs. a higher flush, knocking her stack down to $9k heading into the dinner break. She's got game whatever the competition, and she'll be dangerous if she starts dragging chips.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker