Table Talk: Categorizing Vanessa Selbst

successful woman

No heavy drinks for me this week. After a short trip to the Bahamas to cover the Women’s Event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, a Bahama Mama mixed with my rum/cola regulars satisfied my alcohol craving for a while. I also have a head cold, so it’s hot tea for me. Tea for two?

The beginning of January in the poker world consisted of a lot of tournament action, mostly from the PCA. The PokerStars Blog  has all of the results, complete with a detailed report of the Main Event wherein Dimitar Danchev won more than $1.8 million for his victory. Scott Seiver won the $100k buy-in Super High Roller, and Vanessa Selbst won the $25K High Roller. Marcel Luske took down two of the side events, and women won a few, like Adrienne Rowsome with Triple Stud and Alexis Gilbard in a NLHE turbo. And of course, Corina Lupascu won the event that I covered.

PokerStars somewhat dominated the news at the beginning of the year in other categories as well, like when Alex Wice became the first player to achieve Supernova Elite status, Zoom Poker launched , and a new app for live streaming was revealed. And there was the little matter of the company agreeing to purchase a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Let’s get back to Selbst and her High Roller win at PCA.

When a woman wins a poker tournament, or even makes a prestigious final table, it is regarded as good for the game. I agree that it is good for the game, as well as women in this industry because it slowly pushes back at that glass ceiling that select female players have battled for decades. While women continue to make up about five percent of any given tournament field, on average and usually on the high side, the more of them who succeed can inspire more to participate.

So when Selbst wins a large High Roller tournament, she, too, admits that it can have an impact on women. “There’s plenty of room for women to get involved in this game,” she told the PokerStars Blog, “to get really good at it, and to beat all the guys.”

That win for Selbst did more than just boost her live lifetime tournament earnings past the $7 million mark; it put her firmly atop the all-time female money list, taking that place away from Kathy Liebert. She commented on that as well, saying, “It is a great honor. It’s a great achievement and definitely something I can be proud of.”

The fact that Selbst is a woman will always put her in that category – “best female player” or “top female money earner.” There is no denying those designations. But it is just as important to recognize her in category of best players with no gender attached to a title. She is already third in the world on the 2013 money list, 29th on the US all-time money list, 34th on the all-time money list excluding buy-ins of more than $50k, and 40th on the all-time money list. Names in front of her include players who won events like the $1 million buy-in One Drop tournament and WSOP Main Events. There are also players ahead of her who have been playing for decades, like Erik Seidel, Scotty Nguyen and Allen Cunningham.

Most people recognize that Selbst is one of the best players to join the world of poker in many years. She is fearless at the tables, incredibly intelligent, and one of the most accomplished players outside of the game, having recently graduated from Yale Law School. She is intimidating in any poker scenario, even as she begins to conquer the mixed game arena as well.

Someday soon, Selbst will be talked about without gender designation and without mention of her sexual orientation. On the other hand, it is an integral part of her story – her life story and her poker story. She has created inroads for poker players unlike most others in the game’s history, and she should be acknowledged for every one of those contributions.

As much as I’d like to remove “best female player” from her bio, it deserves to be there. She is proud of it, as are most women in poker. She has set an example and shown us that a new generation of women can conquer this game.

So, congrats to the best woman in live tournament poker and one of the very best players in today’s game. Vanessa deserves all of the titles bestowed upon her for her accomplishments.

Now, if someone could warm my cup of tea, I’d appreciate it. This head cold combined with the thought of $7 million is making my head spin.

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